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How to Cash Out Your Change

Illustration for article titled How to Cash Out Your Change

It's around 3 p.m., and I'm starting to run out of gas. My brain just has no juice. I'm a writer, and I work best in the mornings, so I try to be typing by 7:45 a.m., and with any luck I make it till 4 before the gears start to grind and the works gum up. But not today. Today, by like 3:15, the work feels grueling, and I quit. I walk away from the computer. I come back. I think, Maybe I'll do some more work. I type, but it feels like I'm chiseling the words in stone, each syllable taking what feels like 20 minutes. Fuck this. I'm going to the gym. I have to get to the gym, have been promising myself to get to the fucking gym since I signed up last month. I have not gone, not even once. Today is the day. Today it will happen.


I start to visualize myself doing it, because that's supposed to be helpful: I will pack a bag and just go down there, just talk to whoever's at the counter, tell her I'm just "checking the place out," and if I only do that and then turn around, it'll be closer than I've made it thus far. I psych myself up. I put on my workout clothes. My workout clothes! Stretchy pants and a sweat-wicking shirt, purchased at Costco for $6.99 (deal!). The shirt smells for some reason—why does the shirt smell?

I press on. I grab my backpack, a/k/a my "gym bag," which I need to fill with … I'm not exactly sure. But you can't just show up at the gym without a gym bag. The gym bag contains your supplies, all your exercise things, things like energy bars and protein ... hey, my gym bag smells like piss! It seems that our emotionally distraught cat has been pissing on my unused gym bag, which apparently I'll have to add to the casualty list of blankets and pillows he has seen fit to ruin ever since we left him in the care of our neighbor over winter break.

Now my hands smell like piss, and they're sticky, and now that I think about it, I liked this backpack/gym bag and am sad it must be thrown away—but lo! There's another backpack, a messenger bag, my old messenger bag from college, which is perfectly suitable for the carrying of gym necessities: headbands and two month-old New Yorkers. I grab that, and put my towel and extra T-shirt in it. I don't know why I think I need an extra T-shirt, except I do, to wear to the bar, a reward I will give myself for going to the gym. That's how life works: You do something good, and you get a reward. My reward will be—

Hey, wait, this bag smells like cat piss, too! How could that be, since it's hanging in the closet above the … litter box. Fuck! I liked this bag, too! But apparently, years and years of transporting everything from farmer's market booty to soiled clothes have rendered it putrid, and storing it above the litter box hasn't helped. And actually, now that I think about it, do I smell? I mean, I haven't showered today, and I've handled at least two articles suffused in the ammoniac funk of cat urine. Yes, I am smelly. I'm too smelly. Plus I have no gym bag, i.e. no means of transporting the dishtowel I had planned on using to wipe down the elliptical. We're screwed here. Abort mission. Abort!

[Let's note there if all of the above hadn't deterred me, then surely the flat tire on my bike would have, though I won't become aware of that for another 20 minutes.]

I remove my workout clothes, get in the shower. Showering at 4 p.m. after a not-exactly-hard day's work when the only potential thing you might be doing that night is hit up the local dive bar, where the average age of the almost entirely male clientele is 47 going on 68, can feel like something of an ignoble errand. But then, of the many battles I can potentially lose on any given day—putting terrible things in my body, not exercising, watching Family Feud reruns instead of reading that Big, Important Novel—the failure to wash my ass and the aggressively funky spot behind my ears is not one I want to succumb to. So I do that. I bathe. Three cheers for me.


I dress myself: the same jeans I wear every single day; the same Converse I wear every single day; the same sweatshirt I wear every single day; plus the T-shirt I was going to bring with me to the gym, which is made by Vans and depicts a shark, like, thrashing around. I return to my computer to see if any more work might happen, which of course it won't. I'm in that brain-dead void where the only thing that can be accomplished on a connected device is scrolling through quips and photos. Sometimes I think it would be helpful if maybe I used a typewriter instead of a computer, because you can't check Twitter on a typewriter, and you certainly can't click on porn. A typewriter wouldn't engender the kind of behaviors a computer does: this compulsion to click and tweet and share. You can't waste two hours in front of a typewriter and pretend you accomplished something. You can't type—

—If I'm not going to the gym, then I need to do something useful, something that will justify my existence during this weird stretch of time during which most people are still working, productively or otherwise, but at least still on the clock. I have no clock. I've been doing this thing, writing full time, for a year and six months, have foresworn a return to the conventional workforce in order to Pursue My Dream, which dream, lately, has involved such niceties as cajoling friends and loved ones into reading my novel; attempting to pimp said novel to strangers, i.e. agents; eating strange combinations of leftovers for lunch; continuing an ongoing dialogue with my two dogs wherein we explore life's oldest question, Who is the sweetest?; perusing the job listings for the career I walked away from while imagining my former peers swimming Scrooge McDuck-style through a lake of gold coins; etc. There's an expression: Do what you love and the money will follow. Allow me to offer proof.


There's a can of change on the shelf in the foyer. It's full to the point of overflowing. If I'm not getting any more work done, and I'm not going to the gym, the least I can do is place one pebble on the other side of the scale, a feint in the direction of productivity. I pour the can of change into a Ziploc bag, grab my keys, extract my bike from the garage. As aforementioned, my bike has a flat tire. (Huzzah!) It is just that kind of day. I walk the mile to the Safeway, cradling my change baby, dressed in my ratty Converse, my dumpy sweatshirt, my fading 1973 World Championship A's hat. The change is heavy, and I have to keep switching it between arms. I arrive at the Coin Exchange machine in the Safeway, and a lady is using it, so I stand there hefting my change as the sounds of the grocery store ring out around me, beeping from the checkout stands, idle chatter, the hum of the industrial lighting, the opening and closing of the automatic doors, carts being wheeled, the lady in front of me's change as it plink-plink-plinks into the machine. Finally, she is finished. Finally, I dump my change in. Finally, I get something done.

Garrett Kamps is a writer living in San Francisco. He's @gkamps on Twitter.

Image by ShutterStock.

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