15.9.10

counting and shifting

















my parents own a dry cleaners and a laundromat, just like a good old first generation korean business immigrant family.  when i realized that there were koreans who immigrated to north america as non-business immigrant, it totally blew my mind. i was fifteen.  there were scholars, business transfers, refugees, all kinds.  but till then, for three years, all koreans i saw were either transient population (students, mostly) or entrepreneurship immigrants.

theyve been at this business for a long time now.  from my age 12 to now, 31, for nineteen years.  so probably the longest job that both of them have ever held (my dad moved around job to job whenever he felt like it).  and by this time, though i hardly ever go in to help, i do have a good idea what would probably need to be done.

one of the things is coin counting.  i think it is very silly thing to talk of, 'intensive coin counting.'  we  all had jars of loose changes.  especially when the toonies came around.  at this point, i have more jars than i would need: for british pences, euro pennies, toonies and loonies for the laundry, everything else for the mixed jar.  and though often i wish i had more coins (probably near laundry time), the general consensus is that it's not too important, those damned coins.

mom and dad works for long hours. they leave to store at five, arrives for half past.  then it's workie time till eight or nine, drive off to drop off depot store deliveries, then may be home by ten.  sleep by eleven. repeat. any other non-daily works tend to be slammed for wknd, or for the kiddies.  some kiddies preferred one thing over others.  for instance, gabe would rather help them clean out the ducts of the commercial dryers (they need to be cleaned twice a year. you need to get to the back of the machines, take each panels off, which involves set of 12 or so screws that are positioned in tight, awkward spaces, then get your wet-vac and suck it out.  often it's worth it to just to peal off the lint layers first, as your vac will be full so soon) and he was also asked to move salts (since the water is hard, one adds water softeners- form of salts, in 20kg bags.  usually in groups of 10 bags or so. my shoulder is rubbish so i whine against it.)  i, however, always enjoyed dusting and cleaning and would be willing to rule over the coins.

as things became somewhat difficult between monkey and parents (they would love to have a traditional korean daughter and i am just so-not-it), i shy away from helping, as it may as well turn out to be a nervefest.  inescapable audience and work-ridden parents.  often through the steam clouds and vacuuming noise, moving pistons and waft of chemicals, we exchange many desperate pleas.

but yesterday really was the day to go in and help. my dad's b day is on thursday.  and ive been away from home during my toronto 'holiday,' and i leave again next wk.  time to go in and make contact.

i replaced the cashier monitor.  rewired and renamed the cables.  cleaned out all the cobwebs and cleaned nooks and crannies of the store.  sorted hangers and took rubbishes out.  this is all from five in the morning.  because i knew i had to count some damned coins.

it used to be that we need to use coin sorters. the sorter does two things: separate coins by currency worth, then group them in given size. in dad's store, they take quarters, loonies and toonies for laundry.  one takes it all in a bucket, throw in to the sorter by handfuls.  you take the toonies out (leaving loonies and quarter in the pool), then take loonies out. the rest would be quarters.  then you go get some paper rolls for the changes, set your machine to desired size (a roll of toonies worth 50 bucks, so 25 coins per roll), get your roll underneath the machine, start: the machine will dispose x number of coins, and hopefully it'll all get into the paper roll without 1. jumping out everywhere or 2. bursting the roll.  then one folds in the ends of the paper roll. there's your roll of coins.

sounds nicer than counting by hands? yes.

but after doing it for couple thousands, it really hurts. your hand hurts and your shoulder hurts.  the paper rolls need to have a very square-end so it wont open again.  if it is loose, it'll eventually open up and it will need to be redone.  the psi used to roll those coin rolls are larger than one would like.  why not plastic tubes? they are too costly when you are wrapping large quantities.

then it needs to be transferred to the bank.  in small boxes.  it is incredibly heavy.  canadian quarter weighs 4.4g.  a loonie 7g. a toonie 7.3 g.  a roll of coins then weighs:  10 dollars = 40 coins = 176 g.  a roll of loonies: 25 x 7 = 175g and so on.  a small shoe box of coins can become deadly heavy, very quickly. i think it was two years ago. i organized sorting/wrapping/moving of year's worth of coins.  the total weight was something near 1.5 tons.  the car suspension buckles.  you make millions of walks from the car to the bank.  you need to call the bank in advance so that they will have physical room for the coins in the safety room.  funny huh?

ask the guy who decided to help me without any warning: he thought he would help me carry a laundry basket full of 'something,' somethings being coins in a shoe boxes.  i was moving two shoe boxes at a time. he said: lady i will help! and then bend down to take the basket- only to buckle into the basket.

he held the folded position for awhile. i prayed he didnt herniated anything.  chivalry wasnt dead but i wished he have asked how much does a shoebox weighs at this case (a shoe box can hold up to 24 rolls of quarters, 24 x 176 = 4224, so just over 4 kg).

after that wk, i swore to god to never laugh at coins.

but you see, this time, the have a free coin sorter at TD bank in stouffville, where my mom/dad works.  so it was much easier now. take buckets of changes and dump them into machine. eventually machine spits out a receipt, take it to teller to deposition.  sounds so much nicer!!  it's like those change-counting machines at grocery stores.  but this was free.

one still have to move the damned coins from storage to bank etc though.  from feeding the machine, your fingers turn all black and dry. from that short hauling of cargo, my neck/shoulders hurt (im really suffering today).  there are people who look at you with in comprehensive awe: what do you do for a living? busk?  and weirdly enough, my ears were dead for a bit, from clanking of coins.

i moved about 6.5 grand of quarters. that's over 100kg of metal.  it takes an awful long time, going back and forth from store to bank (see, the machine may fill up, then it will be full for the day unless they got someone to empty it and do whatever they do with it. so it wasnt worth it hauling it all at one go).  also waiting inbetween people whose got smaller load (though it gets frustrating seeing people trying again and again putting back the 'reject coins,' not knowing that it'll just be spitted out again.  for kicks, those coins are rejected because they are lighter.  from usages. so the machine, which sorts from weight and size, will reject it out.yes, these are the exactly the same coins that vending machines will spit out, again and again) takes time.

i wasnt going to do the entire quarter load. but then i realized i am here because it's dad's bday on thursday.  fine. i will at least get this done.

last year in sept, gabe and i picked up two fancy cakes and brought it to mom/dad's social groups for b day party.  in korean tradition, 60th b day is huge.  since they both turned 60 in same year, they decided that they will do dad's first, then do mom's year later (which wouldve been this year).  gabe came to downtown so we can go pick up the damned cake (im not taking two gigantic cakes to party in vic park in transit!) and we drove through downtown traffic to get granny.  window down, fag smoke, loud korean hiphop, me whining, granny warning every single other car on the road, gabe saying: hey you CAN ride the rocket (trans: shush).  we got there, took photos. he even sang a karaoke number as all moms requested.  we thought next year, we could do same for mom. that may be we'll start to do some family stuff more often. like b days.

gabe died on 26 april. we buried him on mayday.  17 july was mom's bday.  82 days since loss of her baby. there was no celebration. no cake for mom. just tears and silent mourning of a broken family.  i was on the hippie road trip, running away.

during sorting of coins, i thought of such thoughts over over over and over again.  and then came back to the normal world, and after quarters, i said: i am NOT moving the toonies. not today. thanks! so instead, i cleaned and did other small things.

and after the long day, mom/dad took me out for a supper. for dad's b day.  i wished them to be happy. and thankfully, dad replied that he thinks that it may be possible. mom said it would be impossible to be happy.  i said  if she always take other's life for happiness/greif, she'll never be happy anyways.  she smiled and said may be.  unfortunately we didnt have time to pick up granny from home (we barely got to dinner at 930pm) and she is also in middle of that last-bits-of-tooth-extraction-saga, so perhaps it wasnt going to be too practical as she cant really chew (gaaah).  but granny is tough and sharp. she'll be okay i think.

and i thought of gabe. i borrowed one of his old shirt on way back home as my shirt was covered with laundry dusts and coin grimes.  and may be this sunday (this is the reason why i booked to travel on monday), hopefully, smallish family can once again get together and go see gabe, to figure out memorial monuments and all that jazz, then a small lunch before i bugger off again, much to their dislike.  bugger.

6500 dollars worth of quarter and many thoughts.  what an atypical day i had yesterday.  ive been trying to write dad a bday card and have been an epic fail.  but at least i moved over 100 kg of metal. and install monitor etc.  with heat pack on my shoulder, i have an easy day while mom/dad toil another day at work.  what a topsy-turby world it is.

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