The saying “a cobbler always wears the worst shoes,” has never been so true. Even though I have been writing about it for a year I left it until the very last day to react.
I had spent 12 months informing other people to do it but had managed to successfully ignore my own advice. And that’s why I found myself in a queue that resembled a January sales queue on Regent Street or rather (by the look on people’s faces) a queue for bread in chilly Moscow.
“I have been waiting for almost two hours,” said the lady in front of me in the line with a look of disappointment.
So let’s rewind a little to a conversation I had had with my wife about an hour before this event.
“I think today is the last day,” I quizzed my wife. “The last day for what?” she replied. “To change any Kunas will still have into euros,” I answered. Technically speaking it wasn’t the last day, as we could still have changed our coins into euros at the Croatian National Bank. But a trip to the capital with a plastic bag of coins that wouldn’t have even paid for the flight didn’t seem feasible.
“I don’t think we have that much,” she said.
Like two squirrels we had a habit of storing our nuts, or rather loose change, into a couple of boxes. You know the story you come home from work or from a coffee and throw the silver coins that you got as change into a “change box.” As we placed the three heavy boxes onto the dining room table it was clear that we had more than we knew.
“Do we have to sort them out and count them?” I asked. We decided not to count but to sort them. “We could have 50 euro in change here,” I said as I made my way to the local post office to change them.
I had put all the sorted bags into one rucksack, a heavy rucksack. “Oh, it is better of you go to FINA as we would have to count them all by hand,” said the friendly face at the post office.
BOOM! That brings you up to date and the queue, a queue that literally stretched out of the door.
It appeared that I wasn’t the only one to leave everything to the last minute. “You aren’t going to believe this but I was clearing up and opened a previously unopened birthday card to my son, in fact two cards, and inside both of them I found a 500 Kuna note,” smiled my new queue friend.
“So you’ve been waiting almost two hours because of that? Well it seems worth the wait,” I answered. “How’s that?” she asked. I explained that when she changed her old Kuna she’d “earn” around 130 euro, which is 65 euro an hour. “Not even the best surgeon earns that hourly rate,” I smiled. “You have a point,” and my description seemed to raise her spirits.
What do Konzum and FINA have in common? They both physically have multitudes of registers but always only open a couple.
I had this dilemma. Should they, FINA, have been more prepared for a last minute rush of people changing Kuna, or were we in the queue to blame for waiting until the very last day?
Being balanced I would say it is a bit of both. I observed the situation. With only one desk accepting customers for exchange it wasn’t that difficult. The lady (who was charging around like a hamster on a wheel) had to speak to customers and then walk right over to the other side of the building to the coin counting machine. Surely it would have made more sense for her to be sitting in one of the empty desks right in front of those whirling machines?
After an hour or so I found myself face to face with her. “You’ll certainly do your 10,000 steps today,” I smiled as I dumped numerous bags in front of her. She smiled, a smile that reminded me of an athlete when they finally cross the finish line.
“This will take some time to count,” she replied and disappeared across the building under the weight of my bags. She reminded me a school pupil on the first day of school struggling under a bag full of books. She returned with just a small piece of a paper, I guessed my total. “Would you like a 100 euro note of two fifties,” she asked. “To be honest I didn’t think we had that much so I will be happy with either,” came my reply.
All that squirreling away of coins had given us an early New Year bonus of over 130 euro, or the same as the lady in front of me with just two notes. We had both out earned a surgeon for two hours! Is that a sign for a happy new year?
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to
About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik