Anyway, after one such outing I was left at Sunday lunchtime with seven one dollar notes and about the same number of pounds Sterling. I dropped into the Three Tuns, where an obese US technical master sergeant was a semi-permanent fixture, to see if he would change my dollars. He decided to be unhelpful, shaking his head and pleading regulations that forbade such exchange. So I shrugged, tore the dollars into small pieces and left them in an ashtray on the bar. Although it was a deliberate provocation, the strength of his reaction took me by surprise; his wobbly beetroot face yelled "that's US currency! You destroyed US currency! " and he advanced towards me so rapidly I thought I was going to have to take a bar stool to him. I faced him down, and back he went. As a lesson as to how to make a lifelong enemy from a nodding acquaintance in ten seconds it was salutary.
I learned that like their flag, Americans regard their currency as being imbued with sacred characteristics, and they are not alone. It's also a heinous offence to deface the currency here in the UK. But only Sterling, mind you; we can deface the Euro to our heart's content with no penalty whatsoever.
It's a small point, but an important one. The currency is an ever-present and universal reminder of national identity and often stands proxy for our loyalty to our nation. The Euro has none. I'll bet not one single European would be offended in that instinctive amour-propre way by the tearing-up of a few Euro notes, and not one European prosecutor will ever bring charges against you for drawing moustaches on the Brandenburg Gate or wiping your bottom with Venice.
A currency without a nation is an orphan.