The government had chosen to, or was allowed to, retain the monopoly for creating the official money for the whole country. And then the government let the businesses decide how much the money was worth, although they influenced that value strongly. This idea went terribly wrong, around the world, from time to time — such as when governments would collapse, or would be forced into printing more paper that represented value without taking into account, or sometimes purposely ignoring, the thing from which that paper drew its value.
To be fair, the shell system wasn't much better. The obvious nonsecret to using shells as an economic marker is to become a better scavenger of shells.
The country once had a coin made of gold that represented its money, even while it had its own paper currency. But then, not long after, the government forbade its citizens from having very much gold. They were allowed shells, however, but the shells didn't get you anything, unless you were a shell collector and wanted to trade shells just for other shells or for, of course, money.
John went out to Metropolitan, his favorite cozy little bar, particularly in the cold months. John met this guy, this great-looking guy, and they spent the night together. It was a crazy, energizing emotional experience, that thrill you get when you meet someone great and appealing, a kind of magic that was rare.
And apparently the guy really liked John too, because John read about it on the Internet on the guy's personal diary the next day: "Met this amazing guy last night," that sort of thing, and then it went into more really quite personal detail.
The thing is, John had been reading this guy's writing online for months — but when they met, he didn't connect the person to the persona. He actually read this stuff because he liked to make fun of it. The guy had not only a boyfriend but also an unending series of sex partners, sometimes for cash as well. He had amazing stories too. Sometimes John and his friends would read these stories together out loud. And then suddenly, the shock of intruding unexpectedly into this narrative, guest-starring in this Internet tale, was sort of like — what was it even like, having your activities of the night before published, with your name, in public? A little like opening the newspaper and reading a long and overwrought review of your own private diary, as recounted by someone who doesn't know at all the most important things there are to know about you.
Later on, the guy wrote about how upset and mystified he was that he never heard from John again.