How many times have you wished that the supermarket or petrol station would accept buttons and bottle caps rather than wanting to strip you of your hard earned cash? Well it would appear that there are some parts of the world, and some institutions, where money does not have to be strictly 100% manufactured coins of the realm. In fact in some places just about anything can pass for money.
Incarceration has been shown to lead to creativity. Prisons are strange places, with strange rules and customs between the inmates that go on unbeknownst to the outside world. Drug screening is a common occurrence in prison. Tests are regularly carried out to ensure that the inmates remain free from all intoxicants and addictive substances. The simplest method of drug screening is the urine test, but prison being what it is, well the folks in there aren’t known for their honesty. Clean urine samples have become a form of currency, the urine is traded between inmates inside tied off condoms and secreted about the body in a ‘warm’ place, a place where the sun doesn’t shine, so that when presented in the sample pot to the prison official the liquid is at body temperature.
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As much as we may wish it bottle tops will never be accepted as currency in the UK. However if you ever find yourself in Cameroon you’ll be happy to know that bottle tops are very much accepted as legal tender. Now we’re not saying that they are a nation of alcoholics. But the bottle tops in question belong to beer bottles. Every beer bottle top has a prize award printed on the underside of it. Some of the prizes are small, for example a fresh bottle of beer worth around $1.00, whilst others offer luxury cars or shiny new mobile phones. It’s not like a bottle cap competition run over here where you have a one in a million chance of winning a prize, in Cameroon every bottle cap is worth something in the prize stakes. Cab fares can even be paid for in bottle tops, which is handy when you are too drunk to drive your new luxury car home.
Not just any fish, mackerel is the fish of choice. This is something from the US prison system. Once trades were carried out using tobacco as currency, then of course came the urine trade. Times move on and now it seems mackerel is the currency of choice. Strange but true. We really do mean the fish, mackerel is not some prison slang name for something totally un-fish related. Packed into foil pouches and distributed to the inmates, the current word is that two packs of fish will buy you a hair cut from the prison barber. Known as ‘The Mack’, according to those in the know at the Wall Street Journal, it works well as currency because apparently no one wants to actually eat it, and why would they after it has been passed around the prison, warmed up and started to rot?
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Claire knows only too well that the only substitute for cash is plastic, which is why she is never without her credit card from Capital One. When cash is scarce a credit card can make all the difference between doing without and managing well.