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Counting Out Coins

counting out coinsI am only guessing but I suspect every writer has his/her bad days. These are the days when the mind goes completely blank and stories or bright ideas seem to have fallen far below the horizon. Sometimes called ‘writer’s block’, it is the writer’s archenemy and, when all else fails, many of us are forced to seek liquid chemical help for inspiration.

The good news is that salvation often comes from the most unlikely of sources. When it does, the bottle is re-capped and the fingers start re-tapping the keyboard in a frantic effort to record thoughts before all is lost to short-term memory malfunction and a haze of alcohol.

So it was when I met up with a close friend who recounted a recent event and delivered me from a vacuum of cognitive thought. I should point out that this event did not, and could not, happen in Pattaya or even Thailand. Perish the thought. It was also passed on with the condition of anonymity because the person in question was not authorized to speak on the subject. Or any subject, for that matter. Therefore, I will refer to the first person as ‘Me’ and give the other person the generic, non-gender specific title of ‘John’. To the lead female role I will assign the common Anglo-Saxon, Judeo-Christian name, Mary.

And it came to pass, in a land far far away, my friend and I met up for a quiet drink and a meal at a family-friendly bar in White Lotus Street. The meal was fine and the beer was cold and flowing as we caught up on events. But discussion of the political situation in the Balkans and the financial impact of changes to US foreign policy was soon exhausted and we decided to finish up the evening with some relaxing air-conditioned time in a Go Go Bar not far away. Yes, other countries have Go Go Bars.

Inside, the music was fine and from an era we recalled fondly. The scantily-clad dancers were especially friendly and the gin was of a fine vintage. All was going well until fate stepped in with Hollywood timing.

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” I swear I could hear Bogey utter his famous line as the dancer slithered her way onto John’s lap. Immediately, he was a deer caught in her headlights and if joy was dollars, he was a millionaire.

To be truthful, the lady was not unfamiliar to John as he first made her acquaintance on a previous visit almost a year earlier. But time and absence mean nothing to star-crossed lovers and their prior familiarity was overshadowed by their excitement in seeing each other again. John bought Mary a drink and, sitting on his other side, I tried to ignore the orgy of pheromones taking place beside me. By the time she was required to mount the dance floor for another cultural performance to the dulcet tones of AC/DC, it was clear John was being overcome by her affections.

Now, in this land far far away, laws are merely a suggestion and morality laws are for amusement purposes only. So there is no problem with a lady accompanying a suitor to a secluded room for a game of Space Invaders if she so wishes. There is also no problem with her accepting a financial gift of appreciation from the aforementioned suitor. It is all quite respectable.

It therefore came as no surprise to me when John made such a suggestion to Mary once she had returned to his side. I was a little shocked, however, when she suddenly burst into laughter. It was apparent that his first offer of compensation for her valuable time was far below the acceptable limit. Undeterred, John entered some serious negotiation with Mary which finally resulted in her giving him a big hug. His discounted offer was thus accepted.

When Mary excused herself to go and change out of her cultural bikini, John’s face turned to one of panic and he pulled out his wallet. I watched as he began counting the notes, from the highest denomination down to the smallest. Even over the music I could hear his brain performing advanced calculus. I laughed out loud, thinking that if he suddenly spilled coins on the table and began counting, I was going to have to intervene. Either that or disown him. The vision of Mary pouring a handful of coins into her tiny purse had me contorted with laughter.

He asked what the matter was but I couldn't find the words. Then he asked if he could borrow 100 Shekels. Almost in tears I asked if he was really cutting the finances that fine. Unaware of the comedy I saw unfolding before my eyes, he explained that he had not anticipated seeing Mary and therefore had not bought sufficient funds with him. I gave him the 100 Shekels and asked,

“What if she wants to eat or … or … buy a bottle of water?”

“Oh. I didn't think of that. Could you lend me another 20?”

“What about getting home? Do you have the money to catch a Shekel Bus home?”

“I was planning to walk some of the way.”

I gave him some more notes and shook my head in disbelief. John did not realize how funny this situation was.

At that precise time, in some palatial offices across the world, men in suits were discussing money in terms of telephone numbers. With only a nod of agreement they were making decisions affecting the lives of millions of people. Some people stood to lose millions of dollars as a result of their decisions, while some would become rich. In an auction house half way across the globe, someone was paying a seven figure sum for a painting by a long dead artist and somewhere in California a spoiled brat was taking delivery of the latest Ferrari which can go from nought to a hundred in three seconds flat.

Meanwhile, in my tiny part of the planet, my friend was almost counting out coins in order to fulfill his primal desire for an hour with a woman to whom he was attracted. And, in contrast to those meetings where people are ruined or harmed by the whims of a small group of powerful but disinterested suits, nobody was harmed by John. He got his moment of happiness; Mary got her money, albeit in small bills. And me? Well, I got my story.