Is there a shortage of pennies?

By ‪Fran Odyniec‬ - Contributing Columnist

Beware Madison County. A new virus may slowly be making its way to the retail environs of the Buckeye State!

I have personally witnessed it — not that I have brought it with me on my latest visit to Madison County.

The first time was in a local supermarket in Blakeslee, Pa., nestled in the ski country of the Pocono Mountains.

I was biding my time in the check-out line zoning out on the gentleman’s order that was on the product belt in front of my items. He, a senior citizen, allowed a faint smile to enter that perfunctory check-out line conversation with the clerk, a sweet young thing who seemed to hurry a smile as she accepted his cash payment.

Then it happened as she nonchalantly handed the gentleman his change: “Do you want the pennies?”

I couldn’t believe she had the organic carrots to ask such a thing.

Gently, almost fatherly, the gentleman replied that he didn’t want them.

In these uncertain economic times, I figured that this guy was doing better than the average bear to bestow such largess on the supermarket’s finances. In fact, out in the parking lot, he stowed his groceries in a white Mercedes.

My order was up next.

Bingo! The clerk asked me the same question: “Do you want the pennies?”

I covered my shock with a hint of displeasure and exasperation and gave her a nod like Longstreet had given Pickett at Gettysburg when asked if he should commence his ill-fated charge. I wanted my change — all of it. The crazy thing was that the clerk had not even attempted to fish out the four cents that was owed me.

So, as she turned back to her till I saw what the problem was: She had no loose pennies in the till. Apparently she was doing all she could to avoid breaking out a fresh roll of pennies.

Was she near the end of her shift, and trying to save some time in settling up her drawer? Or, had she fallen victim to the bizarre clerkajerkitis virus that can compromise a clerk’s supposed good judgment?

Then it happened again as I made my way toward Ohio and Madison County. This time it was at the New Stanton Service Plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Pittsburgh. I forked over $3 to pay for two Skol candy bars.

The clerk had the audacious apples to ask me if I wanted the two pennies.

“Yeah,” I replied in that tired but patient long-distance driving tone.

Yikes! That bizarre virus was catching up to me in western Pennsylvania!

Could I outrun this clerkajerkitis on my way to Madison County?

Last I had heard, there was no shortage of pennies in Ohio or Madison County. Perhaps the retail clerks in Ohio had been vaccinated against this contagious malady that numbs a clerk’s good sense and casts doubt on a retailer’s reputation.

Maybe that guy in the Mercedes really didn’t need those pennies. But, as I once told my niece as she refused to pick up a penny from the sidewalk, “That penny could be the difference between $999,999.99 and being a millionaire.”

For me, I want my just desserts whether it’s four pennies or two pennies, clerkajerkitis notwithstanding.

Fran Odyniec, former editor of The Advocate, is a freelance feature writer whose stories periodically appears in The Advocate. He can be reached at‬.

By ‪Fran Odyniec‬

Contributing Columnist