As I was wasting time on Facebook last night (is time spent on Facebook, ultimately, anything other than a colossal Time-Sink?), I saw that Suzie, one of my ffriends and a classmate from the “one and only University, situated and celebrated In New Jersee,” worked for the St. Francis.
The St. Francis! The noted hostelry in San Francisco! Holy crap!
Hmmm, I thought. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I actually stayed there once upon a time... a four-day weekend in San Francisco back in April of 1984. It was a memorable trip, not least because our luggage did not arrive in San Francisco until it was half over, having been mistakenly routed to Frankfurt. And I remembered something peculiar about the St. Francis.
I asked my classmate about it. “Do they still launder the money?”
Yes, they do... and her lunch buddy is the very guy who does it.
No, this is not some nefarious criminal scheme. At the St. Francis, they literally wash the loose change... a practice that began in the days when people got dressed up to go Into Town, and when fashionable ladies wore gloves. Gawd forbid they should soil their gloves by handling that filthy lucre: the St. Francis ensures that every nickel, dime, and one-cent piece that passes through their till gets a thorough washing.
Numismatists would be aghast, for the hotel’s process is not gentle. The coins are scrubbed with borax and birdshot for three hours, destroying the delicate features of the coins but rendering them nice and shiny. It’s said that in the old days, the cabbies could tell if a fare had stayed at the St. Francis... because they paid with shiny, shiny coins. (That was back when you could pay for a cab ride with a few coins.)
Nice to know some traditions - no matter how dopey - live on.