22 January, 2010

Nickels and dimes: a rant, or maybe a whinge

A confession. I hate the US currency. This isn't a political or economic position although as a leftie reluctant capitalist with socialist tendancies I'm sure I could come up with an argument given the time. No. This is about the physical reality of the dollar, quarter, dime, nickel and cent. I've been here nearly three months and I'm still struggling every time I open my wallet to pay for something. All the notes look the same - green and the same size. I know they have slightly different pictures on them and of course the number is different but I don't want to have to examine my money that closely. And how the hell do those with limited sight or none manage?

And don't get me started on the coins. There are very rare dollar coins. The dollar note is much more common and usually I have wodges of them stuffed in various parts of the wallet, busy looking like bigger notes. They are useful for lots of things but I find when I need them inevitably I haven't got any. Otherwise I have sheafs of the damn things. The quarter is almost more useful - for parking meters, bus fares etc. So of course you never have any. When we had the car, Tom and I would hoard these and steal them from each other. They are large round and silver. Then there's the dime which is 10 cents and tiny. Tinier than the nickel which is 5 cents. Cents are tiny and copper, so different from the rest, but by the time I've got to finding the cents part of any bill I've lost the will to live so I am accumulating lots in a jar. All the coins are the same shape and mostly the same depth and the same colour. So it's just the size that's different. The writing on them is so small it's practically impossible to read.

Now it's not like I haven't travelled. I've used many many different currencies in my time. The Euro, baht, francs, marks, pesetas, lire etc. etc. I even successfully managed in Brazil once when they had hyper inflation and three different forms of currency in circulation owing to the devaluations that they'd done. But for some reason I find the dollar reduces me into a flapping incompetent who drops notes everywhere in her attempt to find the right one. We have jars of change at home that one day I shall take to the bank and no doubt be given yet more of those annoying single dollar bills.

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