Column: Hit the border, the dollar is up

If you just inherited 100,000 dollars
from a long-lost relative, you’d better hope it’s from the rightLoonie_2
country. If
it’s Canadian dollars, you can throw a big party; if it’s American or
Australian dollars, you can pop some champagne; and if it’s Zimbabwean
dollars, you’d better get a hanky.

Yes, the Zimbabwean dollar isn’t
doing too well. Your inheritance might still buy you a car, but only if there’s a
clearance sale at the toy store.

The U.S. dollar hasn’t plunged quite
that far, but it’s starting to resemble Pam Anderson’s neckline. If it drops any
further, Dick Cheney might have a heart attack.

At the start of the
year, one U.S. dollar would get you 1.17 Canadian dollars, which was a pleasant
surprise to American tourists, including the man who exclaimed, “I had no idea
those people up north had their own money.”

Today, the U.S. dollar is
worth 0.94 Canadian dollars, which has created a lot of excitement among
Canadians, especially all the people who like to cross the border to shop.
Marketing experts have a term for these people: ‘women.’

Canadian women,
even those who don’t know the first thing about finances, are keeping track of
the dollar’s value as closely as they keep track of General Hospital. “It’s up
by a cent!” they yell to their husbands or boyfriends. “That means, if we
convert $1,000, let me see … we can get an extra set of panties!”

to any bank and you’re likely to find someone converting, someone with
a big purse and an even bigger smile. There hasn’t been this much converting in Canada
since Billy Graham last visited.

Head to the border and you’ll see a
long line of cars waiting to enter the U.S. Some are filled with women –- mothers
and daughters, sisters and friends, eager to share the female bonding shopping
experience. “Get your Visas ready, ladies,” one of them will say. “MasterCards

But most don’t need credit cards –- they’ve brought cash, loads of
cash. (Don’t worry, they’ve kept it in a safe place, never mind that a few of
them look like Dolly Parton.) Some have also brought their husbands and
boyfriends along. Men are useful on these trips for three main reasons: (1)
someone needs to keep an eye on the shopping bags outside the women’s fitting
room; (2) someone needs to carry all the bags to the car; and (3) if they run
out of cash and need to stop at a bank, someone needs to drive the getaway

Not only is the Canadian dollar worth more than its southern
cousin, prices are generally lower in America, prompting across-the-border
shoppers to load up on everything from soft drinks to software.

“How much space do we have in the car? Can we squeeze this microwave

Husband: “No, it’s pretty crammed in there.”

Wife: “What
about on your lap?”

Husband: “I’m carrying the refrigerator on my lap,

Wife: “What about on the roof?”

Husband: “No, we’d
need to have a roof rack for that. We can’t just put a microwave on the roof. It
might fall off. It’s unsafe.”

Wife: “Okay, what if we put the
refrigerator on your seat and put the microwave on top of it?”

“Where will I sit?”

Wife: “Uh … what about on the roof?”

Photo by Kevin Dooley.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Let us see how long this party goes. What goes up, comes down, that is how the saying goes. I am waiting for Hillary to come to power to bring back those good old days of Bill when we had trade surplus and positive savings among Americans. At a time when our friends down south needed restraint on expenditure, they are spending with both hands in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in return shedding blood of innocent brothers and sisters. When the dragons and tigers were rising in the East and Yankees needed savings to fall back, they were spending on cheap products of the East and mortgaging America. As for Canadians, don’t celebrate, save for rainy days. Don’t forget, what goes up, comes down.

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