New Math

Every so often, I’ll read an article about the silliness of the penny, how it costs more to mint than it’s worth (about 2 1/2 cents per penny — but we make it up in volume), and how they don’t really circulate but just accumulate in every person’s pet place to store them. (For years, mine was a huge bottle — maybe a Melchizedek? — of Old Granddad whiskey from none other than my granddad, who didn’t drink, but maybe that was because he’d already done all the drinking necessary by drinking that bottle, I guess.)

Well, in Hungary they’ve solved the problem, sort of. You’ll notice in the picture above there are no forint coins below the 5 forint piece. Now, everything you might buy is still priced using all 10 digits, but when the total comes, it is rounded up or down to the nearest 5. Being the idiot anal-retentive American, I had to fight the urge to grab the cash register and shake out some extra change the first time it happened — and of course the rounding went against me. There’s a part of me — okay, it’s basically all me, no rounding required — that shouts in my mind, “Why bother counting if you’re going to count wrong!” every time we go to the grocery store.

But it’s a great opportunity to watch everyone else and grow up a little at a time as I see others deal with what really is chump change. Sometimes I get the extra forints, sometimes I give them, but either way, I smile, say “Köszönöm,” and go on my way.

And of course I double-count all the change as soon as I hit the sidewalk. Hakuna matata, but verify.

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