April 13th, 2006

krazy koati

The fundamental principle of the thing

I noticed in the cash register (at a fast-food place) that there was a drawer to the cashier's right of the S$2 bill slot. That's a bit odd, as the common denominations are fifty, ten, five, and two dollar bills; and with coins of 50 cents, 20 cents, 10 cents, and 5 cents they fit together nicely. But I peeked and it had in that slot at least one of the old-style one-dollar bills, and another bill of about the same size but different design. It might have been a really old-style Singaporean bill, or might have been other foreign currency, as many places are fine with maybe a dozen different sets of bills.

Naturally I was interested; variations and obsolete currency are rather interesting partly because I'm an obsessive-compulsive person and so am very vulnerable to the charms of anything produced in vast quantities with variations. Then, too, I grew up in the United States, which has managed one major and one medium change in its currency design since motion pictures settled on on 35 millimeter film as a format. [ I originally wrote ``since motion pictures standardized on proportions of about four-by-three,'' but it turns out that was only done in 1928, about the same time the United States shrank its money to the current sizes.] So I did something foolish, and tried to get them.

``You have some dollar bills in the register--'' I started. Dollar meals? ``No, dollar bills, the currency in there, interested me.'' The cashier reached for a flyer of whatever the current promotions are. I tried going by example, and took out a two-dollar bill. ``Could I exchange this for the one dollar bills?'' The cashier went for the manager, and I started to suspect I'd be well off if I could get out without being arrested. ``I'd just like to buy dollar bills.'' The manager approved, and the cashier gave me two dollar coins for my bill.

I suppose I could just go to a currency trader -- there's about four in any given mall -- and buy whatever currency I particularly like, but it doesn't feel quite as honest as catching something in the wild. If only it were possible to get caught.

Trivia: The constellation Aquarius was associated, in Babylonian times, with the 11th month, Shabatu, the Curse of Rain. Source: Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, Richard Hinckley Allen.

Currently Reading: Mercator: The Man Who Mapped The Planet, Nicholas Crane.