Euro For Your Thoughts
by Mad Dog
Actually the euro
isn’t new. It’s been in use for a couple of years, though much like
my social life, it’s been virtual. Hey, maybe there’s hope for me
has been in the news a lot lately. The airlines are running out of it,
retail stores took in less of it at Christmas than they had hoped and,
thanks to spending $69 million of it, Michael Bloomberg started off the
year with a new job—mayor of New York City. Oh yeah, a bunch of
European countries dumped their francs, drachmas, and pesetas in favor
of the euro too.
The euro, for those of you who have been too busy waiting for Weakest
Link to rerun “Supporting Sitcom Actors No One’s Ever Heard of
Who Are As Desperate For An Audience As We Are” to catch the news, is
the common currency which twelve out of the fifteen members of the
European Union have adopted. The holdouts are England, Sweden, and
Denmark, which used the E.U.’s “You Ain’t The Boss Of Me” clause
to opt out. Hopefully it will work better than it did for England during
World War II.
The idea of the euro is to unite the countries economically, give the
dollar a run for its financial money, and create some truly boring paper
money adorned with generic, unidentifiable bridges and doorways, the
well known international symbols of, well, anything but a monarch. It
will also make it easier to travel from country to country since you
won’t have to worry about changing your money, figuring out how to
fold it so it fits in your wallet, and walking around with a calculator
in your hand so you’ll know how many of the alien bills to unfold,
examine, and overpay the smiling shopkeeper. Instead you’ll hold onto
the same money as you crisscross the continent. And wonder why it buys
so much less just because you walked through customs.
There were German
TV commercials (“Vee haf ways to make you use the euro”), a 50-foot
replica of the euro symbol at the European Central Bank (Think: vertical
crop circle), and even the introduction of The EuroWorld Song.”
Actually the euro isn’t new. It’s been in use for a couple of
years, though much like my social life, it’s been virtual. Hey, maybe
there’s hope for me yet. Even though there were no actual euros to
hand over, store prices were posted in both the local currency and euros
so people would get used to it, much like they did here when they put up
highway signs showing the speed limit and distance to cities in both
U.S. and metric. Which lasted all of about a week. Which if I recall is
five metric days. At least the virtual euro managed to hang in for a
couple of years.
People finally got their hands on the real thing on New Year’s Day. In
most of the countries they’ll be able to use either the euro or their
old money for a few months, though they’ll only get euros back as
change. Germany’s the exception. There you have to have exact change.
Just kidding. Actually they discontinued the use of the mark immediately
so you have to use the euro. Germans have a hard time with the concept
Having an adjustment period is a good thing, since it will give people
time to learn not to stare at the new money as if they’re American
tourists in Paris for the first time wondering what these strange
looking bills are and trying to figure out how many they need to fork
over for that weasel pâté with escargot and mayo on baguette they
ordered by mistake. This sight alone—Europeans having trouble with
their money, not the sandwich—makes the idea of traveling to Europe
very attractive right now. Hey, I‘m not above a bit of revenge.
In Argentina they may just stick with the two currencies
they have. Of course that could change. After all, somewhere in among
all this they adopted a new national motto: “Another day, another
To get everyone primed for the euro, they promoted the hell out
of it. There were German TV commercials (“Vee haf ways to make you use
the euro”), a 50-foot replica of the euro symbol at the European
Central Bank (Think: vertical crop circle), and even the introduction of
The EuroWorldSong with Michael Jackson singing “We are the
Euroworld. We are the children.” Just kidding. Actually the chorus is
“It’s a small Euroworld after all.”
Not everyone is happy with the change. Or the bills for that matter. In
France the newspaper Liberation ran an obituary for the franc. In
Germany some people buried their marks. Well, a few token ones, anyway.
And in Luxembourg people worried that this would cause them to lose
their identity. Until, that is, someone reminded them they don’t have
Europe may not be the only place to get a new currency this year.
Argentina has been considering it too. Last week the country’s third
out of five presidents in two weeks—go ahead, think about that for a
moment—announced he was going to print brand new money called the
argentino. This in spite of the fact that they already have two, the
peso and the dollar. But now that he’s gone and they’re on their
third president in two days (don’t feel bad if you have to take notes
here, so do the Argentineans) it looks like they may just stick with the
two currencies they have. Of course that could change. After all,
somewhere in among all this they adopted a new national motto:
“Another day, another president.”
So what are you to do if you have some Irish punts, Austrian schillings,
or Portuguese escudos sitting in the drawer waiting for your return to
Europe? Not to worry, banks say they’ll always exchange them. Maybe
that’s the answer to the problem of the airlines and retail stores.
Perhaps they should look in their pockets and behind the seat cushions
for spare change they can convert to euros. If they find enough of it
they might just get back on their feet. Or become mayor of New York.
Hey, it’s a new year, anything’s possible.
©2002 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them while waiting for your euros to arrive in the mail.