I stood at the fast food counter on semi-autopilot. When the gal first asked me the question, I thought she’d asked the standard, “Do you want fries with that?” and I’d started to shake my head “No.”

But then it dawned on me that she’d said something else. “Excuse me?” I asked.

“Do you want your pennies?”

My brain still elsewhere, I dumbly echoed, “My pennies?”

“Your bill came to $2.98,” she perkily said. “Do you want your change?”

I took a small step back, perhaps in horror, or maybe to see exactly where I was… I looked along the length of the counter, and there was no “penny pot” sitting next to any of the cash registers.

Inside my head I was forming an entirely unladylike response, ripping this little twit in two, chewing her up and spitting her disgustedly on the freshly-mopped floor. Of course I want my pennies! I earned them with hard work; they belong to me! What kind of panhandling do they teach you here, anyway?

But aloud I merely said, “Yes, thank you” and held out my hand. “The money I collected in my change jar helped me fund a trip to Italy last year.”

And then I wanted to beat myself up for actually defending my right to spend my money the way I choose to, pennies and all. I took my two sugar-free fudge bars AND my two pennies, and quickly left the establishment, wondering what the heck had just happened…

It’s not like I don’t give liberally to the charities of my choice, and it’s not like I haven’t dropped a few pennies in a penny pot before. But the brazen way this gal took for granted that I didn’t value those one cent coins…. Well, it quickly brought to mind a saying my mother often repeated

“Mind the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

Thanks, Mom. I’m already saving up for my next big adventure, penny by penny.