Hansen: 'Coin guy' enriches city

August 04, 2011|By David Hansen
  • Steve Lindsay does coin collection from parking meters around Laguna Beach.
Steve Lindsay does coin collection from parking meters… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

In Laguna Beach, it's hard to ignore people. Whether it's the homeless or shopkeepers, or that certain speeding car in the neighborhood, we see the color and movement of this small town. And so we engage, sometimes in unexpected and refreshing ways.

This is how it went with the "coin guy."

It was about two years ago that my boys and I first saw him. He was methodically marching through downtown, collecting coins from the parking meters for the city.

It was early in the morning, and he was in his zone.

"Look at the coin guy," I told the boys. "He seems a little lonely. We should say, 'Hi.'"

And so the boys did what boys do. They rolled down the car window as we passed him and yelled — probably louder than needed — "Hi!"

Steve Lindsay visibly jumped a little, then offered a wave and a small smile.


And he's been waving and smiling at us ever since. We see him at least once a week, sometimes more. And every time we yell.

It's become a tradition, that simple thing that differentiates small towns from big towns, charm from aloofness.

"A great deal of what I do is community involvement," Lindsay said. "And I think that's what I enjoy the most with what I do."

Lindsay, 39, is the unheralded, low-profile version of the mailman. He is just one of many city employees who go about their jobs without fanfare.

But when you're the "coin guy," people notice, especially when that someone is Lindsay, with his solid frame, bald head and boy-next-door friendliness. What do people ask him?

"Where's the nearest bakery?" Lindsay said without hesitating. "I get that all the time."

For Lindsay, helping out is not new.

He took on raising a "son," now 18, for the last six years after the boy's real father took off.

"I love him just like he's my son," Lindsay said, without apology.

Lindsay started at the bottom in the city's Public Works Department 14 years ago, working backhoes and tractors, doing the odd jobs that never make City Council headlines.

He gets up at 4 a.m. to make it to work on time from Long Beach. He doesn't complain.

"I feel a part of the city," he said. "I've got a responsibility."

After a few years on the job, he went back to school at Rancho Santiago Community College for the public works program to improve his skills. After all, the operation of a city is complex with its streets, sidewalks, parking lots, storm drains, facilities, fleets, grounds, utilities, water — the list is endless.

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