When I was a college exchange student in Lancaster, England (well before the film V for Vendetta, I should note) I was walking out of the Boots department store when a girl came up to me.
“Penny for the guy,” she said.
“Penny for the guy.”
“What guy?” I asked.
She flashed me the culturally universal expression for “duh” Then she pointed to a scarecrow leaning against a bench.
“Penny for the guy,” she said again.
That guy is dead, I thought. We stood there for a moment blinking at one another, her small hand outstretched.
“You want me to give you a penny for that guy?” I asked.
“Well, some people give me 20p or 50p.”
I understood that the scarecrow would not be shopping and did not need a penny, much less 50p. I also understood from the girl’s expression that her baffling request had some context that made it perfectly standard and normal and that it was my confused reaction that was odd. I reached into my pocket and gave her a silver coin.
“For the guy,” I said, putting an end to the exchange.
I would ask someone later.