I CONSIDERED IT VERY LIKELY to be an exercise in futility, this stopping off at the bank today. And I didn't really have the time to throw away. And yet, Dear Reader, neither could I muster the resolve to simply throw away cold, hard cash. (Well, it was actually neither cold nor hard, as it was paper money, the kind one can fold up and stash away in a drawer full of the odds and ends of everyday life, and never think of again for ever so long, until such a time as one gets a sudden inspiration to clean out said drawer!) You're scratching your head right now, are you not, Reader Dear, wondering why ever I wouldn't just stow that money in my wallet and off to the store!
Well, here's the thing: It was foreign money! One bill that had languished in a drawer ever since I cleaned off my father's desktop many months ago. For sure, I surmised, there will be some kind of fee for exchanging of currency, the minimum of which will exceed the value of the bill. It'll all be for naught! But I pulled into the bank parking lot anyway, and entered the bank. I was pleasantly surprised to be called directly to the service counter.
"Ahem. I have...is it possible...I mean, I have a foreign bill here and I'm wondering about the possibility of converting it to U.S. money."
"What do you have?" asked the teller, and, after I proffered the bill, "Hmm, what is this?"
"It's Guatemalan," I replied. "At least that's what's printed on it."
"Ah, yes," she said, "I'll have to make a phone call."
She assured me there was no fee to exchange, and several minutes later she was giving someone on the other end of the phone line a detailed description of the bill:
"There's a guy with long sideburns and a curl on his forehead. And.. a pot with something in it." She studied the bill. "There's also a bird flying across the top." Flipping it over, she added, "And on the other side it looks...well, it just looks like a room full of men." She giggled.
There was a pause. "What is it called?" She was obviously reiterating the question she'd just been asked. She scrutinized the paper money, and then replied, "Uh, just a twenty bill." (Dear Reader, it was clear this was no Spanish-speaking lass.)
While she waited with the phone to her ear, she commenced filling out a Foreign Exchange Receipt form. Upon hanging up, she informed me triumphantly, "It's called a 'quetzale'!" (She did her best) Onto the form she had written the Spanish word and the monetary value. She now wrote down the date; the bank name; the particular branch of the bank; her full name; my name, address and account number. On the 'Rate Quoted By' line, she wrote 'Alicia.'
"You just need to sign this," she said, and pushed it across the counter for my John Henry. She then duplicated the form and gave me the copy. And finally, she counted out for me my U.S. money.
Two dollars and thirty-three cents.
(Hmm. As I went on my way I contemplated the hourly wage of that bank teller, and of Alicia, too, [wherever she may be]. I thought of the gas to get my car into the bank parking lot. I pondered the paper and ink to print the receipts. I thought of my time, as well. And....you know, Reader Dear...I believe that quetzale bill would have made an interesting bookmark!)