But on my most recent trip, I took a moment to limit my gaze to the foreground – to see what was right in front of me. Many visitors, it seems, treat the Tower like it’s an inverted wishing well. Littering the exterior window sills are several dollars worth of pennies, several more in dimes and nickels – and unknown amounts of foreign currency. One wonders where they all come from – the coins and their former owners.
Some of them I recognize – the Canadian quarters and dimes, each with the queen and accompanying Canadian wildlife. Beavers one ledge. A herd of antlered creatures on the other. A few sailboats to mirror those at sea below. The occasional Euro makes me wish I had visited Europe sooner or that the currency had been rejected. Ledges that would’ve once shone with Lira and Francs now give no clue about who stood at the window. One Europe, one coin, greater and lesser mystery.
Some coins are impossibly exotic – everything you would want found treasure to look like, but fancier. Those coins are the real finds – hidden in plain view, padlocked in the world’s tallest display cases with the world’s best backdrop.
I don’t know where they’ve come from and no answer could be as pleasing as the stories I’ve spun in my head. I assume the coins have been lobbed over the top of the Tower, forced through the gaps in the window, or simply willed there, destined to be part of the landscape until the Tower’s keepers unlock the windows and sweep away the evidence of tourists, dreamers, and those with no reason for leaving their mark other than thinking the penny souvenir machine downstairs shouldn’t cost 50 cents so better their pennies become part of the Tower rather than have the Tower imprinted on their pennies.
I didn’t wish on any change up there. I tossed no dimes, wedged no nickels, lobbed no quarters. But had I wished, I’d have wished for the stories of one window’s worth of copper and zinc – to know how joyful or desperate its wisher had been.
But maybe it’s better not to know they’re probably mostly benign vandalism – dozens of copycats acting on one child’s earnest wishing penny with little motivation other than wondering weather they could bocce ball theirs closer to the edge or clear the structure entirely and kill some other unwary tourist below