On a sunny day in Copenhagen, Erlinda and I ordered banana crepes at a stand in front of the Frederikskirke.
The girl making the crepes ladled batter onto the griddle and smoothed it flat with a spatula. When she finished cooking both sides, she peeled a banana and laid it on the edge of the crepe. She folded the crepe in half, covering the banana, and then in half once more. She handed us our crepes wrapped in wax paper, and I paid for them in cash.
Paying in cash is a rarity in Scandinavia. Even the public bathrooms have credit card readers. I carried cash just in case, and I wanted to spend it all before we left Denmark.
Two days later, it was Erlinda’s birthday, and her fondest wish was another banana crepe. Rain fell as we began our half-hour walk across town. Would the crepe stand even be there in this weather? We rounded the last corner and the stand was there, but the girl was gone.
In her place stood a man smoking a cigarette. As we approached, he flicked the cigarette away and took his place behind the griddle. I ordered Erlinda’s crepe, and the man dipped his scoop in the batter.
“Wait, stop!” I said, “I don’t have enough money!” The crepe cost 30 Danish Kroner and all I had left was 20.
“You spent all the cash?” Erlinda said.
“Yes, because we’re leaving tomorrow,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right,” she said.
But it wasn’t all right. Today was her birthday; the crepe was her cake; and I had ruined everything. I felt like a heel. What could I do?
I improvised by hailing a cab. We could go to the National Museum and take our minds off our troubles. My spirits rose.
We climbed into the taxi and I gave the driver directions. As an afterthought, I asked if he accepted credit cards.
“No,” he said, “only cash; my credit card reader is broken.”