The Luddite Technologist: Mimosa at St. Paul’s International.

Last week Tuesday, Lauren and I spent 21 hours in some form of travel or travel-related waiting. By the time we got to Minneapolis, it didn’t matter that we only had thirty minutes layover, we were going to eat.

“Lauren, are those iPads where there should be menus?”

Yes. Those are.

As a tech professional, I always react with fumbling incomprehension when technology displaces cheaper, timelier alternative. In my industry, I see expert humans replaced with hack code too often. In all seriousness, my fallback plan was waiting tables for our robot overlords. Alack! I should shoot my guidance counselor for that bit of advice. iPads have displaced the waiter’s role in my gustatory experience!

Or, to put jokes aside, I fucking hate iPads. Putting them in a restaurant felt gimmicky, and I didn’t want to like anything about it. I feared that they’d interfere with good service, and the way they’d been positioned, upright between my date and I, couldn’t be good, right? My fears only grew more pronounced as I fumed silently at the menu’s latency
(why didn’t they have the app draw the images from local memory rather than across a network? who’s their qa guy? who defined these requirements!? why wasn’t he me?!?)
The orders went through to the kitchen via the network, and immediately, Lauren began playing Hangman
(hey, pay attention to me!)
instead of us, you know, talking
(well, i’ve done this to her on my laptop at home, but this is different! we’re eating out!)

I granted that we’d been together on planes for most the day, noses in books. I thought back and pined for the days when folks had to talk to each other instead of
(oh god, i’m old!)
…Watch the idiot box at dinner? Anyways, I digress.

The food was excellent, and reasonably priced considering the restaurant had more Apples than an Eastern Washington gluten-free hipster commune. What’s more, the service was outstanding! Freed from ferrying orders back and forth between the kitchen, the wait-staff kept our glasses full, made great conversation, and weere just generally happy. I don’t think I’ve ever had such truly outstanding customer service. As an ex-busser, I wondered what it must be like for the waiters here. It couldn’t be that much different, could it?

And it wasn’t all be rippling waves of meadowgrass. After coaxing the waiter, I did find some of the thistles:

Of course, Lauren and I, both young and tech-savvy, easily navigated the menu. The problem, though, wasn’t the telecommute generation, but the frustrated boomers, the most likely consumers at an airport. These busy professionals would struggle with the interface, growing ever more frustrated, and refuse help from the wait-staff, who would be more than happy to place the orders for them.

I thought of my mom and dad, farm-bred folks who could easily fix a failing tractor, Silverado, or hay combine with some bubblegum and a bit of bailing twine, and cringed to imagine them insistently struggling with an iPad UI just to get a damn burger. No fun for waiter or customer.

So in short, the server latency kinda sucked, but that’s easily fixable. The iPads blocking the view could be fixed if the table itself was a touch-screen, something Microsoft already has. And the last issue is that boomers, the prime airport audience, struggles with tech.

Basically, in a decade or two, this’ll be the way we all eat.
(god i hope not)

Thanks, Mimosa!

In all seriousness, I’d dine here again if I’m in Minneapolis for some reason I can’t now foresee.


Gregory Blake is a freelance fiction, comedy, and opinion writer. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and of course, on the blog you’re reading right now.

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