#5 collects special money. People who know him bring him back leftover currency when they go out of the country.
We have friends who come from a missionary family in Zimbabwe, where for several years inflation has been out of control. These friends brought #5 back a $250,000 Zimbabwe bill from a visit in 2009. He thought it was the coolest thing he’d ever seen and at first thought he was rich. But to put it in terms the kids could relate to, our friends told them that you would need a whole wheelbarrow full of money to buy a pizza. When he understood the actual value of bill was pretty much nil, he still thought it was neat.
Zimbabwe’s political climate is painful and heartbreaking and we worry a lot about our friends when they’re over there, which is most of the time. So like I always do to deal with something that sucks, I’m on the lookout for anything to lighten up the situation. In my family, you don’t usually have to look far.
One day, #5 came home from school with some extra Bakugans. If you’re unfamiliar with these, they’re one of the most popular non-electronic toy for boys, kind of a more intricate version of a Transformer, or as the company describes them:
#5: Look at all the Bakugans Matthew gave me!
Me: That’s great, sweetie.
Something about the sound as he dumped them out made me stop what I was doing and actually go over and look at all the Bakugans Matthew gave him. There was a pretty sizable pile.
Me: Wow, that’s a lot. How many did he give you?
#5: All of them. Like thirty.
Me: You mean all the ones he had?
Me: Why would he do that?
#5: I traded him.
Me: What did you trade him?
#5: My $250,000 Zimbabwe money.
My mouth fell open. I could just imagine the exchange. Matthew probably thought he was going to take this $250,000 bill out and be able to buy every Bakugan ever made, a sports car, a Wii and every possible game for it, a jetpack, and still have money left over to treat every pretty girl at the elementary school to a new pair of Uggs.
Me: Did you tell him it’s basically worthless?
#5: He didn’t ask.
Our school gives a directory out every year with all the families’ phone numbers and addresses in it. I like to think it was created specifically for times like these. I looked up Matthew’s phone number and called. I got his middle-school-aged sister on the phone, who told me neither Matthew nor their mom were back yet. As I explained the situation, I grew confident that none of this information was ever going to be passed on.
Me: Just do me a favor. Tell Matthew, and your mom, that if he gets bummed out and wants his Bakugans back, we’ll trade back. Okay?
Sister: Yeah, sure, okay.
It took much longer than expected. A couple of weeks, in fact. But eventually, Matthew discovered that he couldn’t even buy a single thing with that bill, and the trade was made back.
And that’s the story of how #5 rented thirty Bakugans on the cheap for two weeks- with a little help from President Mugabe.