Thursday, June 09, 2005

An approximate account of a recent exchange...

Two nights ago, I was standing at the Narodni tram stop in front of Tesco with a friend of mine. A rather natty-looking young female individual approached and asked, in good old Standard American Mid-West English, if we could spare some change so she could find a hostel.

"I don't have any money and I'm desperate," she said. "I couldn't find any place that would change my Irish pounds."

I reached into my pocket and came up with a ten crown piece. I held it up for her to see and handed it to her, saying, "Well, here's ten crowns. I'm not exactly sure how much that is in IRISH POUNDS, though."

The girl had braces.

My friend, sympathetic, began to make recommendations for cheap hostels. But it was late, and I think the trams may have stopped running at that point, and it was looking problematic.

"Oh well," I said. "Sounds like you're screwed. I guess you'll just have to sleep on the street. Good luck!"

The girl sort of looked at me funny and laughed nervously before moving on.

My friend said, "Wow, you're Mr. Optimism. Why so negative?"

"Why so negative?" I yelled. "She couldn't find any place that would change her Irish pounds?! No, of course she couldn't -- that's because they use the fucking euro in Ireland!"

The girl with the braces wasn't far off -- indeed, she was still standing right behind me still -- and overheard. She came back.

"I hope you're kidding," she said. "You know they still use the pound in the UK, are you aware of that?"

"Yes, in fact, I'm aware of that," I said. "I'm also aware of the fact that the Republic of Ireland has been independent of the United Kingdom for some time know -- almost a hundred years in fact -- and that they use the euro."

"Yeah, but what about Northern Ireland??" she said.

I'm not not exactly sure how it petered off at this point, so I'll cut the story short.

I suppose, in hindsight, it's possible this poor American teenager with braces had been galavanting around the streets of Belfast -- maybe busking in a juggling show or something, and doing that thing with the sticks -- and picked up some UK pounds that did, actually, say "Northern Ireland" on them (as many of them do, just as in Scotland they say "Bank of Scotland") and assumed that these were "Irish pounds" -- which, depending on how you view things, I suppose in a sense they are -- and that I was needlessly being a jerk.

On the other hand, I did give her ten crowns.

I hope the "slumming in Eastern Europe" experience is enriching her in some way.


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