Low-tech breakfast

At Mrs Rigby's Diner, I was eating an omelet at the front counter, near the register, when a young white guy in a suit came in. He bee-lined to the cashier, and asked her if he could speak to the manager.

The manager, eh? That's a good one. 

In about a hundred meals eaten there, I have never knowingly seen a manager at Mrs Rigby's. Always there've been several women working the dining room, and a couple of men cooking in the kitchen, and everything runs smoothly, but nobody's ever seemed to be in charge, so I was curious to see who'd answer as 'manager'.

"The manager isn't in today," the cashier said. She was probably the oldest person on staff, and I might've guessed she was the manager, but apparently not.

I'd clocked the white guy as a salesman, and indeed, since he couldn't talk to the manager, he launched his spiel at the cashier. "We've developed a proprietary point-of-sale technology that can make the restaurant more efficient and profitable…" and blah blah blah.

"We're a small restaurant," the lady said, "family-owned."

"Helping small restaurants is our specialty," he said, smiling, and between his smile and his suit he oozed sales-obnoxiousness. "Perhaps you're familiar with Huckleberry Square in Burien? They're a small, family-owned restaurant, and they use our software."

"They're much bigger than our restaurant," she said, and the schmuck continued his pitch for a few minutes more, ignoring her disinterest.

"Would it be possible for me to speak with the manager?" he eventually asked a second time, smiling.

"The manager isn't in today," she explained again.

"Could I leave my card?" he asked, and she took it, and then he left.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Soon as he was gone and the door closed behind him, I asked, "Are you the manager?"

She looked at me and smiled and said, "No, I'm the owner."

That made me laugh, and then Mrs Rigby was ringing up a customer and I was chewing hash browns so I didn't say anything else.

♦ ♦ ♦  

You know, I've eaten at Huckleberry Square, once. They gave me a computer-printed receipt, which is what that man was selling, and it was a lovely receipt. The food was only OK, though, and the service was slow and uncaring. Mrs Rigby's is a billion times better. 

At Mrs Rigby's the tickets are hand-written. 

Never gave it any thought before, but the great restaurants, the places that have been my favorites everywhere I've lived — Beth's Cafe in Seattle thirty years ago, Pappy's Coffee House in Bakersfield, the Sincere Cafe and El Castillito in San Francisco, Woodswether Cafe in Kansas City, Bob's Diner in Madison, and Mrs Rigby's now that I'm back in Seattle — have all used old-style hand-written tickets.

Installing those point-of-sale devices, where the waitress types orders on a device instead of scribbling on a piece of paper, might be the moment when a good restaurant goes bad.

Or maybe it's when they hire a manager.

♦ ♦ ♦  

When I took my hand-written tab to the register to pay, I said to Mrs Rigby, "Thanks for lunch, and don't do it."

Ten minutes had passed, so she wasn't sure what I was talking about. She raised her eyebrows, and I said, "The system that guy was trying to sell you," and shook my head no.

She smiled at me and said, "Nothing high-tech here," and that's some serious wisdom distilled, ain't it? High-tech is for computers and space ships, movies and TV and Target and Amazon. High-tech shouldn't be for breakfast.



  1. Forget It, Jake, It's Claude ReignsFebruary 12, 2023 at 2:09 PM

    "Pappy's Coffee House in Bakersfield"

    When were you in Bakersfield? Was it living or passing through? I don't recall you ever writing about anything south of San Francisco.

    1. When I left Seattle, I took the roundabout route, to San Francisco by way of Los Angeles and Bakersfield. Didn't stay long, though.


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