The 12th of February is the birthday of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Growing up as I did in California, this day was a school holiday for us young folk and we would receive the day off. Such is not the case here in Virginia. Then again, this is a state where Lee-Jackson Day is celebrated honoring the Confederate general duo of Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. So perhaps the folks in Richmond are still a tad touchy about the events of 1861-1865 to honor Honest Abe.
As for me, let me pause to honor Abraham Lincoln with a treasure from my coin collection. Yes, in addition to collecting books, I like to collect coins. From my one-cent collection, this is the oldest sample I have. It’s from 1928.
Four score and nine years old and still looking good (and still worth $0.01).
Other mature (I hate to use the adjective “old”) specimens I have in my collection is this pair from 1944.
You have yourself there a genuine silver quarter and a Walking Liberty half-dollar.
I’ve got five-cent pieces from the 1940s also (and none of them wooden).
Okay, you caught me, the coin on the far right is from the United States. It’s a Presidential dollar (John Quincy Adams, no less). It’s not the first time my coin collecting would have landed me in hot water, though.
So, here’s the story.
In 1993, when I lived in San Diego, I was working for an outfit that collected all the quarters from the washers and dryers that the company owned in apartment units throughout America’s Finest City. My job each day was to drive a different route around San Diego (they owned many many washers and dryers), open up all of the coin boxes of every machine (I had a ring of keys that was so heavy it had its own gravity), dump all the coins into a bag, tie the bag up when I was done with a location, and then throw the bag into the safe that was tucked away in the bed of the company’s pickup truck that was my trusty steed.
While the previous paragraph mentions “apartment units”, there was one special location in the area where our company owned the laundry machines. This customer was so special and so large in area, that my entire day (the second Tuesday of every month) was spent here. It was the United States Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton.
Since this was federal property, Uncle Sam did not want me driving around the base by myself so my chaperone was a Marine who was straight out of central casting. Served in Viet Nam. Gruff. Stoic. Did not suffer idiots lightly.
So you can imagine that we did not start off on the right boot when, on my first time driving around the base, I was pulled over by the MPs (military police) for speeding.
Fun Fact – Did you know that speeding on federal property is a federal crime? I didn’t either.
So, for the rest of that initial foray with my Marine chaperone and for the next four outings, he was as cold and chilly towards me as liquid nitrogen.
On my sixth outing, I knew I had to break the ice or else the second Tuesday of every month was going to be an excruciating day. What saved me was trivia.
On this November day in 1993, as my silent Marine slipped his way into the passenger side of my pickup truck, I said, “Good Morning, sir. I realize I am a day early, but I would like to wish you a happy birthday.”
“Thank you, son,” he replied. I’m not going to say he smiled, but he did grimace a little bit less.
And with that, I was no longer an idiot in his eyes.
Of course I had no idea when this gentleman’s actual birthday was, but this day was November 9 and I did know that the birthday of the USMC is November 10.
You simply never know when a certain tidbit of knowledge will save the day.
So, if you ever want to see a Marine smile, wish him/her a happy birthday on 11/10.
That’s my story.
P.S. Being pulled over by the gendarmes on a Marine base is not the worst legal trouble I have found myself in, but that is a tale for another day.