A lady paralleling me in line took an alternative stand. "I've been through strikes before, and I learned that you have to hold your ground. It must be something about working conditions. The clerks don't look very happy, but they're bound to clear it up in a few minutes. The manager can't afford to lose all these customers. It took me two hours to load up my basket, and I'm not about to leave and start all over somewhere else. You'll see. They'll get this strike over within fifteen minutes, or I don't know what I'm talking about." "Since you don't plan to leave," I said, "I wonder if you would save my place while I try to find out what the real story is." "Sure 'nuff," she agreed. "We're not going any place very fast. I'll be here when you get back." Already the strike theory had spread, and one could sense the fear and frustration enveloping the customers. The choice was heady. Was it better to wait for an incalculable stretch of time, or to leave and forfeit the goods that had been a challenge to amass? I inched toward the main entrance. A policeman there appeared to be the only person communicating verbally with the public. "Is it true the clerks have gone on strike?" I asked him. "Wow!" He threw back his head and roared. "Did you hear that one? They think you're on strike," he told the nearest clerk. "Who started that rumor?" the clerk asked, stupified. "Some of the customers," I replied. "If you're not on strike, then what is the matter? Why aren't the check-out lines moving?" "The computer broke down. Damn thing just up and quit. Can't do a thing with the registers until someone comes to fix it." This struck me as being a severer problem than a strike. At least a hike in salary could mollify an unhappy employee, but what can be done about a cantankerous computer if there is no knowledgeable repairman on tap? "How long will it be before someone gets here, and where are they coming from?" I asked. "Who knows?" another employee shrugged. "Just hang in there." Hang in? And for how long? I decided to query the service desk. Three girls huddled together behind it in vague fear. They knew little about what had happened and nothing about what could be done to remedy matters. "Oh dear, oh dear. What can we do?" one muttered. "Look at the mob in the aisles!" Addressing another girl, I asked, "Is your manager in the store at the moment?" "Is he in the store? He'd better be, that's all I can say, or we'll all go crazy!" The third girl, slightly more composed, suggested that he would be on the upper level where the computer held forth. "But you're not allowed up there," she remarked, defensively. I sensed that she suspected I might try to storm the computer--or attack the manager--or perpetrate a violent act of the sort befitting a berserk customer. "I have no intention of going up after him," I assured her. "I'm just pleased to learn the source of the difficulty. I'll go back now to report to the customers. They are becoming angry." There was no denying their churlish deportment. Sporadic chants demanding immediate service swelled to a steady throb. It was push and shove back to my shopping cart. All along the way, I cried out to as many customers as would heed my words that the strike rumor had been erroneous. "There is no strike," I repeated, over and over. "There is no strike. It's just the computer." My words mollified some of the more belligerent customers who consented, reluctantly, to grant me passing room. Upon locating my cart, I discovered that my message had advanced faster than I had. "Don't worry," the woman saving my place assured me, "they say it's just a computer. There is no strike." "Just the computer!" a nearby man hollered. "Who're you kidding? That's an impossible mess! You don't get computers repaired for days, sometimes weeks. Probably the company is headquartered some crazy place--like Texas! That would be just our luck!" That tore it! The rumor erupted, inviting anger to billow forth as word ricocheted around the store that the computer had blown up and would have to be replaced. A new one being shipped from Texas would not arrive for at least a week. The mob surged forward. Or was it merely pressure amassed from shoppers queuing up behind us? By now, all of the aisles facing the check-out counters were packed solid to the rear of the store with customers, their shopping carts laden with food. Surely thousands of dollars were at stake. Each person demanded immediate attention, computer or no. Hadn't the flyers received in the mail, the newspaper ads, and the gala banners strewn across the facade of the building promised super service? These people let it be known they had not driven all the way from Elizabeth, Glen Rock, Ho-Ho-Kus, and Heaven-Knows-Where to be done in by a microscopic computer component. "So get a cash register!" someone yelled. "Cash register? Phooey! Get a hand calculator!" another suggested, in an unkind manner. "Whatsa matter?" a more practical man boomed. "Ain't youse never heard of addin' wit' paper?" A small child up ahead screamed with fury as the mob drove him into a magazine rack. "Gun shots!" someone gasped. A sharp, metallic edge had popped the child's huge balloon bearing a slogan suggesting strict allegiance to Shop-Rite Super Markets. In retaliation for his loss, the boy kicked his mother, who responded in kind by slapping him smartly and yelling for all nearby to hear, "Shut up, you fool kid! It's those jerks behind me who ain't got no manners! Quit your shovin'!" The child screamed bitterly, but his cries were drowned by the drone of dissatisfied customers. Many among us were becoming edgy toward our adjacent fellow man with whom we were presently congregated for no reason other than we had elected to patronize the Grand Opening on this fateful Friday afternoon.