Friday, September 16, 2005

cash flow 

(leading into the 'origin of the incredible plan')

I'm going away this weekend and need some money to fill the car with petrol and to eat.
I just checked my funds and I have only 30 quid left in my current account, unfortunately this is the only account where I know the PIN for my card. I could probably get away with using my credit card or other account card, claiming I don't know my PIN and asking to sign some paper instead; but I'd be far too embarrassed and would feel rather guilty - like I've just robbed an old lady. The number of times I've stood behind middle aged women in the supermarket who are asked to enter their PIN and don't know it, 'oh I'm sorry love, I don't know my PIN number' and I've said to myself 'You stupid old bat, this is not a new thing, they've been introducing this for over a year and you can't get organised enough to remember a four digit number which you can even pick yourself? It's because of people like you that they have to retain this insecure signature stuff. It's your fault if someone takes my card and uses it to buy an Ipod by signing as "Mickey Mouse"'.

I had to think of options for getting access to some money. There wasn't time for a transfer to go through from one account to another. I thought about trying to pay for things with a cheque, but didn't think that very practical. I could cash a cheque at one of those chav loan places, but didn't know how much they'd give me. I could porn something? I thought maybe I'd have to borrow money, and thought about who I could approach (I could give them a cheque).

Later on I remembered a pile of foreign notes in my bedroom, and a lightbulb went off (or is it on? or am I getting confused with flashbulbs?) in my head.

Sometime ago I knew someone who was moving house. I left her to do some packing and told her I'd be back in a few hours to help her load boxes into the car. I returned to find boxes still empty and her sitting on a bed surrounded by an arrangement of 'stuff' that looked similar to what I'd left two hours before. What had happened is that shortly into the process of packing she had found some foreign coins and notes in a draw, and realised they needed to be sorted into piles. I couldn't help smiling, as this is exactly what I would have done in the situation. Faced with a Herculean task you decide not only to break it into small and manageable tasks (therefore achieving your goal without having to comprehend the enormity of it), but to break it down into very small and pointless tasks that have nothing to do with reaching your goal. You only do this because you have tried to comprehend the enormity of the task and realised it's beyond you, so why not do something 'fun' that could tenuously be considered useful instead? At first she was slightly embarrassed to see me, then started talking enthusiastically about her currency sorting as if it was very important in the grand scheme of things. She seemed to be rather proud of her collection but rather than indulging her I rubbished it with a sarcastic "you call that a collection of currency?"

Not only is my collection varied and extensive, it is actually worth something. I am no good at getting rid of my money at the end of a trip like those who try desperately in the airport to find something to buy for their last 35 cents. It would have been nice to have tracked the value of my collection w.r.t exchange rates, but too late now it's been raided and liquidated.

(I also have a collection of toothbrushes that is extensive (I see five here in front of me - plus my normal one in the bathroom) if not varied, as I often forget to pack one and have to buy a new one. I have recently discovered that this collection may be worth something after getting a shock while examining a receipt from Boots and finding out I paid £4-50 for the toothbrush I bought last weekend in London. I guess they depreciate pretty rapidly though once taken out of their packaging).

I know I've got another wad buried somewhere (as there are plenty of currencies missing from the one I found), but here's what I looked at today:

110 Euro = £74
170 USD = £94
450 Norway Kroner = £39
500 Hong Kong Dollars = £35
320 Swedish Kroner = £23
12 Cyprus Pounds = £14
90 Malaysia Ringgits = £13
110 South Africa Rand = £9
120 China Yuan Renminbi = £8
93 Estonian Krooni = £4
310 Indian Rupees = £4
5500000 Turkey Liras = £2
20000 Romanian Lei = 40p

I took the USD, Euro, Kroner and Hong Kong Dollars to the bank, and they gave me nearly £300. That should be enough money for a tank of fuel.

I partially regret what I've done as I do love sorting things, especially money. I love piling and counting coins although I can't say why, I suppose it's order and achievement and you feel like you are creating value - a bag or pocket of coins in chaos doesn't seem to be worth anything, but by sorting and bringing order to them they acquire value?

Once, sitting on a plane, I realised what my ideal job would be - sorting the money from those envelopes they give you on planes for you to put your left over currency into and donate it to charity. I'd have a huge table and would stack notes and pile coins and at the end of the day I'd look down at the table from above and see the structure I'd imposed - a whole configuration of table and currency that I'd created that has value. One 'sorted' configuration out of billions that have value and billions of 'un-sorted' configurations that do not.

So if this is my ideal job, why am I not doing it? I guess it wouldn't pay well – they'd probably give you a bag of Dutch guilders-cents at the end of the week. I also think that mainly you'd be sorting American dimes and nickels and only occasionally get some notes from somewhere interesting.

What do I want to do then, if it's not sorting spare change for Oxfam? I thought about this the other day and came up with:

Create a national TV advertising campaign teaching people how to pronounce the word 'Espresso'. I thought I could get the guys who write those hilarious catchphrases for Little Britain or Harry Enfield to come up with one, something that would reverberate around all school playgrounds and office buildings: “Where's the X? I want that one! Yea, I know! Only Me! You don't want to do that! There is not X you stupid cretin it's a fucking S!” or something like that.

Write a book about Diana. Possibly including material from an exclusive interview she'd granted me through a medium. I'm sure the Daily Mail would serialize it.

None of these I could do for the rest of my working life so I asked myself the question, “If I had to work at something all day, what would it be? What would I enjoy doing?” and I decided that I would be most happy pacing around a room all day coming up with naff 'ideas' - “what if...” ideas, “why not...” ideas, “wouldn't it be good it...” ideas. In fact I wouldn't have to pace around a room, I could go and walk anywhere or bike or swim or sit on top of a mountain, anything that would help the thought process. So is this possible as a career? Is there a job that will pay for you to come up with shit ideas? Well I could work for a think-tank – whatever one of those is..... to be continued....

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