Sometimes Technology Does Not Provide The Answer

I’m back at my desk after a week of being a beach bum at a resort near Montego Bay, Jamaica, where I swam, read and generally vegged out. I highly recommend the experience to any of you looking for a great winter escape.


My technology forays were limited to occasional visits to the lobby with my tablet to use the WiFi network connection. Other than that my smartphone stayed off and the only technology I embraced were my digital camera and an eBook reader, but even the latter was not put to use until I finished digesting a physical book, a tome by Kenneth Roberts that I brought along with me.

(If you have never read Kenneth Roberts, he was a writer of historical fiction in the mid-20th century. Much of his writing is centered on the American Revolution. The book I brought along was Oliver Wiswell, a story that describes the Revolutionary War from the perspective of those in America who were opposed to independence. All in all a very interesting alternate history to the one we normally read in the history books.)

But that’s not the subject of this piece. What I am writing about is a technology encounter that happened on the morning of our departure at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. The last time I came through on an international flight there was no Internet cafe in the departure lounge.  But this time as we descended the escalator into the food court I was drawn to this high tech restaurant and with my wife we decided to have a sit down breakfast there rather than go to a fast food counter.

The cafe was furnished with sleek brushed aluminum and stainless steel chairs and tables. The counter of glass and steel gleamed. When we sat down in front of us, mounted at mid-table, was an iPad with a docking station. We were invited to touch or use the USB port to plug in our smartphones. Use of the iPad was free. And you had to use it because the menu for ordering was on it.

But before I could even check it out the waitress came by to give us a tutorial on how to use the iPad cafe menu. This appeared to be her principal job because for the next half hour she ran from table to table trying to help many of the patrons figure out how to place an order.

Being fairly technology literate I was able to figure out the menu. My wife and I ordered our food and tea. She likes hers black. I like mine with milk. But the milk option was a check box which wouldn’t check. So I decided after several attempts to just send in the tea order without milk. Then I looked around for the waitress who was trying to cope with several other families who were attempting to place orders as well. She eventually made eye contact and returned to our table. I told her about the snafu with the milk.

She said, “That’s funny. Are you sure you did it right?”

I assured her that I had.

Then she asked me if I wanted to redo the order.

I said, “Can’t you just bring me the milk with the tea?”

But she wanted to try that software and show me so we walked through the menu again only to find out that indeed the milk check box was denying me my milk. So I calmly asked if she could bring me milk on the side. She said “Let me see what I can do.”

I replied, “If the milk check box doesn’t work does that make it a problem to pour milk into a small container so that I could mix it in my tea? After all it’s not a chargeable item.” She went away but I could see that she wanted that box checked off and that was more important even than getting me the darn milk.

When we finally got our tea it was almost cold because it had been sitting at the counter all the time we were trying to check the milk option box. So we sent the tea back but it appeared that hot water was as much a challenge as ordering using the software menu. And the rest of our order came in fits and starts and was no better than the tea.

Meanwhile at the two tables next to us, occupied by one large family, the waitress, caught up in our hot water and milk check box dilemma, had not interceded in time to coach her new customers on how to use the menu. The result another total disaster with the order.

In any event $21.00 poorer for the experience I came to a number of conclusions. Paper menus, even a menu posted on a wall or chalk board works better than a menu on an iPad when the software is improperly designed. I don’t blame the waitress for what we experienced. She was just trying to cope with a system clearly not designed by someone who has ever waited on tables. And she can’t be held responsible for tepid tea or lousy food. Maybe this Internet cafe will get its act together and get the bugs out of their food service delivery system. I hope so for that poor waitress. But somehow I doubt it.

Therein ended our only bad experience on this reprieve from winter. So I leave you on a happy note with a picture that will relax the mind and make you think of a warm tropical sun, sandy white beaches and azure waters.



Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...