Usually when I find a penny on a street on a sidewalk, it has a dullish brown color and a date many years in the past. When I look at the date, I make a connection to something that feels like a long time ago. I’ve written about such pennyfinds several times in this space (and I just made that word up, too. I love the English language). But today’s find wasn’t like all the others.
For starters, this was a shiny penny. Everyone knows the gleaming look these coins have, when they’re new and filled with potential. New quarters, dimes and nickels don’t have this, but new pennies do.
I almost didn’t pick it up for just this reason, thinking to myself that it was probably from this year or last year, and what would be the point in trying to write about that? But a custom has to be applied across the board, and so I reached down and picked it up. The date on it read “2009,” which is more distant than I would have thought for such a shiny penny. And it’s also a year I have something to say about.
2009 was the last time that George W. Bush was president. I had a magnetic bumper sticker on my car which read “1.20.09 Bush’s Last Day.” I had purchased it in the summer of 2006, when early 2009 seemed like it would never come. I put the magnet on my car, and began the official waiting game. And even though I live in a Democratic enclave, I never once had anyone make a comment about it. If W was popular, and I’m sure he must have been somewhere, I never heard anything about it.
In an almost weirdly ironic twist, I took my car in for a wash on January 19, 2009, literally the day before the wait was finally over. The men who washed my car removed the magnet to wash underneath it, and never put it back on. Its service had been completed by that point, anyway. But I was denied the chance to retire it or somehow commemorate the fact that it wasn’t needed anymore. Like Moses and the promised land, and Lincoln and the Civil War, my 1.20.09 magnet didn’t make it to the promised land of a post-Bush world.
Even though the penny was still shiny, 2009 now seems like it was long ago. Much has changed since then, and will continue to change as the world does what it’s always done. And just because the year on the penny wasn’t 1980, or some other long-ago year, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth remembering, either.