The Shoe Leather Express

Writing and Comedy from James Harris

Category: Foreign policy

Currency exchange

Scene: A currency exchange. The Customer enters.

Customer. Hi, I’d like to exchange some lives please.

Employee. Sure – what have you got?

Customer. I’ve got 132 Iraqis and I’m looking to change them to Germans.

Employee taps calculator.

Employee. Okay, 132 you said – Iraqis gets you… two Germans.

Customer. Germans are strong, huh?

Employee. Very strong at the moment, sir.

Customer. Ok, let’s do it. Germans always come in handy. And before I forget I’ve got three Canadians here and am looking to buy Russians.

Employee. Going to Egypt, sir? Well, let me see… As of today three Canadians gets you 55 Russians.

Customer. Wow – that’s fallen too. I remember when three Canadians got you 100 Russians. I went to St. Petersburg in the 90’s and I only spent ten Canadians the whole time; I didn’t even spend any men! Just out of interest, how many Americans would 155 Afghans get me?

Employee. One moment… 155 Afghans would get you 0.01 of an American. Namely a hundreth. That’s actually improved in the last few years.

Customer. So that means… 1 American equals 15,500 Afghans?

Employee. And don’t forget there’s no commission on Afghans either. But between you and me, even Americans aren’t what they were; 1 American only gets you 0.9th of a Canadian these days.

Customer. Wow. The times they are a-changing. Canadians worth more than Americans!

Employee. Indeed, sir. We do indeed live in interesting times. Pretty soon the only thing that’ll be reliable is a Swiss. Now, here’s your two Germans at a commission of 12 Iraqis, your 55 Russians at an exchange rate of just over a twentieth of a Canadian and your receipt. Keep that in case you have any bits of German left you want to bring back to us. Their brains are particularly useful.

Customer. Well – what do they say? Vielen Danke!

Employee. A pleasure doing business with you sir. Enjoy your trip, and don’t spend all those Germans at once!


‘A child sleeps outside a mony exchange in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand’ by victoriapeckham is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Project for yet another American century

Washington, D.C. Speaking of Obama, yesterday the President took the opportunity while praising the Pentagon décor (‘It’s a pretty nice room’) to announce a rethink of U.S. military operations , and hopefully the end to the U.S. habit of declaring war on the notoriously hard to defeat ‘abstract concept’ (drugs, terror, feeling a bit peaky), and perhaps a reduction in the Pentagon’s astronomical photocopying bill. A more radical change still might yet be in order: how about replacing the very idea of a vast military industrial complex with a system of having American girls go to hostile territories and pretending to be lost. What hard-hearted Jihadist could stand firm in face of a lovely young lady from Connecticut standing in the street in Tehran and saying, with a smile, ‘Gosh sir! All these buildings look so similar! Could you take me to the famous ancient mosque?’ Which vengeful America-hater could remain hard of heart as she moves closer to him giggling as he tries to keep hold of her map. American girls are America’s greatest resource, and it’s time to make better use of them.