Author : Philip Smith
Most of the bots you see in diners are the ones that serve the food. We have one but it was a bad decision on my part. Real waitresses give you a smile and make you feel welcome. Automota makes a place look cheap. When it breaks I won’t go to the trouble of getting it fixed.
Sometimes we get big junkers and security units or the type that move containers around at the docks. There isn’t much for them here. The cold doesn’t bother them. They order food or drinks just for the table and look out of the window or watch the customers. I don’t mind them so long as they aren’t so big they scrape the roof. Before our policy changed we would only turn them away during busy hours.
One tin can started coming in regularly. I think it worked in the hotel a block down. It was thin and the top of its shoulders were fashioned like epaulettes. We don’t get many like that. Every night it ordered bottomless coffee which went untouched and watched the door until closing.
One day a girl walked through the door and as soon as it saw her, the bot turned its head and tracked her across the room. She was plain-looking if you ask me. Wouldn’t have noticed her if it wasn’t for the tin can’s interest. She wore a bonnet, leather driving gloves, a long coat and beneath that a dress, bow pulling tight around her waist. As soon as she sat it slid off the stool and walked over to her.
You don’t often hear them speak. It had a man’s voice, thin and flat. Like he was speaking through glass. There was a little click before and after it spoke. It said.
She started and the look on her face said she wasn’t happy to see it. She looked back to her menu.
‘Lisa.’ It said again. ‘We can not feel warmth but we know that your body is warm. We know your body can rise to meet us. We remember.’
She said. ‘I don’t want to be reminded. Please leave me alone.’ She looked around for help. I put my hand on the zap stick behind the bar.
A click. ‘You were once loving and open and everything was good. We have evidence. Photographs. Many hours were logged.’ It put its ‘hand’ on her wrist.
She said. ‘That was before you were repurposed’ and then, raising her voice. ‘You are hurting me!’
People looked around. I stepped from behind the bar.
It released her wrist and moved back. ‘We just want you to remember. We would never hurt you.’
She looked around at the other customers. Forks set down or frozen on the way to mouths. She lowered her voice. ‘The feeling comes first.’ She said. ‘Then the rationalisation. That is the most honest answer I can give you.’
A click. ‘Old memory is a defect in this model.’
I put my hand on it. ‘That’s enough, buddy, time to go.’
She re-buttoned her coat and reached for her hat. ‘I have to go.’ She said. ‘I have to go to work.’
‘Take care of yourself.’ It said.
She pushed past us and repeated. ‘I am late for work.’
It remained motionless for a time and then left. People went on with their meals.
It hasn’t been back and we don’t allow bots in the restaurant anymore. They have their own section at the bar. Better for everyone, that way.
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