Customer First?

I was meeting my brother at a hip new downtown venue for lunch. As we were seated at a lakeside table to share lunch and catch up, the hostess left two miniature bamboo clipboards each holding a square of paper containing a QR code. She asked if we would like something to drink. I asked for an unsweetened iced tea with lemon and a menu.

“That’s it,” she said pointing to the QR code and left amazed at my lack of sophistication – but then I’m from Hinesburg.

After a few minutes trying to hear one another and reading one another’s lips, I asked if they might turn the music blaring from the ceiling speakers down a bit so we could hear one another. She nodded ascent but the ambient noise level persisted. When I asked again, she said the staff controls the music and left.

I stared at the cryptic code trying to make out hidden images of sandwiches and soups, and, seeing none, I looked quizzically at my younger and wiser brother for a sign of what to do.

“Hover your cellphone camera over the image and when you see a link address tap it.”

I fished my cell phone out of my shorts pocket, scrolled down for the camera icon, opened it and then held it over the QR code.

“Higher,” my brother counseled.

I raised it.

“Now, has a link address come up?” I got out my glasses and squinted at the microfiche.

“I think so,” I answered.

“Click on it.”

I did, and the screen went blank for a few seconds and then came up white saying,

“Failed to load…”

I repeated the process to no avail.

I flagged down one of the few passing waitresses and showed her the blank screen.

“Are you connected to our wifi?” she asked, walking off to something more important.

I found the “settings” icon and brought up wifi, only to find I was not connected. I  scanned available wifis and found three for the restaurant – one for administration, one for employees, and one for guests. I intuitively clicked the “guest” one and a screen came up asking for a password.

After several minutes, I was able to flag down another scurrying waitress who said en passant what I thought was “Huge Surf.”

I keyed this in to no avail and then tried it again with no space. Failing that, I tried it with no caps and, after a few seconds, my settings showed me connected to the restaurant’s wifi.

I turned a pained look on my brother. He nodded. So I began the scanning process again, clicked the link and slowly a menu began to load on my cellphone’s tiny screen.

There were no pictures of scrumptious fare, only hip descriptors of food I’d never heard of.

I summoned the waitress again and asked if we might order. She told me in no uncertain terms to do so on my phone and left. Having ordered an iced tea earlier, I only assumed….

“You’re in hip Burlington. Don’t assume?” my brother counseled.

Annoyed, I said that I suspected their IT department was bigger than their kitchen.

I clicked the FarfaLa with my index finger, having no idea what I’d ordered.

In a few minutes, an alien dish with various Middle Eastern components arrived. It was delicious.

My brother and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch, sheltered by a tent from an almost horizontal rainstorm blowing in off the lake.

I had to repeat some of the process to get and pay the bill.

The good news was I never again encountered the haughty waitress.

Leaving in the pouring rain, I fought back the instinct to suggest to the manager that she might get earbuds for the kitchen and waitstaff and find a used mimeograph machine to print menus.

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