Cashed Up

11 Jul 2007

I hate coins.

I'm no ninja, but I like to move like one. The louder the nasal-voiced, roller-bag-toting Americans around me, the quieter I am. In cathedrals I practice the crocodile drift, even sitting carefully so that my backpack doesn't creak.

Just a few euro cents makes this impossible. Suddenly I'm not Hattori Hanzo - I'm Santa Claus. My deep anti-pickpocket pockets give the coins plenty of room to bounce around, broadcasting "I'm rich! Rob me!" Even wrapping them in a tissue doesn't help much.

And then there's buying things. While the popular attractions have signs reading "coins please", because they're sick of atm-fresh 50-euro notes, in practice it's hard to do quickly. And a slow ninja is a dead ninja. Umm. I mean traveller.

Case in point: making a donation at a cathedral. I know that I'm only going to get one shot at this. I can't stand there sorting two-euro coins from worthless ten-cent pieces. So I reach into my pocket and pull out... my room keys. A shredded, possibly used, tissue. An unspecified amount of money. The priest tries to appear grateful.

So I try hard to use my coins on machines, taking longer to buy the coffee than to drink it. Even then sometimes they turn the tables. Pushed for time, we overpay at a train station booth. It pays out in small coins like a poker machine, and we're back where we started.