Dept. of Sic Transit

Today I got to experience two completely unrelated things, both of which served to remind me of the passage of time.

Today for lunch my father and I ate at a local chain restaurant.  We had the lunch buffet.  He paid, as he always insists on doing.  He’s also in his . . . ummmmm . . . later 70s.  I am not.  After some few minutes puttin’ down the chow, I noticed the cash register receipt.  It reflected a charge for “2 Sr Buffet”.  Now, perhaps they determine eligibility for a senior discount based on the age of the payor, and not the age of the eater.  But that scarcely makes good business sense, does it?  Granddaddy hauls in his three strapping grandsons, each one between 18 and 25 and each one a (as Mark Twain would describe them) “famine breeder,” and they’re going to let all four eat at the price of some octogenarian with poor digestion who can’t sleep at night if he eats a big lunch?  But I am holding out for the restaurant making a foolish business decision, because the alternative is that the cashier (female and somewhere in that 24 — 40 range where you really can’t tell) thought me self-evidently old enough to qualify for the senior discount.

The other thing to happen was in the quarter that formed part of the tip.  It was nice and shiny, and so I looked at it to see what state quarter it was.  It was a 2012 Hawaii quarter.  I picked it up, and in an instant I was back in 1982 East Berlin.  I still recall the feeling of incredulity, the ludicrousness, of communist currency.  You quite literally could cut through one of their 1 Mark pieces with tin snips or light-duty wire cutters.  Seriously; I tried it one one when I got back; it went easily.  Their “money” was exactly that transparently worthless.  When you went to visit the capital and showpiece of the worker’s and peasant’s paradise, they forced you to convert at least 25 good, solid Deutschmarks, for exactly 25 marks of funny money.  On neither occasion (I visited East Berlin then and then once more, in early 1986) could I manage to find anything — anything at all — that I could both spend 25 marks on and that I wanted enough to tote it home through the check-points.  That obviously fraudulent money was the symptom and symbol of the train wreck that finally ran out of steam less than a decade later.

We appear to be now just about at that point here in the U.S.  That 2012 Hawaii quarter was noticeably lighter than its mates only a year or two older.  How long before you can take a pair of wire cutters and snip a Unites States coin, sovereign currency of the mightiest power in world history, clean in two?

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