Like many newcomers to Canada, we came from a cash society. We paid with cash for purchases and when we wanted something that was a little beyond our means, we saved the money to be able to buy it. Buying on credit was a strict no-no.
Though, like practically everyone else now, we did have credit cards, we never used them!
We landed in Canada and asked the cabbie to take us to the downtown hotel our travel agent in India had booked for us.
Standing in the lobby with our daughter, surrounded by the six suitcases we were allowed to bring with us (two each), we looked around as we waited our turn.
A large group of ladies walked by, smiling at us in a friendly manner. Our daughter wanted to use the washroom and while I took her, my husband went up to the counter to finish the formalities and have the bags taken up to our room.
I came out to find him counting out money as the person at the desk looked on fascinated.
He had asked for our credit card info and my husband told him we would be paying cash.
In that case, the receptionist said, they would expect the payment upfront.
No problem, said my husband and pulled out the money pouch he carried under his shirt while traveling.
We were planning on staying for at least ten days while we looked for rental accommodation, and the hotel charged $85 a night.
“Eight hundred and fifty dollars? Just a moment,” said my husband and began peeling off one hundred dollar bills.
Back then, it used to be easier to get US dollars at the currency exchange in India, so that’s what we had. And jet-lagged as we were, we didn’t convert the currency to Canadian. The US dollar was significantly higher than the Canadian dollar those days. $850 US was thus quite a bit more than $850 Canadian.
The man at the desk took the money, counted it again carefully, and gave us the keys to our room.
Friends told us later that we had been very lucky on two counts. That the hotel had accepted cash and not insisted on a credit card payment, and that he had not called the cops on us when he saw us with such a large wad of cash.
This was before 9/11 and before ordinary people were suspected to be terrorists, but still, only drug dealers walked around with so much cash, our friend said.
“But then, I guess he thought not too many drug dealers arrive with a sweet little girl and six giant suitcases they can barely haul!” he added, with a chortle.
– UMITRA SINHA