Square Change

I had to gas up the Jeep before returning it, because the rental agreement was to return it with a full tank. I paid in U.S. dollars, which are accepted everywhere in Aruba, but got my change back in the official Aruban currency, the florin.

The Aruban 50-cent piece is a square, as shown in the photo above. I think it’s the first square coin I’ve ever handled. It’s actually a handy shape, because you can detect it immediately when you are fishing around in your pocket for the right change. It makes me wonder why more coins don’t deviate from the standard circular shape and go with squares, triangles, and other shapes you learned about in junior high geometry class.

The key thing about getting foreign coins in change is to be sure to use them up, or leave them in your hotel room when you depart. I managed to remember to do that, with the coins becoming part of our tip to the maid, and thereby managed to avoid adding to my collection of francs, kroner, marks, and other unusable currency kept in a wooden box on my dresser.

What Makes A Great Year?

I ran across one of those traditional “end of a calendar year” stories, recounting how people felt about the past year. This one noted that “just” one in three people surveyed felt that 2022 was a “great” year.

I was struck by the use of “just” in the description of the survey results. Given all of the really bad things that happened in 2022–war in the Ukraine and the resulting increase in the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons, an American economy on the brink of recession, a horrible year in the stock market, a fresh outbreak of COVID in China, and so forth–how could even one-third of people surveyed possibly think that 2022 was “great”? Who in the world are these people, and how do they define “great,” anyway?

And that’s just it, isn’t it? When people are deciding whether a particular year was “great,” do they consider national or geopolitical developments, or do they focus only on a smaller circle of their families and friends? Did the members of their family stay happy and healthy for the year–or not? Was a marriage joyfully celebrated, or the arrival of a new child, or a special achievement by a high school or college student? Did everyone in the family have a successful year on the job, or were some laid off in some cost-cutting exercise? Can they heat their homes and put food on the table? For some people, at least, troubling national and international news might be storm clouds on the horizon, but it doesn’t really have an impact until it directly intrudes upon that group of family and friends.

The greatness–or crappiness–of a year depends a lot on your perspective. It’s nice to think that one-third of the people surveyed experienced enough happiness and healthiness and satisfaction in 2022 to call the year a “great” one. However you define a “great” year, I hope that 2023 meets that definition.