Saturday, July 24, 2010

Beep Beep

I used to supplement my income from waiting tables with office work so I wasn't on my feet all day and night. One of my first "second jobs" was setting up appointments for pager salesman. (This was when beepers were first becoming popular and way before cell phones.) I made the calls cold from a publication that listed the company with the president, vice-president, office manager, etc in descending order of rank. My instructions were to "start at the top." The funniest call I had went like this:

"May I please speak with David Brown?"
"Mr. Brown passed away two years ago."
"I'm so sorry. Is Dan Jones available?"
"Mr. Jones died last October."
"Oh dear. Well, I've got one other individual recommended as a contact for your company. May I speak with Charles Smith?"
"Mr. Smith is out sick today."
I didn't know how to respond. Then we both started to laugh and I said,
"I'll bet he's worried."

Speaking of beepers. One of the restaurants I worked at decided to replace the lighted sign that let a waiter know when their order was up (I haven't seen these in years, but they used to be common) with pagers. Instead of looking for our number to light up (and/or checking the kitchen) we were supposed to stay on the floor and wait to be paged. The pagers were checked out at the hostess stand every day, so you had to have them coordinated with your waiter ID. They were supposed to have a volume button on them, but one unit might be turned all the way up and could barely be heard, while another was loud enough to rouse a team of huskies in a neighboring state.

The experiment didn't last very long. For one thing, every time a waiter's beeper went off, 8 or 10 people got up from their table and reached for their pocket or purse. It annoyed the crap out of the customers to have beepers sounding every time someone's food was ready. When the restaurant was busy, it sounded like a video arcade. Another problem was the cooks who just liked having the power to call waiters back to the kitchen like puppets on a string, whether their order was up or not. It was just one more of those ideas that probably seemed great in a corporate boardroom, but hadn't been thought out to what it would sound like in a restaurant with 12 waiters with over 100 tables between them.

I think about it now and wonder why they didn't just try pagers that vibrated, or if they made such a thing back then, or if maybe they did try it and they just didn't pan out. At any rate, I was awfully glad not to have one more thing to clip on to me. We went back to using the lights and everything worked out fine just like it had for years.

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