When change counts

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By Ramon Dacawi

Benchwarmer

Friday, June 13, 2014


IT HAPPENS daily in the city market. You wait, as if for eternity, as the vendor pesters other peddlers so you can have your change for your P20 bill - a five-peso coin for that P15 bunch of ampalaya tops or P10 for a small packet of tomatoes.

Why can’t vendors reserve change from yesterday’s sales for today? Why don’t buyers keep theirs ready?

You come home wet from the rain, from trying to shrink under a tiny, collapsible, wind-blown umbrella that you bought for P50 even if it can't serve the purpose. As those who had committed the mistake, there’s really no point in buying a more sturdy and expensive one from Shoemart as you’d lose it anyway, as I did my Fibrelle brand, leaving it by a lottery shop last week. As they say, there are two things that are never returned – lost opportunity and lost umbrella.

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Whatever China says, their tiny, cheap, fragile, mass-produced piece of shade we import or smuggle from the Mainland works only during sunny days. That’s when you don’t use it, lest neighbors would perceive it as evidence for a sudden streak of feigned royalty, or an attempt to keep your upper and facial skin whiter than theirs.

Your wife – or my nephew – complains. The base of the bunch of sayote shoots you bought is lined with rolled mature leaves that made your buy look bigger, made to look like a real bargain. So me of the tiny tomatoes look anemic, if not rotting, reduced to almost nothing after he chops off the dark spots.

Jeepney drivers are more circumspect. In these days of the shrinking peso, he no longer gives you that look when you hand him a P100 bill early in the morning. He has the needed change, either from yesterday’s take or from other passengers on the way to town. Sometimes, however, you have to remind him hand over your change before you alight. Still, pays to keep what remains of your change, just in case. Don’t give it to your kid when he leaves for class, lest his grumble would help begin your day on the wrong foot.

It still happens inside taxicabs, which are a-plenty except when you need them this rainy season. This is a season for cussing in the rain when somebody, anybody for that matter, including a pretty, innocent-looking lady, appears from nowhere in the rain and grabs the door just when it was your turn on the taxi queue.

The taxi meter reads a little over P50 at your stop. He deserves a tip, this cabbie trying to make ends meet , just like you. He had given you mobility and an umbrella rolled into one. So you hand over P100 and instruct him to give you back P40.

You wait as he picks the coins from the near-empty cash box. They add up to P20 or less. He honestly admits the shortfall with that sheepish grin. In the rain, you can’t look for somebody else with change. While figuring out what to do, the cars behind you start honking impatiently.

Before you hold back traffic, you take what’s offered.

“Paki-tandaan n’yo lang po ‘tong taxi ko at isosoli ko ang natirang sukli pag sumakay uli kayo say unit ko,” the driver politely shouts before you dash out into the storm.

Years back, I bought a loaf in a busy bakery along Kayang St. I was sure I had two bills in my wallet – P500 and P100. So I would have change for other things to buy and for the jeepeny fare, I handed her the five hundred-peso bill. She did give me coins and smaller bills, but amounting to P70. I told her I had given her P500. She insisted it was P100. Told her I was sure it was five. She insisted she was sure it was a hundred.

In no time, I felt a line of buyers had formed on my right, waiting for their turn to pay. A burly-looking gentlemen eyed with admiring sympathy the cashier’s pretty, innocent looking face and cheeks that were turning crimson. His suspecting eyes then examined my again, uncomely face, as if telling me how dare I’d embarrassed her.

I accepted my short change and moved out quietly, aware of eyes following ,my steps.

Despite their bulk and weight, coins are convenient for they save you time, money and a face. (e-mail:mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 14, 2014.

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