WHEN THE MACHINES WENT DOWN

Dateline: Uxbridge, Massachusetts 

It was an ordinary day. A sunny day in southern New England. Cool. Almost crisp. The leaves had changed and shone bright yellow and orange. Autumn. The best time of the year.

An ordinary day. Except, we ran out of half-and-half.

72-Foliage-9-29-14_003

In most homes, this would have been no big deal. It would surely not have been an emergency requiring an immediate trip to town. But in this household of addicted coffee drinkers, no way we could get through 24 hours without half-and-half for our coffee. Someone — okay, Garry — would have to buy half-and-half.

The nearest shop only sells tiny containers and sometimes, has none at all. So it was off to Hannaford’s.

Hannaford’s is our grocery store. We don’t own it (I wish), but it’s the one we patronize. Not big or fancy. Even for Uxbridge, it’s a modest store, but that’s one of the reasons we like it. It’s part of a small Maine-based chain. Prices are pretty good and the produce is usually fresh. They offer locally grown products in season. You don’t need a special card to get discounts and they offer a 5% discount to Senior Citizens every Tuesday. Most important, they are close to home, 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 half-and-half. Maybe pick up something for dinner. He came back a couple of hours later, a bit longer than an errand like this should take. Garry looked amused. Maybe bemused.

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

“Shock and confusion?”

“Yes,” Garry said. “I thought it might be delayed PTSD from 9/11 or changing seasons. Everyone in Hannaford’s looked stunned.”

“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!’ I could tell they were confused and unsure what to do.”

“Wow,” I said. “How dreadful! 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: LOCAL FLAVOR



Categories: Anecdote, Blackstone Valley, Daily Prompt, Humor, Photography, Shopping, Writing

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53 replies

  1. I found your post both funny and on the money (sorry ’bout the pun)!
    And I was fascinated by everyone’s comments. Yes, the credit card is a terrible invention – I was less profligate in the days when I didn’t have one.

    Like

    • In this case, it wasn’t even a matter of “credit” since pretty much everyone is just using their bank cards as cash. The problem is, no one has cash. We don’t carry it. I don’t carry cash because everyone takes the bank card … and everything is so expensive, I’d have to carry a ridiculous amount of money to pay for anything. Hardly anyone carries a check book anymore, either. So … no card readers? Suddenly, everyone is effectively poor.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am always amazed (and irked) by people who never carry cash. If you are swiping a card for a purchase under $5, you need to have your head examined…

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  3. This post is too funny! Bravo!

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  4. I usually have under $10 in cash and sometimes have nothing!! Love this story 😀

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  5. I went to the ATM about three weeks ago and got $100 in cash. I now have $49 left…after 3 weeks. And that $49 will likely last me another 3 weeks. I so rarely use cash anymore, but I like to have a little on me just in case the, you know, credit card readers go down.

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  6. We always carry some cash, although we have EFTPOS facilities in our local supermarket I prefer to pay cash for small items. Tradies in our little community often prefer to be paid with cash to avoid bank charges I suppose. I think we haven’t gone cashless quite to the same extent in Australia yet. A friend who was in the USA last year said that he didn’t use cash at all and in fact did not have 25c when he needed it in connection with crossing into Canada.
    The most disturbing thing about your story was that there were banks and ATM’s available and people didn’t immediately think to go and use them.

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    • Or just get in the car and go to the supermarket down the block. It isn’t — even in our little town — the only supermarket. I can understand no wanted to redo your whole cart … so there’s always, as an alternative, tomorrow.

      Some local people prefer cash and/or don’t take plastic (but do take checks). They don’t want to pay the credit card fees and who can blame them? That’s why I carry a checkbook. If they won’t take the card OR a check — well, there are no places that won’t take either. No one carries enough cash for anything but a little emergency or tolls.

      Like

  7. I think that over-dependence on credit/debit cards is somewhat forced on us. Ever get a weird look because you paid for a purchase — even a small one — with cash instead of a card? Some people seem to think that paying with cash is the mark of a Person Up To No Good. (Yep, that’s me — out to topple the governments of several countries by… paying cash for a cheeseburger and fries! Mwahahahaha!)

    I’ve never had a CREDIT card in my life. I have a debit card now, but it wasn’t my idea: Social Security Disability went paperless for “checks” a few years ago, and now everything is done electronically. I still make sure to have a bit of cash on hand, just in case. More often than not, “just in case” means the self-checkout at Walmart is wonky and not accepting debit cards — again. Happens several times a month, actually, and most people do panic, even though there’s an ATM right there for them to get cash out of if they’re not carrying any.

    I know how to count back when giving someone change, but I also know how to use a library card catalogue (yes, the kind with literal cards in it) and how to do math without a calculator. All sorts of “obsolete” skills. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I too remember how to count backwards to make change — it’s how I make sure they aren’t cheating me and are including that discount they promised. I can even calculate percentages in my head … as can Garry. But our generation was taught useful arithmetic. They teach some very weird stuff in what passes for arithmetic these days and I’m not surprised the kids can’t make change. I’m surprised they can do anything at all with numbers.

      I remember card catalogs … and the Dewey Decimal System. I much prefer computer searches. Even back in those golden olden days, my eyes objected to those little tiny, often hand-written numbers. Still, we gained skills that serve us well, including things like “having a conversation,” and “spelling.” Even “writing in complete sentences.” Not sorry about any of that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. BFLMAO (just saw that today and have been dying to use it. BF=bona fide). I can so see it! This was also a PSA to me. I have grown so dependent upon my card that I rarely carry cash. I really hadn’t thought that through to “what if…” And… I know what a Hanaford’s is! I, too, now live right around the corner from one.

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    • Hannaford’s is the last grocery store to NOT require you carry yet another card to get the discount. If it is on sale, that’s the price. Not “only if you have the special store discount card,” which both pisses me off and stuffs my wallet full of endless cards for every single place I ever shop.

      Machines go down, and not just at Hannaford. I carry a checkbook “just in case” because everything costs more than the amount of cash I can carry. If the machines are down and they won’t take a check? I’ll go somewhere else. But they’ll take a check. They don’t want us to go somewhere else.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hahaha, this is great and you know what else, cashiers who can actually count change back are few and far between. Many cashiers would be frozen like deer in headlights without the cash register telling them how much change to give the shopper. Fun post Marilyn! 😀

    Like

  10. Actually we are told to always have some cash on us in our earthquake prone land. When the earthquake struck in Christchurch the eftpos machines were down – no power. A few shops took IOUs but most didn’t. Even the ATMs were down as well so no money from the hole in the wall. Me, I don’t have enough money to even have some cash on me – it never lasts long.

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  11. Oh never should happen with my husband who hardly carries cash whenever goes out. There were occasions when I had to leave stuff as there was not sufficient cash in his pocket, his card was not read by the machine. I can imagine the plight of shocked and confused people at Hannaford’s.

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    • Garry says everyone looked lost. But … all they had to do was go to the bank. It’s in the same mini mall … literally next door. They wouldn’t even have to move their cars. It was pretty funny 🙂 Garry always has a bit of cash, enough for something small. If he hadn’t had enough money, he would have gone to a different store where the machines were working. There ARE other grocery stores.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. loved that! i wrote a cheque/check yesterday and noticed the cheque book had been issued 4 years ago! BTW that tree in the shot is amazing 🙂

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    • Thank you. That was the best tree in town and directly across from the grocery store parking lot, so it was appropriate, too.

      I finally had to order a new set of checks a couple of months ago. The smallest number I could order was 50 checks and I’m pretty sure they will last me at least 5 years, possible longer. We don’t use checks much anymore. I have to admit, I do NOT miss them.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, the horrors of the thought! Actually, I try to keep between 20 and 100 in my wallet at all times. I like to keep my cash fresh, so every couple of weeks I buy something with cash, you know, just to ensure the little buggers don’t turn stale in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 😀 I’m told if you leave the case alone, sometimes it mates and makes change!

      I have a granddaughter. She has super powers which alert her to the presence of cash in granny’s wallet. She believes cash is bad for me (but good for her), so she promptly shows up and relieves me of it. I never need worry about taking care of cash. I don’t have it long enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. So very amusing and uplifting. I would have to come home and get cash that we have. Although I do usually like to keep at least one check with me. LOL

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  15. I think I have about forty bucks cash in my wallet. It’s there for situations such as Garry experienced, emergencies. My payments are almost entirely via debit card. Not credit cards and their interest, but instant debit. It’s faster at the checkout and so convenient. While I haven’t lost touch with cash, I hope those $40 stay put for some time.

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  16. If I knew what “half and half” was I might miss it too! Some sort of milk?
    We used to have those old sliding card readers with the carbon paper in case the readers went down, but since everyone went chip and PIN about a decade ago, I’m not sure they’re actually legal any more. I can only imagine the shocked looks on people’s faces 🙂

    Like

    • Half and half is half milk, half cream. A little lighter than cream, a little more oomph than milk. And really good in coffee. Garry also likes it in tea. A bit.

      I remember those old card readers. They made identity theft a piece of cake. You could get everything you need right off the carbon paper. Hacking. An old idea using new tools!

      Like

  17. Isn’t it strange how lost we are paying cash. I rarely use cash actually, I think I would be lost as well. We are so used to our plastic money. My dad, now almost 100 years old, has never had a bank account. He doesn’t want one and he would not know how to handle a plastic card. He has cash for everything. Now that problem wouldn’t have bothered him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry is old enough to keep some cash “for emergencies.” I, on the other hand, often have no money on me at all, so I would have had to go to the bank. However, the bank is literally next door to the grocery store. At least, our bank it. The OTHER bank in town is across the street. Only slightly inconvenient. But it’s a small town. People get used to doing things a certain way …

      Like

  18. Sadly, this funny story is true.

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  19. That’s funny, Marilyn. After my bankruptcy, I had to start paying cash for everything, and I swear that people in line behind me couldn’t figure out what those pieces of paper were in my hand.

    Although I hear that due to all the recent hacking activity, a lot of people are going back to cash only.

    Like

    • I remember when no one could figure out how to use plastic. Now they can’t remember how to use cash. There are places that don’t accept cash because the cashiers don’t know how to deal with it. Cash = cashier? They don’t know how to make change.

      After my bankruptcy, it was the same … until the credit cards started showing up in the mail. Took a while, but I was better off without them. Too tempting.

      Like

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