Best Winter Surprises Part 2: Mini Stores and Honour Boxes

Until I visited Ladner, BC, I’d never encountered an honour box.  I was vaguely familiar with honour systems, with favours, with stores where if you forgot your money or were a little short, you could pay next time.  I didn’t have vast experience with them, regardless of the quaint assumptions many people hold about island life.  I often have to remember these idealists/exoticists that I’m from the city part of the Bahamas.  Trying the honour system at any of the major food store chains there would result in rousing laughter and a quick escort to the door, promptly followed up with a boot in the ass to ensure maximum propulsion off the property.

Ladner feels a little more country.  Correction: Westham Island, Ladner feels a little more country.  A lot more country.  Westham Island is a magical place you access via a rickety one-way wooden bridge.  In the summer, we stay going to Westham Island.  Weekly trips net hauls of beans we’ve picked ourselves, organic and non-gmo corn that’s sinfully sweet, potatoes (of course), fresh herbs, and occasional opportunities to sit on bales of hay (verdict: itchy).

In the fall, our favourite organic farm there closes up shop.  On a whim, we went out anyway, in February, and happened upon this:

Aww, a mini store!
Aww, a mini store!

The cuteness was overwhelming.

I enjoy moments when I can revel in the quaintness of aspects of North American life.  It makes me feel happy to be on the other side of exoticizing.  Plus, the fridge was filled with tasty organic pleasures.

Tasty treats await!
Tasty treats await!

Cabbage, homemade jam, fresh rosemary, hidden apples, secret onions…

And potatoes!
And potatoes!

Yup.  And potatoes.  There they are, in their very own potato sacks.  Not nasty plastic bags.  Bona fide potato sacks.

I’ve heard about potato sacks, along with flour sacks.  Usually, they’ve been referenced by a parental figure regarding ill-fitting and unflattering articles of apparel.  But yup, those are potato sacks, actually holding potatoes.  And, on the right, the little red honour box.

The Honour Box.  More proof that the world still holds special treasures.
The Honour Box. More proof that the world still holds special treasures.
With instructions.
With instructions.

If you, like me, are naive, and have been hardened by shopping exclusively via the zero-trust, give-us-your-signature-and-your-firstborn-child payment system, let me explain the honour box.  There’s money in the box.  You put your money in.  You take any change out.  Explanation hardly seems necessary, but the first time I used one, I felt almost sneaky, it was so trusting.

I’ve gotten used to it, though.

Organic banana fingerlings....mine!  (After paying the honour box, of course.)
Organic banana fingerlings….mine! (After paying the honour box, of course.)

And thus, my second winter surprise: the gift of human trust.  In this community made up of perhaps a dozen farming families who’ve lived on the land for years, it’s still possible to believe in, well, community.  And honour.  And basic belief in human goodness.

I also appreciate that the farmers tend to carry guns, which is probably a good disincentive to thieves as well.  But mostly I appreciate their trust, and my opportunity to honour it.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ally says:

    I love the mini store! We have honour boxes in my neck of the woods, but we don’t have those mini stores!!!! Usually the mini store equivalent is a wooden structure, with shelves and a roof, but no doors. Sometimes it is the tray of a ute! A local guy sells his pumpkins off the back of a ute that he leaves at the end of his driveway. The honour box is nearby, and he is nowhere to be seen. A mango grower was recently selling his mangoes out of his truck, parked near a major thoroughfare (I just mentioned mangoes to give you a thrill, There was no honour box involved).

    I have felt a little awkward putting my cash into an honour box. I usually make a big flourishy performance in case the farmer is looking out his window. I don’t want to be mistaken for a dishonourable character.


    1. Oh … mangoes. This doesn’t have anything to do with the vacation fund, does it? 🙂 Happy, envious sigh.

      I know what you mean about the flourishy performance. I almost want to get a megaphone and shout “Hear yee, hear yee, I am now placing a fiver into the box and taking out a dollar. The dollar’s change, I’m not stealing, I promise!”

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