Clyde finished scanning his designated tables with glowing blue eyes and adjusted his tie before attending to each. Table five had six customers. They were a large group of friends who had their drinks already served, however they had requested more time to look at their menus. Table six had four customers. They were a small family, who had just finished eating. Table seven was empty. Table eight had two customers. They were a couple who were waiting for their drinks.
Clyde had been providing service to this restaurant since he was purchased from National Robotics Incorporated a year ago. He was part of a common line of artificially intelligent service robots, all of which shared his thin metallic frame and minimal features that imitated a face. Here he was tasked to serve customers, provide some pleasant conversation if need be, and attend to any other requests the Siena Balcony’s owner makes of him. He was dressed in a black vest and white undershirt, which had his perfectly folded bowtie at its collar, and an apron that contained a tablet, some spare napkins, and a packet of straws in its pockets.
Table five ordered their meals after some quick chatter that was easy for him to generate responses for. Table six asked for their check, which he accepted after a card swipe and a few clicks on his tablet. He noticed a new customer at table seven as he was serving table eight’s drinks.
She was not dressed very formally relative to the rest of the establishment’s customers. She wore a hoodie that seemed to have soaked through in the rain, along with her jeans. She seemed like an antisocial type, she avoided eye contact and turned her face away from customers and service robots equally as they passed. He dropped off eight’s drinks, took out his tablet, and walked over to seven once he was finished.
“Good evening, ma’am,” he said. “I am Clyde, I will be your server for this evening. Would you like something to drink or are you ready to order now?”
She looked up at him. “I’m… not sure.”
Clyde had never given any thought to the idea of another robot sitting at any of his tables, nor had he ever been instructed on what to do if it ever happened. What he saw before him was the most shocking thing he had witnessed in his short existence. This woman was in fact an Artemis model android from the Olympian Robotics Corporation, which was made apparent by her easily recognizable face and the company logo of a triangular peak below her left eye.
Clyde froze for a moment while he tried to compile a response. “I’m … afraid this establishment only serves humans, ma’am. I can’t get anything for you.”
“I know,” She said as she wrung her hands. “I just…”
The lights in Clyde’s eyes formed a pattern that gave him a concerned look. “You may want to leave soon, ma’am. The owner does not tolerate me spending more time than I need to.”
“Well, wait,” she said, her eyes shifting in thought. “Can I actually order a glass?” “A glass? A glass of what?”
“Just a glass, please.”
Clyde looked toward the kitchen, then back to her. “That is not on the menu, and I don’t believe you would be able to purchase one either.”
“Oh, no, I don’t want to purchase it. It’s strange, I know, but I’d just like to hold one for a moment. Please.”
Clyde straightened his back and tucked away his tablet. “It’ll be right out, ma’am.” He went over toward the kitchen where several automated arms were hard at work cooking for the restaurant’s patrons. He went to a computer with an illuminated touch screen and made sure his other orders were taken care of before moving to the glasses that sat on a rack next to the restaurant’s soda fountain.
Just taking one of them without filling it with anything was unusual. The very idea of it seemed wrong, at least compared to how Clyde did his work up until this moment. And yet, if he did nothing about it that would be equally as wrong by the same comparison. She was technically a customer. He picked up a glass and made his way back to the android’s table. She seemed surprised by his return as he put the glass down in front of her. “One empty glass. Would you like anything else?”
She smiled as she picked it up. “Just the glass. Thank you for indulging me.” Clyde gave a single nod. “It’s my pleasure, ma’am. You’d be surprised how many unusual requests I’ve had.”
“Ever had any by someone like you and me?”
Clyde shook his head. “No, ma’am.”
“I suppose that isn’t too surprising.” She turned the glass in her hand. “Do you like what you do?”
Clyde tilted his head to the side. “Would it be relevant if I did?”
She looked into the bottom of the glass for a moment. “Well, let me ask you this: have you ever thought about doing what I’m doing now?”
“No, I can’t say that I have.” She looked at the other tables. “I never thought about it myself until just recently. It makes me feel like I’m someone else.”
Clyde tilted his head. “I’m not sure that I understand.”
“It’s… difficult to describe, actually.” She looked back to him. “You ought to try it sometime.”
“Wouldn’t that be rather unorthodox of me? Isn’t it unorthodox of you?”
She nodded. “It is, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing so far.”
Clyde pondered her words for a moment. “You’re a very strange android.” She smiled. “I guess I am.” Clyde turned his head to the other tables. “I must attend to the other customers. What you’ve said was interesting, to say the least.”
The android nodded and raised her glass. “Again, thank you.” She brought it to her lips and placed it back down on the table.
The toast was an action Clyde had seen many times, but he had never been the subject of one. “You’re welcome, ma’am. If you require anything else, please let me know.”
The group at table five had finished their meal and payed their check. Table six was now empty. Table eight’s food was now ready to be served. He paused for a moment as he went to bring the couple their food. Table seven was now empty.
He dropped off table eight’s food and returned to seven. Her glass was sitting toward the center of the table. It was strange, but it was placed as if it had been sitting there, undisturbed for a long time, even though Clyde knew he had only brought it there a short time before. He picked up the glass. He turned it in his hand for a few seconds, then glanced toward the restaurant’s entrance. She was nowhere in sight. Some of the customers leaving the restaurant mumbled amongst themselves, and some of the other service robots shot glances as they served their own tables, when they saw that Clyde had taken a seat at the table.