Monday, January 18, 2010

"Curious Spell"

Part of my identity as an equal-opportunity ridiculer of the irrational means that I will gladly turn my ever-present scepticism inward, re-examining certain episodes in my life with a critical slant, and this blog entry is another example of this endeavour.

Sit a little closer, dear reader, as your champion of rationality rebuker of the deluded shares a tale of how he came to be so disgracefully mawkish that he had sentimental feelings towards a unit of legal tender.

Back in the spring of 2005, I made the acquaintance of a girl called Caitlyn, an exchange student who was spending a semester at the University of Limerick, and we managed to strike up a fairly solid friendship in no time at all. Before returning to her native Wisconsin, Cait went wandering around Europe to cap off her sojourn. During this trip, she sent me an e-mail asking me to top up her phone with €10 credit, and I happily obliged.

She had organised her trip in such a way that she’d only be home in Ireland for an overnight stay before getting up early for the transatlantic flight home, and mine was the house that made sense to crash in, in terms of airport proximity. The next morning, as she was loading her bags into the taxi, she remembered the €10 that she owed me, and insisted on paying me back. As all she had to hand was a ten-pound note from the Bank of Scotland (worth at least 40% more than what she owed me at the time) that was what she gave me. Whilst conceding my failed-attempt at refusing reimbursal, I gave her a mischievous look and promised her that I’d spend it on her next time she was around, and I slipped the foreign note into my wallet. It was June 2005.

Over a year and a half later, after a few funny weeks of awkward transition, this friend of mine became my girlfriend. While it was a surprise at the time, when I reflect on how utterly arrested I was by the currency she gave me from our last interaction, I realise how blind I was to the obvious.

The tenner stayed in my wallet for years, folded away into an otherwise-uselessly small compartment, and came with me during my stint in Belgium, my year of college in Pittsburgh, and my trip to Hong Kong. When I bought a new wallet in 2006, the note jumped ship with everything else. Even though I was aware of its presence, the £10 was never spent over the course of three trips to Northern Ireland and Britain. Eventually, last May, after returning from a trip to Oxford in which I realised I had carried around dollars, euros, and pounds in my wallet, I decided to sort out my currencies, and the £10 was placed in the small pot in my room, where it would remain for the next eight months.

When Cait and I were packing for our trip to England last fortnight, I grabbed my UK-currency pot, and brought her attention to the tenner. It came with us on our trip, riding in the main compartment of my wallet for the first time in years. For the first day and a half of our two-day trip, when making purchases that came to just under a tenner, I’d open my wallet, and find a few twenty pound notes and the one ‘special’ note, and hand over the twenty every time.

This situation presented itself numerous times, until the final few hours of our time in London, when my wallet contained just a £20 note and the one seemingly imbued with magical powers. Stepping in out of the cold at a Starbucks just off Regent St., we ordered two hot beverages, a rocky road bar and a blueberry muffin. The total came to around £9.65.

The deliberation must have confused our server.

“Hey Cait - I have a twenty and a ten”

“So use the ten... Oh.”

“Well, it makes sense to use it, it is legal tender”

“Oh... Okay.”

“And I did say I’d find a way to spend it on you”

I gave Cait a mischievous look as I handed over the note, which was snatched away from my grasp and replaced with coins, just like any other note I’ve ever handed to a cashier, and we shuffled out of the way of the queue to wait for our drinks.

It was gone.

It deserved to be put on a raft and set ablaze with flaming arrows to signify its eternal glory in the note afterlife, or used as a clever prop in a profound romantic gesture. Instead, the note that was bestowed upon me by my significant-other, which had accompanied me on more of my adult life than any living person was just another note in just another cash register in just another Starbucks.

As we sat at the table, nursing our coffees, I struggled to make the occasion momentous:

“So Cait, this is an appropriate end, right? I mean - we’re together now, we’re in the UK, we spent it on us”.

She smiled weakly.

“In a way Cait, this is it. This is us shedding the last remnant of Sullard and C [asinine nicknames we subjected each other to before we started dating], and embracing our new...-”

She rolled her eyes at me.

“Okay, so that’s a bit of a stretch alright.”

We both looked over towards the till for a minute, watching money changing hands, watching the customers shuffling along, thinking that any one of them was potentially inheriting the item that held a curious spell over me for over four and a half years which would now resume its utilitarian purpose. As I observed, I briefly entertained using my remaining £20 to get the £10 back, but in the end, reason prevailed.


Gamma Goblin said...

Beautiful blog post.

Vinnie Rafter said...

thinking about breaking into the romance novel market???

Anonymous said...

At least you didn't take down the serial number - then you might still be obsessing over it on a money tracking website.

Sully said...

@Gamma Goblin
Thanks for your overly generous feedback! I was a little apprehensive about hitting the ol' publish button on this, figuring that it's doesn't entirely fall in line with the schtick about the 'near-fatal does of rationality'.

Does this count as romantic? The affinity seems to be aimed at the note itself.

If I knew of a money-tracking website before spending the tenner, I would have made a note of the serial number.

Eoghan said...

I'd call you a pussy, but given my previous blog it'd be quite hypocritical of me.
Also,Vinnie is correct about the romance market.
While the affinity is towards the note itself,the affinity was as a result of the note being given to you by Caitlyn.

Jason said...

Sully, and sentimental value! Never thought I'd see the day.