Monday, 17 January 2011

The Politics of Change

So "$5.50" is what I'm asked for and I hand over a five dollar note and a one dollar coin. "You wouldn't have the fifty cents, would you?" "Sorry?" "You wouldn't have a fifty cent coin?"

If I had a bloody fifty cent coin, I'd give it to you, unless I needed it for reasons of my own (which seems unlikely, since they are horrible oversized clumsy sorts of coins, the monetary equivalent of those sad great lummocking infants of whom there was a representative in every primary school class that I was ever part of [and, no, it wasn't always me]).

I hate this importuning of my purse contents by shopkeepers (is importuning the right word, I've never used it before and have only a hazy idea of what it really means), this clamouring for coins I must surely be concealing about my person. Listen: if I had them, I'd cough them up, provided I felt like it - and, should I decide I want to retain them for my own private pleasure, then that's my prerogative too. The thing is, I'm the customer; I'm paying; if I feel like doling the entire cost out in one cent pieces, that ought to be all right by you (well, maybe not one cent pieces, given they've been abolished, in a move which I still can't help believing is actually a challenge to the whole idea of the value of money - if everything's rounded to the nearest five, does that mean that one has no value, and, if it does, surely that must also mean that a sum made up of one hundred thousand ones is also valueless).

And what about all that, "If you just give me 49 cents then I can give you 30" nonsense? Even in my glory days working in retail - well, in a takeaway shop run by Armenians at the bottom of Bourke Street (and only for the time it took the Armenians to make the wise business calculation that it might be cheaper to employ their hideously overweight son behind the counter, since he was already consuming most of the profits on the other side of the glass panelling),  I never got my head around those arcane calculations.

Of course that might have been another factor in my being 'let go', now I come to think of it. Perhaps if I'd mastered the "You give me a 10 cent piece, and I give you 67 cents and then you give me a dollar coin and we'll be square" equations, I might now be in charge of a flourishing chain of Subway franchises and living in splendour in one of those places real estate agents like to call "a dress circle location". Ah splendid dreams, ah squandered glories. Did my lack of change skills completely change my life?


  1. You sound as though you are ready for the 4pm Queen Mum special.

    A bell rings in the back of my head, that there is a legal limit on the number of coins that one can profer to pay a bill.

    Never used 'importune', but had occasion to use 'oblong' the other day. Now, THAT is a nice word.

  2. Over here, any slight suggestion that one has loose change - e.g. a jangling in one's pocket as one gropes for a 50 bani coin - will get the shopkeeper cupping his/her hands around yours as he/she then slowing removes them from said poicket with all your metalic treasure. This is then followed by he/she rapidly picking out all the titbits (i.e. anything except 1 bani coins, which are worth a pointless 0.1 US$) and giving you, supposedly, the equalalent back in psper notes. I quite enjoy the proces, it's like 'bonding'.

  3. Oblong is a lovely word, Julie, and that does sound charming, Gadjo, although leaving you ill-prepared for any parking meters you encounter later in the day.