Waiting on Working Memory

Just write it down.

It is common to keep an eye on big issues. Global pandemic. US politics. Brexit.

But sometimes, important issues arise way down at the micro level, where the geopolitics of daily interaction play out.

The following declaration is more observation than gripe, with a hint of complaint.

Waiters need to write stuff down.

Writing is humanity’s greatest invention. It allows us to travel through time, share collective wisdom, break through stubborn barriers to progress and understanding.

Without writing, there is no reading, and without reading we are stuck in a room walled by our own ignorance.

The phenomenon of writing refusal in restaurants, bars and cafes is a hidden tragedy of the modern world.

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

Where once it might be the domain of silver service waiters in high-end restaurants, whose skill in remembering vast orders reflected higher status, it is now the standard modus operandi of every corner cafe and burger joint hack.

In a wide ranging and deep study of, well, my friendship group, it was revealed that more commonly, too commonly, orders are cocked up by a distracted waiters with poor working memories.

Of course, in a world filled with human tragedy, riddled with a contagion, complaining about the odd missed order is the very epitome of first world entitlement.

Which is all very true.

But what is the acceptable error frequency for a transaction involving brunch?

I argue that every now and again, if they are busy or on their first day, that missing the odd hash brown or scrambling rather than poaching eggs is okay. I can live with your cold milk on the side instead of hot, or forgetting the butter…


If we can agree to operate from the first principle that a ZERO error threshold is the most optimal, then the rise of waiter memory error is very clearly sub-optimal.

I know, I know, it is hard to remember all those things. The proliferation of adjectives and bespoke beverages, pimped up with the bastardised Dr Moreau milk imposters, brings cognitive overload for the customer, let alone wait staff.

Yet we cannot escape the truth that civilisation is bound by fragile conventions like these mini social contracts.

Maybe punters are on one coffee a day, bringing the heaviest of responsibilities to bear on barista and waiter. Maybe it is their cheat day after a period of fasting and denial, or perhaps it is a special occasion like a birthday. Perhaps customers are waiting for a sign from a higher power, and the delivery of a meal out can restore their faith in the universe?

Photo by One Shot on Pexels.com

All of which is flung onto the bonfire of chance by these hospitality coolhunters with ironic hats and serious tattoos. It looks like, if you ask, that writing things down on a piece of paper is very uncool and does not reflect the standard of excellence required to work at (insert business name here).

And we know it gets busy and you have to remember a lot of things and you are covering all these tables and you are understaffed after the lockdown and it is really hard to find good help and you can usually remember all the orders, except when you don’t. And anyway, remembering is hard.

Yes, it can be, as cognitive science is more than aware.

If only humanity had invented a low-tech, simple system of bolstering our frail working memories against the curse of cognitive overload?

Just write it down. Please. For the sake of civilisation…

Published by charliehynes76

Learner. Teacher. Writer. My aim is to nourish and share a curious mind so that we might honour the gift.

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