Unplugged routines cause chaos

If a disabled debit machine can throw us into turmoil, how would we handle a real disaster?

Most of us don’t know how we will react in an emergency situation. Some will react on instinct, some will freeze and others may panic. A small number will be prepared and respond to an event in a calm, rational manner.

An opportunity to observe these individual traits arose at 8 a.m. last Friday morning, when the debit machines at a local Tim Hortons went down. In Canada, this is considered a cataclysmic event.

The first sign of trouble came from the drive through lane. Loud voices, honking horns, and squealing tires, as caffeine-deprived drivers, denied their morning double – double, scrambled in search of an oasis to quench their thirst and get that morning jolt.

Meanwhile inside, the scene was starting to turn ugly. The clerk would say, “Our debit machines are down, we can accept cash only.” The unprepared customer, not fully awake yet, would stare back, not immediately comprehending the enormity of the situation. Then he would respond with, “Can you take a credit card?” “No sir, the machines are down.”

Now it was time to go on the offensive. “Do you know how long it took to find a parking spot out there? Now you want me to leave, get cash and come back? I’ll go somewhere else.”

The prepared folks have that $20 or $50 bill tucked away in the secret compartment of their wallet. It is not hidden from thieves but it is kept out of sight of spouses and children. They will use it in cases just as this, and as they move to the front of the line to order, the ones without cash behold them as UN aid workers and hope they will scatter imbits to the waiting hungry.

We are spoiled. Countries described as third-world or undeveloped suffer hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunamis and display a resiliency that allows them to carry on. Possibly, because they have always had to rely on their wits and have lived in a society where survival of the fittest is the code of the day, they can adapt no matter how severe the blow.

A friend recently related a story where her young daughter needed a list copied. The print shop next door was closed and the young girl didn’t know what to do. Her Mom suggested she get a pen and paper and copy it by hand. Her daughter could not believe that Mom would suggest such a prehistoric solution.

We don’t like to have our lives unplugged and we don’t do well when our daily routines are interrupted. If a disabled debit machine can throw us into turmoil, how would we handle a real disaster? We do not want interruptions to our lives. We want it all and we want it now.

Watch a documentary titled Fair Ball – from Canada to Uganda. It is the story of the Langley Little League team that traveled to Uganda to play the boys that couldn’t come to the 2011 Little League World series. Those boys learned more in five days than they will in a lifetime in school. Disabled debit machines now mean much less to them and the coaches and parents who travelled with them.

The counter girls apologized and smiled despite the anger and insults. I got my coffee and muffin; my lady had money tucked away. If you are not prepared, always hang around with someone who is. At least that’s what McGregor says.

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