Did you ever wonder where some of the curious expressions that we use very day originated? I have. For example, I wish someone would tell me when I engage in conversation it is referred to as “shooting the bull?” Why do people say I’m not worth a “hill of beans” or that I’m “full of prunes?” Why does my wife always have a “bone to pick with me” and what did I ever do to deserve being called henpecked, a piker, or a four flusher?
I don’t want to “make a mountain out of a mole hill” here but I would like to illustrate how at least one of these phrases originated. I’m sure you’ve never heard this version before so I thought I’d “turn over a new leaf” and tell you a totally true story for once.
It seems that Duane wanted to go into Spokane to buy a new pair of jeans because his 15 year old pair were showing signs of excessive wear. Don’t get me wrong, Duane was not poor, in fact Duane had done quite well in the purebred cattle business. Duane “had more money than he could keep dry.” It’s just that he never would spend any of it. To give you an idea of how cheap Duane is I am told when he’s sleeping he always gets out of bed to turn over so he won’t wear out the sheets. Yet “he has enough money to burn a wet mule.”
Back to my true story. Duane loaded up his wife and their best friends, a neighboring couple about their age. For the long journey to Spokane Duane’s wife had packed a basket of Spam sandwiches with mayo on white bread so it would not be necessary to stop at one of those expensive truck stops along the way. The trip was an adventure due to the age of Duane’s car. It was so old it was still insured for theft, fire and Indian raids. It was about “to kick the bucket” you could say. His license plate holder proudly stated, “My other car is a piece of junk too.”
Duane, along with his wife and two guests, pulled up in front of the Goodwill store in Spokane. It was at this moment that Duane was introduced for the first time to one of the modern wonders of the twentieth century… the parking meter. They weren’t here the last time Duane bought pants!
At first Duane thought the parking meter was a pay toilet for dogs but then he read the instructions and let out a howl that could be heard all the way to Boise.
“One cent for 12 minutes! Just to park?” screamed Duane. ‘They want an arm and a leg just to park,'” he told his wife, who wholeheartedly agreed.
Reluctantly, Duane reached down into his one way pockets and pulled out two pennies. It was the first time Abe Lincoln had seen the sun for months. For his two pennies Duane got 24 minutes. He thought that would allow plenty of time to try on one pair of used pants. Duane walked into the store where he had bought his last pair of pants 15 years ago and announced, “Well, here I am again. I bet you thought I’d kicked the bucket or was wearing a pine overcoat by now?”
Unfortunately, the Goodwill store didn’t have the exact pants Duane wanted. They were “close but no cigar,” so the group left in a hurry. The two wives didn’t want the trip to be a total waste of time so they suggested that they drive six blocks down the road to another marvel of the late 20th century: the outlet mall. But when Duane looked at the parking meter he noticed that he had 13 minutes left.
“I am not leaving until those 13 minutes are up,” he stubbornly announced.
So the ladies began walking the six blocks through the worst part of Spokane while Duane sat in his old car waiting for the red flag to pop up. When it did he drove down the street a few blocks to pick up the girls.
Cross my heart and hope to die that is how the phrase, “getting your two cents worth,” originated.