Living in Europe on three dollars a day was pretty easy in those days. Youth Hostels were everywhere and cost about twenty-five cents for the night. In Spain you were rich with three dollars.
I had only about a dollar of Spanish money on me and maybe six dollars in Lira's, Italian money. I needed to find a "cambio", money exchanger. This was on a Sunday and the banks were closed so I would have to find the train station where there were dozens of money exchangers all making a living off the unsuspecting tourist.
Spanish money is beautiful, in lots of colors and even the paper money is in different sizes.
The bigger the denomination the bigger the bill. I found the money exchanger and presented my six dollars in lira, expecting maybe five dollars in pesetas, the coin of Spain, the rest would be lost in the transaction. He put my lira's in his drawer and began counting out Spanish bills beginning with very large ones! And he kept counting. I am thinking he is not talking to me. I knew a little Spanish, enough for directions and to order wine and I could count. This was not my money.
It is in a pile with the big notes on the bottom in descending order with small bills on the top.
It is a beautiful pile sitting there like that in greens and reds and golden ribbons. It was well over eighty dollars in Spanish money and there were coins on top of this pile. This man is in a hurry. He looks at me as if to say, do you want this or not? and he is after the next person in line.
I am a thief. I took it, wading the bills into my fist and stuffing them into my pocket, not counting anything my heart was racing. I can imagine Spanish prisons. I was eight blocks away, headed to the market place before I counted the money, carefully unfolding it and separating the bill according to size. I had over eighty-five dollars in Spanish money. I was a wealthy man.
I should have felt horrible but I was absolutely dancing with joy.