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COLUMN: Unclaimed bathroom quarter puts glimmer of hope back in humanity

Everyone came to the same conclusion: ‘It doesn’t belong to me.’
A quarter that sat for months in the washroom, unclaimed, provides a glimmer of hope that most people are still good. (Jessica Peters/Abbotsford News)

My faith in humanity has been tested the last few years, and I know for a fact I’m not alone.

However, a little social experiment has played out in this newspaper’s office for the last several months that’s been offering me a shiny glimmer of hope.

Now, I don’t think I need to expound on the reasons behind my loss of hope. Choose any valid reason, and let’s go with that. Be it pandemic-related ridiculousness, political craziness, social chaos, corporate greed or any combination in a Venn diagram of all the above, you get the idea.

People just sort of suck lately.

But every now and then, something happens that dampens my despair. And this is the case with the mystery quarter of the Abbotsford News restroom.

This quarter showed up a few months ago, although the exact date is of some debate. We think it must have fallen from a pocket or a purse unknowingly, and the first person who found it – likely the cleaning person – placed it on a shelf for someone else to recover.

But nobody recovered it. Day after day, month after month, it sits there.

Every time I go into the restroom, this coin gleams at me and reminds me that every single person I work with is too honest to take something they can’t be sure belongs to them.

Every day, it tells me that there are at least a dozen people on this crazy planet who have a moral code of conduct and will follow it to the ends of the earth.

Yes, it’s just a quarter. Nobody is gaining or losing much here. But every day that the coin remains, I smile more and more.

It seems to me that there are tests conducted by scientists along this line, pushing the boundaries of delayed gratification.

The so-called Marshmallow Test is one of them, where children are told if they don’t eat the marshmallow in front of them, they’ll get more marshmallows later. But there is no gratification being promised to us by not pocketing that 25 cents. So that’s not it.

There is a show I used to enjoy called What Would You Do? But the episodes were based on much bigger stakes than a lost-and-found quarter, so that’s not exactly right either.

Nobody is being hurt by the lost quarter. And nobody is being hurt by it remaining there. But nobody would be hurt if it would disappear – except for me, maybe.

So last week, I decided it was time to do an office poll. The Restroom Quarter Poll, if you will.

I went from desk to desk and asked everyone if they had seen the quarter, why they haven’t taken it, and how they felt about it sitting there, taunting us, every single working day.

Every co-worker I asked, other than our newest hire, was well aware of the quarter. Everyone saw it appear, and realized it was found by someone other than its owner. And everyone came to the same conclusion: “It doesn’t belong to me.”

But the answers started to vary a bit on the third question. While some of my co-workers felt that same way I did about the goodness that nobody would take it, at least one was bothered by it.

Others said that if it were a larger coin, say a toonie, it would never have lasted this long.

I realized about halfway through the polling that just by acknowledging the quarter I’d likely stolen its power. And sure enough, when I came to work the following day there it was. But this time, it was sitting beside my keyboard.

An anonymous person decided to end the quarter’s reign over the washroom, and put a stop to the experiment.

Now the quarter will sit on my desk with the other knick-knacks, souvenirs and mementos. It is among the mysteries of my desk. And one day, I’ll forget all about its origins and scoop it into my pocket.

But for now, I’ll look at that quarter when I need a reminder that most people are good.

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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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