Don’t bring Big money

By Nyasha Bhobo

Johannes waves a $100 bill and buys a delicious dinner – an hour after flying into Wakanda.

“Because you’re richer, holding a $100 bill, you will sleep on an empty stomach,” the cashier tells Johannes bluntly.

Another customer next to him, holding a much smaller sum, a $1 bill pays for the same beans and rice bowl and gets his meal instantly.

“I don’t get it,” you didn’t serve me,” Johannes whispers then speaks loudly at the cashier.

This is the Wakanda Kingdom, and the Fabulous is the name of the supermarket, the cashier tells Johannes. $100 bills are too big money; there is no smaller bills change in Wakanda. Visitors and locals must bring smaller $1 or $5 bills to the supermarket and they will be served, says the cashier demanding that Johannes must use up all his money to buy perfume, flowers, and candles apart from the simple beans and rice dinner he craves for so much. “At least the items will round up to $100 and spare us this change nightmare,” the cashier tells Johannes.

“But I don’t want perfume, candles, flowers – just a beans and rice $1 meal,” shouts Johannes.

“You don’t get it you visitors to Wakanda with foreign passports!” shouts back the cashier.

Wakanda is at war with Danida, the Kingdom that owns and prints the US dollars. Danida is punishing Wakanda by withholding small notes of the dollar that make up change for shopping transactions. Visitors and locals in Wakanda who wave giant $100 bills to buy a small item like beans and rice bowls are either handed the worthless RTGS Shekel, Wakanda’s official currency, as change.

“A man buying a crate of eggs today with a $100 bill got five underwear as change money,” the supermarket manager whispers to Johannes.

“It´s a helluva laughable situation,” another shopper Kedza Kedza, 25, a college student in Wakanda lined up behind Johannes and tried to purchase a biscuits packet, got rejected due to her “big money” the $20 bill. Kedza Kedza, first dashes past a bemused Johannes and strolls into the supermarket car park where a flurry of unlicensed money-changers will exchange her $20 bill for RTGS Shekels and thus allow her to have loose notes, dash back into the supermarket and buy her biscuits at last.

“Thanks to the war with Danida, small denomination US dollar bills are missing in action,” Kedza Kedza sighs.

Loose USD dollar coins are a rare sight to behold in Wakanda where the war with Danida has forced the latter to demand that her small denominations coins must never cross the border into Wakanda.

“We must beat them mercilessly with Big Money. Allow them to hold big USD notes, $100 bills so that they starve with Big Money without loose change to buy even a cup of tea,” Major Twala, the wartime president of Danida has his voice ring in the pirated shortwave radio stations that are beaming across the border into Wakanda.

“Beat them with Big Money!”

Johannes has just arrived in Wakanda for the first time from Bakosi, a neutral island west of both Wakanda and Danida, and is living a nightmare just to have a $1 rice and beans meal.

Out of frustration, he struts out of the supermarket and ghosts into a kiosk to buy a quick Pepsi drink to drown out his bizarre situation. The endeavor should take just a minute, Johannes thinks.

A minute breeze into the kiosk has become another 30 minutes just to buy a Pepsi drink as Johannes finds himself lining up behind five customers in the cashier’s queue. All of them are holding up to four different currencies to try and transact in Wakanda – the USD, Wakanda RTGS Shekels, Bakosi Island’s Dinar, and the Euro.

The cashier is sweating, busy refusing and batting away small-items shoppers who present big US dollar notes like $50, and $100 at his kiosk desk. At last, Johannes is lucky, he thinks, near the cashier. He waves his $100 to buy a can of Pepsi:

“We can buy you the Pepsi and other items and you give us your $100 bill. In return we pay for your items via our bank debit cards,” a bevy of strangers, street touts, accost Johannes wanting to pay for him via their bank swipe cards, and he gives them the $100 bill.

“Any deal, sir,” a woman slacking a baby on her back demands from Johannes.

18 January, 2023