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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Counting change in Panama

Hey friends,

This is going to be a super short post. Remember, I talk about the good and the bad, so not everything on this blog is rosy. Now, that said, I swear if I'm asked in the supermarket one more time if I have a penny, I might lose it. Okay, not really. It would probably take a little bit more than that, but it's annoying. 

What am I talking about?

You'd think Panama was having a penny crisis. Each time you go into any store, to buy anything, if the total you need to pay doesn't come out to a round number, where the change can be given out in nickels, dimes, quarters, or straight up bills, you'll be asked if you have exact change. 

The U.S. and Panama 1 cent coin. Both are used interchangeably here.

Here's a photo of the pennies you'll be asked for. It doesn't matter whether you dig an American coin or a Panamanian one out of your pocket, as U.S. money and Panamanian are used interchangeably. Any palm readers will learn a lot about me from that photo. Damn I've got a wrinkly palm. I've never seen my hand that close up. Sorry I'm being random again.

So, what aggravated me enough to write this post? I went out the other night, just to pick up some Scotch tape to help with wrapping my wife's birthday gift. I went into a local Metro pharmacy. My son was with me, so of course he convinced me to buy some candy too. Everything combined came out to $4.27. 

I handed the cashier a $20 bill. I had no smaller bills on me and I had no change. I'm not insensitive. If I had smaller bills I would've given him a five right off the bat, but I didn't. 

The guy just looked at me for a second, then he asked (in Spanish of course): 

"You don't have a five dollar bill?"

"No, I only have a twenty," I replied.

He stared at me for a second, again, and then asked, "You don't have two pennies?"

"No, I only have a twenty," I repeated. 

So the guy took my bill, held it in his hand while he thought long and hard about how he was going to figure this one out. Finally, he opened the register, and produced the 10, 5, and change he needed to complete the transaction. 

It's not the first time I've dealt with an attitude from a cashier over my lack of pennies. It's kind of become tradition that the cashier (all of them) will ask if I have any pennies, and even though I know my pockets are void of change because my kids usually snatch it all to buy popsicles from the paletero (ice cream man on foot), I'll put my hand in my pocket, and fish around as if I might possibly have change, then I'll say, "No, lo siento (I'm sorry)." 

So, just learn to expect this and play the fishing around in your pocket game, and all will be fine. 

You know what would be really funny, or I'm just crazy and you won't think it's funny at all? I'd love to bring a whole role of pennies with me, like an unopened one, then when they ask, just pull it out, like, "as a matter of fact I do." 

I do nutty things like that sometimes. This is another, completely random point, but kind of fits in with the topic (not really). I used to go to the Baskin Robbins in Costa del Este all the time. And I love banana splits. Yet, every single time I ordered one, they would tell me they were out of bananas. How could that be? Isn't Panama like the highest producer of bananas in the world or something like that? 

After about the third time of being told they didn't have bananas, I started to think it was just a bunch of bull. When I was in high school, I worked for a TCBY yogurt, and I hated when people asked for banana splits. I don't know why. They're not difficult to make, they're just time consuming (you'll spend 2 minutes making a banana split instead of the 30 seconds it takes to scoop out a regular ball of ice cream). 

So, I was starting to think these Baskin Robbins employees had a ton of bananas in the cabinet and just found it easier to claim they didn't have any. 

The next time I went to Baskin Robbins, and I swear this is true, I brought two bananas with me. I had them in my pockets. I waited until they told me they didn't have bananas, then I pulled them out and placed them on the counter. "Well it just so happens that I've got bananas right here. Now make my damn banana split." 

Now, I'm not claiming that I'm solely responsible for Panamanians suddenly having the opportunity to eat their ice cream with a side of bananas covered in delicious toppings, but I've never seen that store without bananas since that day. 

So this was my completely random, Chris had some complaints that needed to be jotted down, blog post. 

Thanks for reading,