one cent more

 

 

My mother, Elinor Handy Smith, had an excellent, novelistic memory. She remembered all sorts of particulars that brought her past and the people who populated her past alive.

She told amusing stories about herself too. Like how, graduating near the top of her class in high school, she was admitted to Radcliffe College and thought college would be a breeze. How she spent a lot of her first semester attending films at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge and, when final exam time came up, she was hopelessly unprepared. How she stayed up cramming for a week or two drinking cup after cup of coffee with little sleep.

About Professor Arthur Pope, who taught Fine Arts at Harvard. My mother said that if you were a minute late for his lecture, he would have already locked the door.

 

 

*****************************************************

 
My mother told a typically detailed and amusing anecdote once to me about taking the subway in her young adult years, after she was married.

Subways and trolleys back then cost a nickel. It was still five cents when I was growing up in Cambridge in the 1950’s.

You would throw the coin into a fare box. Pennies were accepted.

On one occasion, my mother somehow had practically no money in her pocketbook: only four cents. She was anything but a devious person, and highly moral, too. But, on this occasion, she thought she could get away with the following stratagem: she swept in one motion, striding briskly, through the turnstile, threw four pennies casually into the fare box, while looking at nothing particular, and kept going.

Then she heard a stern voice following her, as it were, the voice of a male attendant whose function it was to see that the fare had been paid. “Miss,” he said loudly, “you only put four cents into the box.”

“I did?” said my mother, feigning surprise. “Imagine that.” She nervously began rummaging through her pocketbook. To her relief and amazement, she found another penny and threw it into the fare box.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   October 2017

 

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; classical music; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin.
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