I pulled into a fast food place this week to get my grandson some lunch. I shan’t say who’s chain it was but it was one of those where you pull into a stall with a menu displayed next to the driver’s window. The ‘hops’ sometimes wear roller skates. “Welcome to … what can I get y’all today?” a tinny voice slurping with a southern drawl extolled from a speaker the size of a Lilliputian letter box. She sounded as though she was speaking through a kazoo covered in a sock! “I’d like a five-piece chicken strip dinner with a small chocolate shake, please.” A pause ensued then she asked me to speak closer to the speaker. I was in a large SUV, so I craned my neck out of the window, something like a giraffe and repeated the order. Next to the delicious-looking pictures of their bill of fare is a space depicting a copy of your order, as understood by the young lady who took it. It showed a three-piece chicken dinner. I tried to bring her attention to the mistake. “I’m sorry, I ordered a five-piece.” “Oh, you wanted fries?” she replied. “No, no. A five-piece chicken dinner.” “What size fries?” Things were headed downhill in a hurry. “Can we start over?” I asked. “A popover?” she enquired incredulously. My bottom lip started to quiver as this repartee went back and forth for another couple of minutes, at which juncture I signaled for the attention of one of the roller skaters. Eye-to-eye contact with another human rescued the day with the blame being firmly laid upon my accent. I could have got into a lengthy discussion over who had what accent but thought it best to demure in that, I didn’t want anyone messing with my five-piece chicken strip dinner and a small chocolate shake. I finally drove off triumphantly with my prize and my grandson tucked in with abandon, allowing me the cherry from the top of his shake for my troubles. I know I’m not alone in my frustration over drive thru windows. It’s even fodder for stand-up comedians. At first I was tickled pink – one lunchtime during my first week in this country in 1982 I had some errands to run. I made a deposit at the bank, dropped off some shirts for laundering, had the car filled with gas and picked up a sandwich and never got out of the car! I even bragged on the fact to my folks back in Blighty. But in each case I dealt with a live human being. Today’s modern approach of a disembodied voice of some remote person who could be in India, for all I know, is not as satisfying. Normally, when I’m on the road or on my own, I park the car and go inside and come face to face with a fellow human. Don’t misunderstand me; I love the conveniences we enjoy and I watch our industry with some intrigue as all the new gadgetry improves our customers’ experiences but high touch is still as important as high tech. I know I’m old fashioned – I even still have a Blackberry. And there’s an even greater rub – if I had a smartphone I could order my food with an app and have it ready when I get there or have it delivered. With my luck, I’d order a curry and end up with sushi.
The High Price of Ink
My wife has been keeping something from me. She normally shops for stuff we use at home – you know, the utilitarian things that make a house tick and you…
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