Tales from the Café: Houston, We Have a Problem

Time: Thursday, 4:55 pm

I could already tell it was going to be an adventure of a day when I walked in for my dinner shift and saw Dana, one of my newer coworkers, leaning over the register with a pen and paper in one hand, and a customer’s credit card in the other. “Uh oh.”

I hung up my jacket, casting a look over to Amanda at one of the other registers. “Are the credit card machines down again?”

“Yeah, since the power’s been flickering on and off most of the day, so our whole system has gotten jacked up.” She sighed, sending the order she’d been punching in, then walking over to a different register–to pick up the slip it had printed out.

My eyes widened. “What…”

“Yeah. Nothing’s getting sent to back of house, either. Their screen is totally blank, and nothing’s printing on their end.”

“Faaaantastic.” I leaned over to punch in, then walked over to Dana, who was just finishing up and handing the card back to the customer. “Having fun yet, Dana?”

Dana rolled his eyes. “Yeah, something like that. Why don’t you guys have paper for your knuckle-buster?”

I blinked a few times, then remembered that the manual credit card machine was called that. “Don’t know. I didn’t know we had one; last time I asked they said we didn’t.”

He shook his head. “No, there is one, just no paper. May as well not have one.”

“Fair enough.” The lights flickered overhead and both of us looked up at them. “This is going to be an adventure.”

“Isn’t every day already?” Dana replied with a smirk, before heading off to his table. I had to agree. I walked back toward the kitchen to write down the specials, but poked my head in to see who was working first.

Nate was the first to see me, and he gave me a wave. “Hey Hunter.”

“Heya, Nate. Having fun with no screen yet?” I grinned.

“Screw you, dude.” His smile betrayed the words. “This is bullshit.”

“I’m not arguing. Do you know if Ben or Everett are coming in to fix it?”Andrew walked back in from outside behind Nate, and I waved to him. “Do you know?”

Both of them shook their heads. “I think I heard James say something about calling Everett earlier, but I don’t know if he did,” Andrew said. “Love it if he did, though.”

I sighed. “Yeah, you and me both. Are we just bringing tickets back to you guys then?”

“Yeah, just call it out when you walk in. We’ll figure it out,” Andrew replied. Behind him, Nate shook his head and turned back to the flat-top.

Just another day in paradise. With any luck at all, the machines would be back up before the end of the night. I didn’t want to think about an entire dinner service without being able to run credit cards. It didn’t happen often, but it happened all too commonly for me, and it made the customers antsy. Having to write down credit card numbers on paper didn’t sit right with most of them–and I couldn’t blame them. But what else do you do, in a society that doesn’t carry cash anymore?

(Author’s note: It didn’t. It was back by the next day, though–and as of my writing this, we still can’t get the kitchen’s screen to work. Hooray!)


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