I have been thrust into an international monetary caper. Faced with such a situation when I was younger, I would have told her I was sorry and replaced the remaining quarters with a dollar bill. But not so today!

The signs and symptoms of growing old, such as memory loss, forgetfulness, changing sleep patterns, tiredness and joint pain, are well described in medical books and journals.


However, frequently not mentioned are some of the everyday occurrences associated with aging.


Here is an example: While at a local pharmacy, I decided to buy a newspaper for $1.06. I thought it was my lucky day because I had the exact amount of change — four quarters, a nickel and a penny. I joyfully gave the money to the cashier.


As she counted the change, she suddenly looked up at me as if I was a convicted felon and shouted, holding up one of the quarters, “I can’t accept this, it’s a Canadian quarter.”


I have been thrust into an international monetary caper. Faced with such a situation when I was younger, I would have told her I was sorry and replaced the remaining quarters with a dollar bill. But not so today!


In my friendliest voice, I explained to her that I have never had any previous problems exchanging Canadian coins and, in fact, today they are probably worth more than the United States quarter. She was not impressed with my senior soliloquy and remained adamant.


A few feet away, quietly listening to this verbal exchange, was the store manager. She confidently approached us with the air of being the final arbiter of this monetary stalemate.


I was quite certain she would agree with me, if only from a customer satisfaction point of view. I was wrong. She stated quite emphatically that it was a company policy not to accept foreign currency — no exceptions.


In the big picture of life, this incident is not worth a blip. However, as I walked out of the store, I contemplated why I make such a fuss over such a small matter. And then I answered my own question.


I recalled a similar incident that took place during my childhood. As a 10-year-old, I went to the neighborhood grocery store with a Canadian nickel to buy some of my favorite penny candy. The owner, Fred Wachter, looked at the Canadian nickel and then kindly said, “Do you want to spend the entire nickel, or do you want some change?” I still remember buying 3 cents worth of green leaves and two licorice sticks.


What this Canadian quarter incident was all about was my subconscious mind lamenting the loss of the Fred Wachters of the world with corporate mandates.


Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund in Massachusetts. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.