Published: June 14th 2008June 14th 2008
Slightly irritatingly, one of my attempts to withdraw dollars from a cash machine yielded a stack of slightly old $10 bills, a few of which are very slightly worn at the edges.
Normally I wouldn't give two shits, but here this proves to be a problem. You take them to the exchange booth and the women take them off you with huge frowns on their faces, examine the notes under a microscope, sit there for a minute sucking air audibly, shaking their heads slightly and stroking their beards, and then fling the notes back at you.
"Old. Cannot change." they exclaim.
No amount of insistence will get them to change their minds. So you take them back, get out some nice new, crisp and clean notes without a single blemish on them and hand them over. This pleases the women, who raise the corners of their mouths a whole millimetre, the Russian service agent's equivalent of a broad smile.
And what do they give you in return?
A giant heap of Uzbek banknotes that look like they got stuck in a threshing machine during a landslide. You have to handle them with tweezers to avoid complete disintegration.
I mean giant heap too, since the largest banknote in circulation is worth a whopping 37p.