I was an exchange student in Moscow, at the end of the Cold War in 1980. Every morning my fellow students and I would drag ourselves out of bed, put on several layers of clothes and brave the fierce Russian winter. By the time we got close to the university and popped our now slightly warmer heads out of the subway onto the sub-zero streets above, we were pretty hungry. So, we stopped in at one of the many stores that sold coffee and piroshki (meat pies, yes for breakfast).
I remember the first time vividly. After standing in line to order, we had to stand in another line to pay. I showed my drink and food to the cashier who was using a then brand-new electronic cash register. I was quite impressed by the use of such modern technology in such an unusual venue. Then, I became even more surprised. After ringing us up and seeing the total in bright green numbers on my side of the register, I handed the cashier just the right amount of money. She wouldn’t take it.
She said “Podazhdeechee menootochkoo” (Wait a minute!). I was proud that I could understand what she said in Russian. Curious as to the delay, I leaned my head over the wall between us so I could see what she was fidgeting with. To make sure the transaction was correct, she was checking my purchase on an abacus!