The Currency Of Understanding

, | Right | October 24, 2014

(The year is 2010. The euro has been introduced as a common currency throughout Europe in 2002. An elderly lady approaches me, picks some items, and wants to pay.)

Me: “That is 28.50.”

Elderly Lady: “Oh, so little? Are you sure?”

(I notice her picking out some old Austrian schillings from her purse.)

Me: “I’m sorry. ma’am. You can’t pay with those here; this is outdated currency.”

Elderly Lady: “No, no! I have always paid with them!” *picks out some more* “Look, I have money!”

Me: “Lady, I’m sure you have enough, but… I simply cannot accept Austrian schillings. We have the EURO.”

Elderly Lady: “Yes, yes, I understand. You want deutschmarks? I don’t have any deutschmarks. Schillings, you take?”

Me: *suddenly understanding* “Yes, ma’am. That would be… 280 schillings, please.”

(I pack her things, she hands me 250 old Austrian schillings, but I go with it. She seems to have disappeared with her travel group, when a younger lady, also speaking Austrian dialect, turns up.)

Younger Lady: “Hey, there. Did my grandmother bother you?”

Me: “What grandmother? Do you mean…”

Younger Lady: “Yeah, my granny. Did she try to pay with schillings?”

Me: “In fact, she did. And I sold her something.”

Younger Lady: “Well, you shouldn’t have sold her anything. What’s her bill?”

Me: “28.50; but as I said, she already paid. I took her schillings. Maybe I can exchange them for something.”

Younger Lady: “No! Give them back to me. She’ll be mad about not having them! How much did you say?”

Me: “€28.50.”

Younger Lady: *hands me over two 20 Euro bills* “Keep it, for goodness’ sake!”

Me: “No way, ma’am. That’s far too much.”

Younger Lady: “Well, then give me 10 back.”

Me: “Fair enough; thank you.”

(The rest of the day, I wondered why my supply of ‘free’ coffee and food worked so fine. Later on, I realized that the young lady had left some money at every booth near mine because I was so friendly to her grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, which I didn’t realize immediately. Thank you, ladies, you were amazing!)

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