Like everybody else, I am frequently annoyed by waiters, clerks and salespeople. Like all geeks I am a little deficient in the communication department, which makes it harder.
After getting somewhat bad service from a waitress in Blue Note I even suggested to a friend of mine the following idea: a world where waiters are replaced by a computer interface. You study an interactive menu and your orders are transmitted directly to the chef.
Her argument against that was that some waiters are real characters and are really entertaining. And that’s entirely true! Howard Johnsonâ€™s in Times Square has a really unique staff of old timers, probably the most polite waiters I met. Waiters at Peter Luger’s are gruff steak experts. Without them the atmosphere would not be the same. On Dave Attel’s Insomniac I’ve seen a late night cheese steak joint where you are expected to curse out the servers and they are expected to answer in kind. Itâ€™s not a family restaurant, of course.
But on the other hand, I find ordering in fast food places somewhat tough. The dude in Coffee Connection (Dunkin’ Donuts rip-off) habitually adds milk to my coffee when I ask for cream. More than that, he lies when asked if that’s milk in the coffee. I carry special glucose detector sticks to check if the soda I get brought is really diet (because I am on a low carb diet). Sometimes it isn’t. Many ordering experiences go pretty much as described by J.S. Bach of the Rant, his coolness JWZ. (don’t be lazy, open the link. It’s short and hilarious).
Now, that I can understand. I worked at glorious Nathatns Famous at Coney Island, and I have a really bad short term memory. When you do mind numbing tasks all day remembering even the simplest instructions is very hard. Well, of course the menu was a bit more complex than popcorn and soda and I had to keep track of many more different things, but still…
All you need is a PDA. You get a menu beamed to it before you enter. You select your order. You beam the order to the waiter. When done, you beam the payment. Not a single word needs to be spoken. Ahh, future.