I Have Some Reservations About Waiting

Saturday was a day. And by a day, I mean moving the Human Tape Recorder back to college, which was an exercise in waiting in lines, and then driving SOBUMD to her MRI, which was an exercise in waiting in rooms, and then getting dinner, which was an exercise in saying “Huh?”

On the college side, the waiting was for a large cart, into which one can load most (but not all) of the first SUVful of one’s stuff. (She’s an upperclasswoman now – it takes 2 SUVfuls of stuff to properly outfit her half of the room.) To acquire a cart, the HTR had to provide her student ID, phone number, proof of residency, blood-lien against 1/7th of her soul, and first round draft options on any eventual children she might have. This is not what took the time, though – the bottleneck was with the crew signing the carts back in. This is a university that can build and deploy actual food-delivery robots capable of navigating sidewalks, pedestrians, and automobile traffic, but they can’t figure out how to put a GPS or even a damn barcode on a bunch of 3 x 5 foot carts. No one’s going to steal these, folks. Honest.

On the MRI side, once the HTR was properly loaded, unloaded, reloaded, and in line to return the cart, I came home and drove SOBUMD to her appointment in some magnets. In fact, it was just her foot, but I saw none of this as I waited in the waiting room. For the most part, I had it to myself, so that wasn’t so bad.

Once complete and in possession pictures of the inside of her foot, which I may or may not include in this year’s holiday letter, we realized we were quite hungry. The nearest food was Sweetwater Tavern, which checked many of our boxes – good food, dependable, and less than a 2-minute drive. Putting thought into action, we popped over and walked in, as walk-ins, at 7:47 pm.

It was, in fact, a Saturday night, and we were unannounced. It was, in fact, packed. There were people waiting outside. There were people waiting inside. There were people waiting pretty much all over the place. We assumed there would be some bit of a wait.

“Party of 2? Do you have a reservation with us tonight?”
“We do not.”
“Okaaaaay,” says the maitre ‘d, looking at her computer, “the first available seating I have for you will be around 9pm. The wait is around an hour and 15 minutes. Is that OK?”

Obviously, that wasn’t going to be OK, we were already hungry and not well positioned to stand at the bar for 75 minutes – between having her foot in a boot and her foray into sobriety, going on a year now, SOBUMD is decidedly not standing at a bar for any length of time. Besides, the HTR’s university food-delivery robots can beat that time. We stumped back to the car to update our dinner plans. It was now 7:53 in the evening.

“That’s funny,” she said, “This reservation app on my phone says I can book a table for two at 8pm. Hold on.” Click. Click. Click click. “Go back in there and tell them we have a reservation.”

“Party of 2? Do you have a reservation with us tonight?”
“We do, for 8pm.”
“Okay,” says the maitre ‘d, looking at her computer, “would you like inside out outside seating?”
“First available would be great.” It was now 7:55 pm.

At one minute past 8pm, SOBUMD and I were ushered to our table, total elapsed time, 14 minutes – during which we had walked in, walked out, discussed 5 other local restaurants, and proved to the maitre ‘d that we own smartphones. I conjectured that this was, perhaps, a ploy on the part of Sweetwater Tavern to keep out the phone-less riffraff, those poor undesirables who might fail to post #photos of their #dinner to their Instagram accounts. (SOBUMD much more practically conjectured that they’re probably just idiots, but I prefer to look deeper.)

I am left to wonder if any restaurant, so encumbered and in thrall to its technology that it will turn away hungry patrons who are literally standing inside their establishment seeking sustenance, in favor of potential diners who might click their way past the front desk, can long survive. Had SOBUMD not happened to check the app – after we had returned to our car, engine idling, ready to take our hunger and our wallets elsewhere – we most certainly would not have spent our money at Sweetwater last night. Had I been alone, I would have been long gone – I’m much more a Luddite than she is.

As it happened, we enjoyed our respective meals, paid the check, and walked out just at 9pm. (Ironically, this was also the exact time the HTR finally reached the front of the cart-return line.)

“Hey, hon?” I said as we left.
“Good news! Your table’s finally ready.”

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