August 31, 2012
I stopped at a little grocery store yesterday here in the Czech Republic to buy my day's provisions. As always, I got only what I needed: some yogurt, bread, a Coke, and a bag of chocolate chip cookies, so I expected the bill to reflect the meager nature of my purchases. I wasn't yet used to the Czech monetary system so when the tab came to 271 Kopecks, I was a little confused. I pulled out my wad of cash and started flipping through the bills, looking for the right denominations while simultaneously trying to calculate the cost in Euros then into Dollars. The total didn't see quite right and I was holding off paying, but the clerk grabbed a 500 Kopeck note out of my hand and shoved some change at me.
It was, as I said, a small store with only one register and there was a long line behind me. The guy before me had been ordering minute quantities of meats and cheeses from the deli case and the clerk had been obligingly cutting off slices with the meat slicer. It took forever and everyone, myself included, was frustrated and tired of waiting, so I grabbed my change, bagged my groceries and left.
As I rode along, I started calculating the cost of my recent purchases. "Let's see," I mumbled, "there's twenty-five Kopecks to the Euro, and a Euro is about a buck and a quarter... Carry the nine.." I can add and multiply fine wile I'm riding my bicycle, but I can't subtract or do long division. I have to pull over under a shady tree for that.
By the time I found a city park and discovered that I'd been cheated out of either One: ten dollars or B: eighty-nine cents, I was 25 kilometers from the store and had eaten all the cookies.