Can’t I Just Talk to a Human Being?

Photo by Tim Douglas on Pexels.com

All I wanted was a sandwich, a glass of iced tea, and a temporary escape from the airport crowds. This restaurant seemed like a good place to set down my bags and sit awhile.

I slipped into a booth and looked around. No menus, no servers. Instead, a plaque with a QR code was glued to the table. Diners were instructed to scan the code with their phones, click on the website that appeared and order there. At that point in my travels, I was so tired of computerized machines that I left and went to the other sit-down restaurant near my gate. Same thing. Three workers chatted in the corner. I walked up to them and shouted over the ear-hurting music. “How do I order?”

“Oh,” said one, we ‘opened’ that table over there. Just scan the code and order on your phone.”

I walked out of that place, too. When I’m hungry, I get cranky.

I had plenty of time. My flight from Columbus, Ohio to Charlotte, North Carolina was delayed. I had received two text messages about it.

I wound up eating a microwaved egg sandwich at Starbucks because I could order from an actual human. It wasn’t good, but their iced tea was fine. I sheltered in a leather chair typing on my laptop about the frustrations of an app-centered world.

I’m starting to fall behind. I don’t have blue-tooth earbuds in my ears, although I do sometimes talk to myself out loud. I have a laptop and a smart phone, but sometimes, oh horrors, I write with a pen on paper. And I failed at both Uber reservations and airline pre check-in.

The convention center didn’t have an airport shuttle. I tried to schedule an Uber ride, which meant downloading an app on my phone that I will have no use for at home. When I tried to set up my pickup, it seemed to be working. I paid $48 for a “medium-quality” car to arrive at 10:15 a.m. A map came up on my screen. I had already given them my name, location and destination. Was that it? I hoped so.

I hauled my bags out front and waited. And waited. I watched a mama robin feed her chicks in a nest above the bricks at the entrance. I said goodbye again to new poet friends who wished me a safe trip. I watched families arrive with children in bathing suits. 10:15. 10:20. 10:30. 10:45. Two friends from New Mexico came out. They had an Uber booked. They knew the name of the driver and the make of his car. I knew nothing. Clearly I had screwed up. My friends invited me to squeeze in with them. Whew. On my way.

When I tried to check in for my flights, Columbus to Charlotte and Charlotte to Portland, I couldn’t make it work. Unlike every other passenger flashing his/her phone, I checked in at the airport and presented the wrinkled paper boarding pass I got out of the machine. Failing the seat-reservation function, I wound up in the dreaded middle seat on the six-hour flight to Portland. I couldn’t figure out the app to watch a movie, but I had a book to read.

Back in Portland, I was not yet free of apps and screens. My car, which had been parked at a hotel park-and-fly lot (booked online), roared like it was about to explode. Thieves had stolen the catalytic converter, the doo-hicky underneath that filters exhaust emissions. I called AAA road service. They texted me an app to watch their progress on my phone. I watched them drive in the wrong direction but had no way to tell them. Two hours later, “Ray” arrived and drove me and my car to Corvallis, using his GPS to guide him on the most circuitous route.

Portland Police Department’s non-emergency line is so busy they won’t even let you wait on hold. You file your report online. After I called my insurance company, I was bombarded with emails and texts about my claim. I thought I rented a car online, but when I got to Hertz, I had done it wrong, so we had to start over. I was so frustrated I cried right there in the waiting room at University Honda.

My rental car, a 2021 Ford Escape, had so many computerized controls, it took three Hertz employees to help me figure out how to shift into reverse so I could get out of the parking lot.

I’m home now. I’ve got my car back, my good old, not-so-computerized car. I know it’s a virtual world these days. I’m writing this on my computer. Like everyone else, I’m forever checking my phone, but sometimes I just want to put the damned thing down. Sometimes I really need a kind human to ask, “How are you? What can I get you?”

Some interesting reading about online ordering in restaurants: https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-mobile-ordering-restaurants-0913-biz-20160912-story.html

https://www.foodandwine.com/fwpro/post-pandemic-dining-role-of-cell-phones

Had a run-in with an app lately? Please share in the comments.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

4 thoughts on “Can’t I Just Talk to a Human Being?”

  1. Someday I will tell you about our day today trying to get our covid test within 72 hours of our boarding our ship in Boston. Yikes!
    We both got some great laughs at your expense.
    Glad you are home safe and sound and giving us some healthy laughs.

    Like

  2. LOL, Sue I just posted a rant about how cellphones don’t have a jack for regular earphones anymore!! & shopping for an adapter. I have half a dozen pairs of old-fashioned earphones and I am NOT going to pay $100 or more for a pair of earbuds that are so easy to lose — not until I absolutely have to, anyway.

    https://theroadlesstravelledlb.blogspot.com/2022/07/just-call-me-boomer.html

    Travel these days is awful (even without all the staff shortages and delays and cancellations right now). You have to do everything, and I mean EVERYTHING yourself, right down to weighing and loading your bags onto the conveyor belt at check-in. I have the app for the airline we use most often, but I prefer to buy tickets, book seats and do advance check-in on my laptop, if I can. It feels like there’s less chance of hitting a wrong key & screwing everything up with a bigger keyboard!

    My parents (both in their 80s) wanted to drive down to my mother’s hometown in NW Minnesota — 20 miles south of the U.S./Canada border — for the weekend to see family and attend a funeral recently. Going there is not an issue now, but anyone entering or re-entering Canada still needs to upload their travel details and vaccination status into the government’s ArriveCan app, 72 hours before returning, which is something they established during the pandemic. My parents do have smartphones but most apps are beyond them, and even my sister & her partner (who works with computers!) couldn’t get it to work. They wound up going to the trouble of asking a friend to help fill in the details on the website & print it off for them (they checked and were told that would be an acceptable alternative)… and when they got to the border, the customs agents didn’t even ask them for it. (eyeroll)

    Glad you made it home… eventually!

    Like

Leave a Reply to loribeth61 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: