I needed my fix. I had to have it. I scratched around my purse… Ah! Success! I managed to scrape some silvers and bronzes to make my target of R12.50. I edged towards the counter trying to contain my eagerness and thirst.
“One tall Americano please!” I said attempting to hide the fact that I was about to drop a mountain coins into the hands of the cashier. She looked at me with distaste and counted the coins - I think I heard the person behind me groan. “Girlfriend, sorry but we don’t take that kind of money no more.”
I looked down dumbfounded at the money she handed me. It was two 5 cents coins. One slightly dull, the other shiny. “You 10 cents short girlfriend…” she said with a look of annoyance. I scratched around my purse – this time I definitely heard someone groan. “Ag never mind just leave it. Here’s your Americaaano.”
I took the paper cup bolted away from the scene before any caffeine junkies or 5 cents discriminators attacked me for holding up the line. Needless to say I was mortified. It was one thing for a photocopy machine to say that your 5 cent coins were not good enough but another thing for a stranger to break the news to you.
I tried to process what had just happened to me. It was clear to me that I had old money… And not the good kind that the Rockefellers or Hiltons have. I had basically been told that my money had no worth.
Money essentially has no real value. Instead it carries the value we attach to it. So would five thousand R200 notes be worth more than twenty million 5 cent coins? Even though they are both equivalent to R1 million?
It got me thinking about my parents and how they said they could buy bubblegum with half a cent back in the good ‘ol days. Perhaps one day my kid will stand in a line to buy a cup of coffee and when they get to the front be told that the R10 they were trying to push was “not the kind of money” accepted.
Beyond the economics and finance of it all, it’s pretty interesting to think of the value we attach to things throughout our lives. But then again as a friend of mine summed up quite eloquently “I’m not rude if I remove you off Facebook! I’d rather have 10 rand than 1000 cents...”
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