THE DAY THE MACHINES WENT DOWN

Thursday, September 11, 2014.

Dateline: Uxbridge, Massachusetts 

It was an ordinary day. Early September in southern New England. Cool. Almost crisp. Some leaves had already changed and they shone bright yellow, signalling the rapid approach of Autumn.

An average kind of day — except, as it turned out, we had run out of half-and-half.

In many — perhaps most —  homes, this would be no big deal. Certainly not an emergency requiring an immediate voyage into town. But. This is a household of addicted coffee aficionados. There was no way we could get through 24 hours without half-and-half for our coffee.

No. Regular milk is not the same. Someone — okay, Garry — would have to go to the store to buy half-and-half.

The nearest shop — the deli — sells only tiny containers and sometimes, doesn’t have any. So it was off to Hannaford’s.

75-MidtownGA-NK-27

Hannaford’s, the grocery store we patronize, is not the biggest or fanciest. Au contraire, it’s the smallest and least impressive of the local supermarkets, part of a small Maine-based chain. We like it because the prices are not bad, the produce is fresh and often locally grown. You don’t need a special card to get the discounts and they give a 5% discount to Senior Citizens every Tuesday. Most important, they are easy to get to and have ample parking.

I was in the middle of a book — I usually am — so I didn’t pay a lot of attention as Garry went out. Not a big deal. Just the aforementioned half-and-half and maybe pick up something for dinner, too. He came back a couple of hours later. Which was a bit longer than such errands usually take. Garry looked amused.

“There is shock and confusion in downtown Uxbridge, today,” he announced.

“Shock and confusion?”

“Yes,” Garry said. “I thought it might be delayed PTSD because of it being 9/11 and all. Everyone in Hannaford’s looked stunned.”

“Because?” I questioned.

“The credit card readers were down. You couldn’t pay with your bank or credit card. Everyone had to pay cash or use a check. They looked shell-shocked. Thousand-yard stares. Stumbling, vacant-eyed around the store.”

“Holy mackerel,” I said. “I can only imagine.”

“You could see them mumbling to themselves. They kept saying ‘cash!’ … but I could tell they were confused and were not sure what to do.”

“Wow,” I said. “Oh cruel fate! How awful! What did you do?” I asked. Garry seemed to have survived with his sense of humor intact and brought home the half-and-half.

“Oh, I paid with cash. I had enough on me.”

He went off to the kitchen chuckling to himself. I hoped everyone would be okay back in town. A shock like that can haunt people for a long time. Cash. Imagine that.

Everyone will be talking about this for weeks. The day the machines went down at Hannaford’s. That’s huge.


Weekly Writing Challenge: That’s Absurd



Categories: Anecdote, Blackstone Valley, Humor, Shopping, Writing

Tags: , , , , ,

39 replies

  1. What a nice article. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I’ve worked as a cashier and have seen first-hand how much it affects people when the machines go down. Y’all are lucky you didn’t have a riot on your hands. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved this! Something similar happened a few months ago, only it had to do with welfare recipients and their “debit” cards (unsure if that’s the correct term.) Anyway, I had to stop at Walmart to pick up a few little things and boy oh boy, there were some VERY irate, crazy-mad customers because Walmart refused to swipe their cards. Only hours before, people were getting their items for FREE due to the fault in the system, not deducting dollars from their cards. People were angry they couldn’t get more shopping carts full of FREE stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Although I could use electronic transfer or credit even in our little town I don’t like to go out without some cash if only for bus fare to Hobart and a coffee when I get there. It just seems weird to use plastic for something that costs under $5. We don’t really use cheques here the way you do in the USA any more, possibly because our taxation system is different. I used to have a cheque account for paying bills but now I do it all online and haven’t written a cheque for more than 12 years.
    Petrol in Tasmania is currently $A1.60 a litre or there abouts, it’s probably cheaper in the mainland states, it usually is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I pay everything online too. I think most people do these days. It’s easier and the bank supplied “evidence” when some moron claims you didn’t pay (there’s always one). I really WOULD have cash if I didn’t have a family. They snatch my money as soon as I get it.

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  5. Heavens, that meant that somebody had to know how ………… to make change. I can see the lost look in the cashier’s eyes. I wonder if they had a working calculator around. Don’t forget you’ve got one on your smart phone…. Does the new IPhone 7 from Apple have a calculator? The plot thickens! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It bugs me to no end when people say they never carry cash on them!!! Everyone should have some cash on hand!!! My God, what is wrong with people? What will they do when the machines go down for more than one day…. one week….. one month! People have forgotten how to live!

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  7. I don’t know what “half-and-half” is but I’m glad you got some!
    I don’t usually have enough cash to pay for what I’m buying, and since shops in general haven’t accepted payment by cheque for years I’d be screwed! Most people don’t even have a cheque book, or it’s buried somewhere in a drawer.
    I always wonder what would happen if this suddenly happened at a petrol station. They can’t take the petrol back out of the car.

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    • I don’t know of any stations around here anymore that will allow you to pump gas without first swiping a card or pre-paying the attendant. The days of pump then pay went away when gas topped $2 a gallon…

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    • Half-and-half is 50-50 milk and cream. Great in coffee.

      Locally — around town — they will take checks almost everywhere, especially if they know you. But after you get into the wider world, you need plastic.

      The answer is, if the machines are down at a gas station, they can’t dispense fuel until the machines are back up. This can be a problem when you are urgently in need of petrol, but they can’t give you any.

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    • Or maybe they have hoses to withdraw your petrol?

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  8. Wonderful “surreal” story! (I think about our grandmothers and grandfathers – they would be amazed that a story such as this would be considered “surreal!”)

    Liked by 1 person

    • We ARE your grandmothers and grandfathers … or someone’s anyhow. Not everyone has adopted all the technology, but ATMs and card reading machines have been around in one form or another for my entire life … more than 50 years … and I think pretty much everyone depends on them. Hell, my mother — who would be 114 this year — used plastic more than cash. Or checks. I often have NO cash on me. Garry keeps a little in his pockets because he doesn’t like to bother with a card for little purchases like the newspaper … but I often don’t have anything but a penny somewhere in the bottom of my bag. I’d probably have been one of the traumatized people, realizing I was going to have to go to the bank and get real money 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • This would make a nice feature story if I were still working. Come to think of it, given TV news today, it might qualify as “Breaking News”.

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  9. Haven’t used cash in the supermarket in a while. I’d have to grab the half and half and run while everyone else was wandering around in a daze! Nice story 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hilarious. So well written Marilyn, you took me there.
    I still pay in cash.

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  11. We will NEVER forget it…

    Liked by 1 person

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  1. THE DAY I (PERSONALLY) TOOK THE MACHINE DOWN | SERENDIPITY

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