I went to Canada recently to participate in The Unassociated Writers Conference. While in Canada, I acquired a tidy sum of Canadian money. One of the bills, five dollars, was coated in bright red paint.
When I took the money to a local bank to exchange for US Currency, the clerk flipped through the stack of bills and then stopped at the five dollar bill. “Is this blood?” she asked.
“It’s paint,” I said. I didn’t want to explain to her that blood when exposed to air turns from bright red to a slightly rusty, brown color. It also flakes off. To explain this to the clerk in the middle of the neat Bank of America Lobby would have been unseemly, I figured. So, I just shook my head. “It’s bright red,” I said as a way of explaining this. It did cause pause to come across the bill. The red was splotchy and very, very bright.
She took the bills and then fussed at a counter and I waited. She talked to the manager. He crossed the lobby. “What is that on your money?” he asked me.
“It’s paint,” I said. I didn’t want feel it was necessary to explain how blood looked when it was left out. It would make it sound like I had a sinister experience. I already felt a little sinister having red paint on my my Canadian money. I felt a little dirty.
“Is that blood on your money?” he asked me.
“It’s not blood,” I said. “You can see from the color it is paint.”
“If it is blood we need to know,” he said. He didn’t believe me. “Someone could have an open cut on their hand, and then it would be dangerous.”
“You shouldn’t take my word for it,” I said. “If this is serious. If you really think that red paint is blood, then you should have a means of testing it. Why should you take my word? If your concern is real, you should do something about it.”
“We are,” he said. “It’s marked for incineration.”
I left the bank a little shaken. Wondering, then why tell me about it? Why drag me over the coals for a little bit of paint on the Canadian money?