23 March, 2006

It’s the little things that get our attention – in this case 5¢

At overseas locations the base economy is penniless. AAFES does not use pennies, all prices our rounded to the nearest nickel. The cost of shipping pennies is more than the value of the pennies themselves. Here in Iraq they take it further, no coins at all. But they don’t round to the nearest dollar. Instead, they issue ‘pogs’. These mini-gift certificates are used in place of coins. On one side is the AAFES logo and some suitably patriotic image and on the other a 5¢ 10¢ or 25¢ notation. AAFES makes it clear that ‘pogs’ are cash value as depicted and can be redeemed at any AAFES world wide for the full value. And really, I don’t want carry a bunch of loose change in a combat environment. This program makes cents.

Saying that however, I have not seen a real coin in several months. While shopping at the local BX to get something or other I handed the cashier the cash and put my hand out expecting a few ‘pogs’. An odd weight settled in my hand. I turned to look and Lo! There in my hand was a nickel! I and my two colleagues stopped talking and gazed in wonder at the coin. There seemed to be an angelic chorus in the background and the image of Jefferson seemed to glow. It was a real nickel! A tangible piece of home! A no kidding bit of America! It was a remarkable experience!

To us but not the cashier. She looked at the three slack jawed idiot aircrew standing in front of her staring at this nickel, looked at the coin in my hand for a moment and then looked at the three dummies again.

“Hey, it’s a nickel! Get over it! NEXT!”


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