By Sister Nancy Linenkugel
An acquaintance recently told me that she and her husband enjoy going to the casino as their hobby on certain Friday evenings. Around Cincinnati there’s no shortage of selections—there are two casinos in Cincinnati, one casino in nearby Lebanon OH, two casinos across the state line in Indiana, and a horse track in northern Kentucky. In fact, the community orchestra in which I play does a summer concert at one of those casinos.
“We decide how much we’re going to spend before we get there,” she explains. “One casino has stingy machines, so we never go there. Another location is our favorite where we have our favorite slot machines, favorite restaurant fare, a favorite waitress, and favorite cocktails. When those favorites align, it’s a killer evening.”
We chat for a while and I learn more about their hobby. “Sometimes we’re good and very lucky, but other times we pay to lose. It’s really thrilling since you never know if you’re going to win or lose.” Thrilling to lose? You pay to lose? I shudder at that thought. I can’t stand to lose money. Not even a penny. In fact, if I see a penny on the ground I always pick it up. That’s money. I was brought up not to waste money. For instance, I was behind another customer exiting a store and we both spotted some change on the floor. He picked up the quarter and dimes but left the pennies. I picked up the pennies.
In the way-back days before computer games, I used to play solitaire with a deck of miniature cards, keeping track of wins and losses on paper. I made up my own rules. Each new game cost $52 (a dollar for each card) and winning the game earned $10 for getting each of the 52 cards “up”, so a winning hand netted $520. While I won quite a few games, I didn’t win every game, so that meant a loss of $52 for each game not won. It was just on paper so I could tolerate that.
Over those leisure moments and vacation times I played quite a few hands and probably squeaked out more wins than losses, but if it had been real money, I know I wouldn’t have had the nerve to keep playing. Only one time in my life did I go to a real casino, thanks to having a roll of nickels given to me by a friend many years ago. While it didn’t take long to lose the entire roll – all $2 total in nickels – I just hated losing. I shared that with the acquaintance and she looked at me with an I-don’t-believe-it look: “You mean you care about nickels?” Yes, for sure, I do. That roll of nickels would have bought two cards in the solitaire deck. And besides, we Franciscans not only care about every cent but also you never know when you’ll need a penny.
When I was about six and shopped with my grandma, she’d say, “Nancy, make it easy on the cashier. If your total comes to $2.04, for example, give two one-dollar bills and a nickel. Don’t make the clerk give you change for another whole dollar.” That was grandma’s philosophy about paying for things so today I do the same.
Recently a purchase total came to $2.93, so I handed the clerk three dollar bills plus three pennies. The clerk held out the money I had given her and said, “You gave me too much. Your total isn’t even three dollars.” So I explained that by giving her three extra pennies, all she had to do was give me back a dime in change, which was easier than counting out $0.07. She looked at me skeptically, entered my amount on her computer screen, and sure enough, the screen showed $0.10 due back to me. The clerk handed me the dime and said, “Gee, how did you know that? You must be some kind of genius.” (Hardly. I’m from another era. Besides, I pick up pennies so I had three of them to cover this purchase.)