Back in the early days of the bookstore in Charlotte, Vt., 16 and 17 years ago, we had a “swear jar.” Anytime someone said something off-color, especially that could be overheard by little ears, they had to put a quarter in the jar.
This system worked well for our customers who had a sense of fun and propriety. Sadly, I was often the largest contributor to the jar. It got to the point that some kids, or their parents, would just look at me and I’d pop a quarter or two in the jar, just in case. Now, 17 years later, the jar is long gone but it’s memory remains.
During the height of the holiday shopping season, Felicia flew in. She was one of the customers who was a regular visitor to the swear jar, back when her kids were two and four. I looked at her and knew she had a request that I would not be able to meet in the time she had allotted. Her daughter, Julia, now 19, was home for the holidays and was sick and she needed the “perfect book selected and wrapped” in less than two minutes. It seems Julia was in the car and feverish. I struggled briefly because everything I suggested Julia had already read or they had it at home. I politely suggested reading one of them. At the exact moment I lobbed a curse at Felicia’s indecision, her sick daughter walked in.
Julia heard me say a swear and turned to me and said, “We’ve got a jar for that at home.” I looked at her quizzically. She added that they had a “potty mouth jar” at their house that was modeled after our swear jar. The rules for their jar included anything that was base, not just curses.
I handed Julia a dollar to cover the rest of the day.