Dateline: Uxbridge, Massachusetts
It was an ordinary day in southern New England. Late summer and at least it wasn’t raining as it had for most of the summer. The leaves were pondering the possibility of changing color with hints of yellow along their edges. Usually, this is one of our best times in the year, but this had been a strange year which was following an even weirder year. For us, it had begun as an ordinary day. Except then, we ran out of half-and-half — and disaster struck our small town.
In any other household, the lack of half-and-half might not have seemed a really major issue. It surely would not have required an emergency trip to town. In this house of addicted coffee drinkers, we would not survive a day without half-and-half. To avert the crisis, it fell to Garry to drive to Hannaford.
That’s our grocery store, the one we patronize. Not big or fancy. Even by local standards, it’s a modest store, but that’s one of many reasons we like it. Prices are usually pretty good. The produce is fresh. They offer locally-grown stuff in the summer. Squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers. They are close to home, easy to get to, and have plenty of 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. It was a simple errand. Buy a jug of half-and-half, come home. Half an hour, maximum.
Instead, he didn’t come home for several hours, rather longer than an errand of this type should take. Garry looked amused. He was smiling to himself. Something had happened and I wanted the story.
“There is shock and confusion in downtown Uxbridge, today,” he announced.
“Shock and confusion?”
“Yes,” Garry said. “I thought everyone might be suffering from PTSD from 9/11 or our changing climate. 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. The lines were just very long because people got there and were told the machines were down and just stood there. They had no idea what to do. It’s possible some of them are still standing there.”
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.