He's Putting In His Two Cents' Worth

Times Staff Writer

Why don't they admit it--this latest move by the Postal Service is a plot to drive us all slowly insane.

Especially those of us who like things orderly, without loose ends. Nature likes things orderly. There are nine major planets, not 9 1/8. An elephant comes with one trunk, not 1.

Why then, since the quarter is the coin of the realm, was the price of a first-class postage stamp raised to 22 cents? Why require the penny dreadful?

Everybody carries quarters. You offend a panhandler with anything less. You go to a Laundromat, the washers and dryers take quarters. So do the soft drink vending machines. If you purchased this newspaper out of a rack, you dropped in a quarter.

Nobody intentionally makes it a point to have the hated pennies on hand. The scales don't take them anymore. The City of Los Angeles phased out the last of its penny parking meters last year. And fat chance you'll get what you want if you toss a penny into a wishing well.

Pennies don't come from heaven. Quite the opposite.

But not as far as the postal people are concerned. They could very easily have raised the price of a stamp to 25 cents--nicely divisible into a dollar--which they are going to do eventually anyway. But no, they have to make us deal in pennies. And there is no sales tax on stamps, at least not yet.

The penny, you are about to point out, is still good in a pair of loafers, in a dwindling number of slot machines in Las Vegas, in an occasional gumball machine.

As far back as the '60s, however, the coin was becoming a curiosity. I remember because I wrote a story for The Times about a guy whose large paycheck resulted from being paid a penny for each ant he supplied to a company--a firm that makes the ant farms found in toy departments.

Inflation has taken its toll, but the outfit still deals in pennies. Milton Levine, president of Uncle Milton Industries in Culver City, told me the other day that although the original ant collector has gone to his reward, a hot replacement was brought up from the minors.

He gets paid two pennies per ant.

Everything costs more. If they remake "The Threepenny Opera," no telling what the title will be.

But in matters that directly affect our Way of Life, pennies are nothing less than a nuisance.

All right, so the cost of stamps had to go up. Sometimes we ask no quarter. But we will give one.

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