Unfolding the Map
We finally make a last push out of North Carolina with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM). Seems like we've been there forever, doesn't it? Now we head into South Carolina and whatever that will bring us. Click on the map thumbnail to see our current path, and leave a comment if you wish. It would be good to know some of you out there are reading!
"Since daylight I'd been hunting a good three- or four-calendar cafe. Nothing in Tomahawk or White Lake. Elizabethtown, no. I crossed the Cape Fear River, looked in Lumberton, and found nothing right."
Blue Highways: Part 2, Chapter 14
Tomahawk, White Lake, Elizabethtown and Lumberton, North Carolina
Sometimes, you just want to find the right kind of food. As we know from a previous post, LHM has this system of rating the quality of cafes and diners in small town. The higher the number of calendars on the wall, the better they are, according to his equation.
I am usually willing to put up with some inconvenience if I go to a restaurant or a cafe or diner in a small town, but some things really frustrate me. One thing that is incredibly vexing is when diners or cafes do not accept credit cards. Here is why it is frustrating. In this world of instant credit, I do not carry cash. I find cash usually to be cumbersome...it fills my wallet and makes this huge thing in my back pocket that puts my butt to sleep when I sit on it. Besides, not carrying cash is more safe. If I lose my wallet, then it's a hassle to cancel credit cards but I have a better chance of not losing any money. So I carry a debit card to pay for my purchases.
However, I've run into many small businesses that don't take credit cards. I understand their reasons. First, the credit card company charges money. I understand that there is additional bookkeeping to be kept, that there is a monthly fee for connecting to the credit processing company, and that there may even be a per-charge fee. I understand that these might be difficult.
But here's the situation in the modern-day United States. More and more people are like me. They don't carry cash. If you are a small business, you will lose customers. What's worse? Paying a small charge or losing a $30-40 sale? And if one is traveling overseas, credit cards are even more essential. With a credit card, you can bypass long lines at banks to cash travelers' cheques, you can use them to get cash if you absolutely need it, and every transaction is at the most current exchange rate.
I had a recent experience in Willits, California when my wife and I went out to the coast to visit my mom, we stopped in at a deli featuring natural organic food. We ordered our lunches for ourselves and my mom, who was with us. The bill was around $35. We went to pay - they didn't accept credit cards. The sign they had announcing this was not very prominent. There was no branch of our bank in town, so we were stuck using the ATM they had conveniently put in the restaurant. The problem was that the ATM charged us about $4 for the transaction, and of course our bank charged us also because we weren't using one of their machines. If, when we found out that they didn't take credit cards, we hadn't been in a hurry and had other options, we would have canceled our order. They would have been out our $35 order because they didn't accept credit cards. Maybe they didn't care, and maybe they didn't patronize the credit card companies on principle...but if I were a small business owner I might.
I wish there were other alternatives to giant credit card companies. They have been one of the reasons that people in the United States and other countries have gotten into massive debt that they cannot repay. This in turn has helped fuel the recession. I get it. I am all for local banks, and using cash as much as possible. But they are convenient, especially when I'm traveling.
Of course, when LHM wrote, credit card use was not as extensive as it is today. People carried cash and travelers' cheques when traveling. So, he probably did not need to bother to look, as he searched for cafes in Tomahawk, White Lake, Elizabethrown and Lumberton, to see if the doorways of the diners and restaurants had the Visa/Mastercard/Discover/American Express stickers, or if he saw a credit card reader next to the cash register. But he were traveling today, in addition to trying to find a three- to four-calendar cafe, he might have found that he would pass some up because he didn't have enough cash, and they didn't take credit cards. In these days, restaurants that choose not to take credit cards just might be foregoing some business.
If you want to know more about Tomahawk, White Lake, Elizabethtown and Lumberton
Sorry folks, there isn't much on Tomahawk, but I have included links to information on all the other towns.
The Bladen Journal (Elizabethtown newspaper)
City of Lumberton
Elizabethtown-White Lake Chamber of Commerce
Lumberton Area Visitors Bureau
The Robesonian (Lumberton newspaper)
White Lake Photo Gallery
Wikipedia: White Lake
Next up: Darlington, South Carolina