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Duration:02:59
Uploaded:2017-11-09
Last sync:2019-07-23 13:20
In which John tells the story of how in a dark and difficult time, the nation of New Zealand came to his rescue via their five cent coins. Pizzamas is ending, meaning all this is only available until TOMORROW: https://store.dftba.com/collections/pizzamas

"Tried to fight the creeping sense of dread with temporal things" comes from The Mountain Goats' song "The Mess Inside." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YRWzxYS_nM

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Good morning Hank, it's Thursday.

It's my last video of Pizzamas. So the background of this story is that the couple months before my book Turtles All the Way Down came out was a pretty difficult time in my life.

I was just completely overwhelmed with worry about what people would think about the book and whether I could handle the tour and publicity stuff, and also like how I was gonna talk about my own mental illness in the context of the book. I was also really excited to have a book to share of course, but to be honest I was really, really scared. Okay, so tuatara play a role in my book, and this is the New Zealand five cent piece, which I believe to be the only coin ever minted featuring a tuatara.

This one's from 1972 but New Zealand minted these five cent pieces up until 2006 when they stopped because, you know, it was the rational thing to do. Because you know, money exists to facilitate the exchange of goods and services, which five cent coins don't do very effectively. Also it costs more than five cents per coin to mint five cent coins, making their existence especially astonishing, but what if I told you that some countries still mint coins worth one fifth of one nickel? Now I'm on a tangent.

Point being, New Zealand stopped making these things over a decade ago. Okay, so one night I found myself on eBay, trying to fight the creeping sense of dread with temporal things, which I presume is what drives 90% of eBay's traffic, and I thought, I wonder if I could buy some New Zealand five cent coins? Turns out I could. I was able to buy 23 of them for a total of $22 US.

And then I started thinking if I could get a couple of hundred of these New Zealand five cent pieces, I could give them as gifts to everybody who leaves a gift for us on our tour. But eBay didn't have nearly enough of them so I reached out to some Kiwi nerdfighters, and lots of people responded but in the end the project was spearheaded by a librarian and teacher named Meagan.

Meagan wrote a letter to her local newspaper asking people if they had any five cent coins lying around because there was this American author who could use them. The letter was printed online and then eventually in the newspaper, and people responded to it. Like, a lot of people. Most of the people who sent coins to Meagan had no idea who I was, but they sent them in anyway. They came in three at a time or a hundred at a time.

There were letters about how peoples' mothers had collected these coins or about how they were excited for their coins to go on an adventure. I got letters in Māori talking about the importance of tuatara.

And I just want to pause to note the amount of effort involved in this. First people had to read a letter in the paper, then they had to go find their coins, and then they had to pay at least a dollar in postage to mail them to Meagan, or else go to the trouble of dropping them off at the school where Meagan works, all for a stranger in America.

And they did this for no reason except to be kind. They had no idea I was going through a difficult time in my life and they had no way of knowing how much their generosity would mean to me; that I would dissolve into tears of gratitude when thousands and thousands of tuatara coins arrived in the mail from Meagan.

We gave many out on tour but I still have some. And I will try to use them well, to give them out over the course of my life to those who might need a physical reminder of how kind people can be. And how just as cruelty and mistrust can spread, so can kindness.

To the Kiwis who made this happen, if you're watching, thank you. I know that you will say it was just a little thing, but little things matter. Hank, I'll see you tomorrow.