There is a phrase that expresses our "I don't give a damn": "That tells me as much as the first shirt I wore". Which is false, by the way. I miss a blue shirt, its collar in another shade of blue, almost turkish cotton, that my mother bought at Suba, a store directly facing the red sands of Luanda. The shirt smelled like America, naturally because it came in a package directly from the american West, I believe, I want to believe. It was not the first, but it feels like it, old as it was. So much so that I wore it at the time when direction indicators in Volkswagens were similar to an amputee's only arm, going up and down (between the two doors) warning that turning was imminent. To get that first shirt back (or almost) I'd give away my entire present day wardrobe.
So, what can be used as a term of comparison, to talk about of that which we let go and forget soon after? The bill with which we payed yesterday's breakfast? Not even that. It just came to my knowledge, that, to trace them, there are some people who jot down the serial numbers of every bill they spend (all of them have it, like these €10, <serial>, which I have in my pocket). Eurotrackers love to follow the tracks of their ex-money, like those unconsolable ones who follow their lost lovers.
A guy goes to the eurobilltracker.com website, registers the number of the bill, adds the place and the date in which they said goodbye and waits for someone to signal that they picked it up. And there might even be more owners, more news from its trip. At the site, a world map marks the pockets/ports where that crazy lady has been. Old money might not smell but euros leave a trace.
There are 63 thousand europeans who trace their bills as castaways would send a bottle with a message, longing for an answer. A trend that popped up in 2003, the year after the common currency was introduced. An idea inspired, in the american version, seven years old, at www.wheresgeorge.com
(an adress that asks "where's George [Washington]?" from the 1 dollar bills).
At the beginning of this week, there was a Dutch woman, Ans, who had registered the serials of 207.197 bills who passed through their hands and flew away. She is the champion of eurotrackers, of the curious about the destiny of their money. Her bills, heading from the town of Oosterhout, have been found even in the Honduras.
Doing a pessimistic estimate, and bearing in mind that the smaller denomination is €5, the hands of Ans have let go of more than a million Euros in two years. A naïve man's opinion: it might be nice marrying Ans, with all that money to spend. A suspicious man's opinion: damn, that Dutch woman would wreck my bank account in no time! Life has always two ways of looking at it, like Lula da Silva. Yesterday appealing to the masses, today hooked on other dough(1).
There are also Portuguese in that passtime (that's the exact word: passtime). Bocky (people always sign with a nickname, money's always in bed with secret: check Swiss bank accounts), Bocky, from Pontinha, has been doing this for a year. He has registered 1863 serials and his payback were the travel logs for four bills. All of them very homely, around Lisboa, except one which went to Arraiolos, 123 kilometers in 43 days. A "slow" bill, very "alentejana"(2). Lucky bastard, Bocky knows where four of his bills went to. It has been years and I don't know where a single bill of my taxes went to. And, come to think of them, it's better that way, as I don't get upset.
I confess I'm not interested in the eurotrackers' interests. That the €5 that I spent in "couratos" (3) in front of Luz Stadium show up six months later in Vladivostok doesn't move me. To be honest, I'd be a bit irritated: my money is for me to travel, not it. Traveling inspires me, I like travel notes better than the travelling of notes. And where the locomotion of notes is concerned, I prefer the return trip of the money that goes. A website which announced bills coming to me would be more pleasing for me.
And then, there's that worrying modern trend of setting tracks. Because of terrorism, each Londoner is photographed dozens of times a day. Some time ago, a mobile phone operator proposed to bosses a device that would inform them of the exact place where their employee was... It's a suffocating control of people and their things.
To top it all, all that detectivesque curiosity is not applied in its most legitimate applications. The human kind, capable of spying the track of a bill and the motorcycle of a delivery boy, has yet to find the source of the two most interesting paths. Where do rumors come from? What about jokes?