Dateline: Uxbridge, Massachusetts
It was an ordinary day. A sunny day. Autumn in southern New England. Cool. Crispy. The leaves had changed and shone bright yellow and orange. The best time of the year.
An ordinary day. Except, we ran out of half-and-half and tragedy struck the town.
In any other home, this might not have seemed important. It surely would not have required an emergency trip into town. But in this household of addicted coffee drinkers, we could not survive a day without half-and-half. To avert the crisis, it fell to Garry to go to Hannaford.
Hannaford’s is our grocery store, the one we patronize. Not big or fancy. Even by Uxbridge standards, it’s a modest store, but that’s one of many reasons we like it. Prices are pretty good and the produce is fresh. They offer locally grown stuff in season.
They are close to home, easy to get to, and have ample parking. You don’t need a special card to get the discounts — and they offer a 5% Senior Citizens discount every Tuesday.
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. Get the half-and-half, pick up something for dinner. He came back a couple of hours later. It had taken rather longer than an errand of this type should take. Garry looked amused. 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.