I found myself at the cash register like I often do around Christmas time, wondering what the fuck I just bought. But this time, I was more confused about the price than the purchase, more puzzled at the receipt I was holding than what was in the bag. Because there, underneath the total and the TVA and the “Darty thanks you for your trust” was the price I paid for it… in francs. That’s right French francs.

Nine years have passed since France took on the Euro, yet my receipt’s still convinced we’re in the 70’s, staring back at me like some old teacher giving me a history revision. “1 Eur= 6,55957 FRF.……pour votre information.”

Pour mon information? Gee thanks. Got any other old info you want to pass on? 1998=France wins world cup? Pie = 3.17287 maybe? How about 1 liter=.02957 ounces?

Look, I know it’s not a big deal, and I imagine it was probably helpful at the time to feature the cost in francs as a way to gradually ease people into the euro. But in 2010? Is there a population of amnesiacs just awakening who need to be brought up to speed? Sure I bet there’s some sort of emotional attachment here that’s playing out. Hell if Mexico, Canada, and the US suddenly adopted one currency and the “Rican” replaced the USD, I’d be nostalgic too. For a month maybe.

But as with every oddity, I come across here in France, I’m convinced there’s a logical reason behind it. I mean they wouldn’t be printing out 1 Eur= 6,55957 FRF thousands and thousands of times a day just to annoy me would they? Would they?

My strong belief is that the machines and cash distributors that print this stuff out must have been sold to the Monoprixs and the Credit Lyonnais of the world sometime around 2002, right when France was making the transition, and the 1 Eur= 6,55957 FRF was a huge selling point.

“And on top of everything, and you guys are going to love this, it’ll even print the equivalent in French francs!”

I too would have bought one.

I also think the FRF thing is there for security reasons, just in case France does one-day elects a nut like Marine Le Pen or Jose Bové who then takes France out of the EU and brings back the Franc. Thanks to these receipts and a public awareness, there’ll be less confusion, less chaos, and all we’ll have to do is reverse the print out: 1 French Franc = 0.1524490 Euros.

Also never underestimate the manipulative tendency of capitalism and its ability to subliminally influence consumerism. 29.90 FF on a receipt sort of gives you the impression what you paid for in Euros was actually cheaper. “I didn’t pay 29,90, I only paid 4,75. Wow, I won!” No, you didn’t.

There’s also that deep-seated paranoid belief that 1 Eur= 6,55957 FRF is some sort of Da Vinci Code message, I’m supposed to decipher. Something the Franc-Maçons (notice the name?) are using to either mark the coordinates of a latitude, or a combination of a safe at La Monnaie, or maybe a future date of rapture?

What I do know, though, is that most of my French friends have outlived their Francs, and that nobody I know in their 30’s or 40’s uses Francs, or “balles” or “briques” anymore when they talk about money. Because if they did, they’d sound more like Jean Gabin talking about a bank heist (“Dix milles briques? C’est beaucoup d’oseille ça.”) (“10,000 buckaroos? That’s a lot of bread man!”) rather than a hipster talking about how much her friend paid for an apartment.

I’m super glad too I was never attached to the Franc. I can’t imagine dividing everything by 6.5597 all day. It must be exhausting. And the faster we stop depending on this crutch at the bottom of our receipts, the better. Eventually, you have to let go and just assume your local store never raised prices, and that the 10 euro pack of razors was always that. Ignorance is strength.

I’m not saying we need to trash these receipt machines altogether. Maybe we can just tweak them, so they’ll give us CURRENT currency rates at the bottom; information we can actually use: 1 euro = 1.3589 Swiss Francs; 1 euro = .8519 Pound Sterling; 1 euro = 1.37 USD. That way I won’t have to constantly add everything up on my iPhone while I’m at the cash register.

“Wow! 56 buckaroos, that’s a lot of bread man!”

But now that it appears the European debt crisis hasn’t gone away, and perhaps is even spreading to Ireland and Portugal, 1 Eur= 6,55957 FRF might just be our little reminder that nothing’s really sure anymore, not even the celebrated Euro, and it’s best maybe to keep all options open.

Hell, there might soon be a day when I’m back in New York shopping, and my receipt will read at the bottom, 1 Chinese Yuan = .1506 USD.

Just for my information, of course.

 click here to read the published version in Slate (in French)