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My Turn, Whitey Harwood: Change is a’ coming to Rowan

Thank you, Jim Greene, for your masterpiece (“Better jobs for better lives in Rowan,” Jan. 28.). I called nine of my college-educated kith to see if they understood what you were taking about.

Eleven of ’em said, “I ain’t got a clue.” But I think with my high-school education, I got it. Since I read yours, here’s hoping you will read this and discuss it with the “bored.”

The forecast called for snow. Not wanting to get caught with my pants down without the two essentials, I headed to the store. The bread rack was bare and the milk was gone. I was so glad I didn’t need either. So I grabbed some striking paper and bubble gum before they were wiped out, too.

The clerk scanned and bagged my necessities then said $4.86 (four dollars and eighty-six cents) I handed her a five and said, “I’ve got a penny.”

She rang the register. It opened. She started counting change. She looked up at the register. She put the change back and started counting again.

She looked back at the register and put that change back. Then she clicked her little black panic button and said, “I need help on register seven.” During this entire ordeal she was still holding the penny.

The “help” finally arrived. With that look on her face she bellowed, “What’s the problem?”

The clerk said, “This guy’s bill is $4.86 and he gave me five dollars and a penny, and I don’t know how much change to give him.”

The “help” looked at the register and said, “Fourteen cents.”

I said, “15 cents.”

“Sir, if your bill is $4.86 and you gave her $5 she owes you 14 cents,” she explained. “I gave her $5 and a penny.” I confirmed.

The “help” looked at the clerk and asked her, “Did he give you a penny?”

“Yes.” she said. “Right here it is.”

They went into a huddle to figure out their next play. When they broke huddle, the “help” said to the clerk, “You owe him 15 cents,” and walked away.

The clerk went back in the change drawer. She stopped counting and finally asked me, “How much do I owe you?”

I said, “Fifteen cents.”

She said, “Are you sure?”

I said “Well, I was about 10 minutes ago.”

“Wouldn’t it be 16 cents?” she asked.

I asked her, “Why would you think that?”

She answered, “Well she (the help) said I owed you 15 cents and I’ve still got this penny, so wouldn’t it be 16 cents?”

I said, “Look, put that penny in the drawer and give me a nickel and a dime, so I can get out of here. I need a chew.”

When I got to the truck I put a big chew in my jaw and headed home.

After putting the paper in its proper place, I called Ella, my 11-year-old granddaughter in Raleigh. I asked her how much change would I get back if my bill were $4.86 and I gave the clerk a $5 bill and a penny.

“Fifteen cents.” she answered as quick as a cat can lick its whiskers.

“Right answer, darlin’,” I proudly told her. “Now here’s another question. Do they allow smoking in the parks of Wake County?”

She said, “No! Of course not. Wouldn’t that be totally stupid?”

I told her I loved her and cleared the line.

So now, Jim, if you’ve made it this far, I have a question for you. And Greg. And Judy.

Are either one of you smarter than a fifth grader?

Whitey Harwood lives in Rowan County.

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