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