The classic, awkwardly named Seattle drive-in serves better fries at $1.50 than four-star restaurants sell at $15. Its shakes are heaven at 2 a.m. And oh, the people-watching.
Dick’s is not the only place I pay cash. It’s the only place I tolerate it.
Call me spoiled. I call it progress. Online, the top actions and transactions take a click and track themselves. As far as I’m concerned, the real world needs to catch up. Fast. Faster.
I remember when I kept a roll of quarters in my car’s cupholder no problem. These days, if I have to use a coin parking meter I want to kick it. Why are you still here? When I board a flight by flashing the digital boarding pass on my phone, I walk tall, knowing that’s the way it should be. But when the flight attendant tells me to shut off my Whispernet-disabled Kindle mid-”Bossypants” while the woman next to me flips a page, I grit my teeth to keep from blurting something awful. Figure it out, airlines. This is getting old.
I am a creeping crusader for convenience — fighting convention, bureaucracy, inertia, a lack of imagination and outdated tech. Or at least getting mad at it. And so, I think, are many of you.
The good news? Convenience is turning up in unexpected places. Or at least, places we haven’t ranted about. Much.
Like the booths at Seattle’s monthly First Thursday Art Walk in Pioneer Square, where last month I saw an artist use, well, Square. I first heard about the card scanning service and iPhone plug-in when early Twitter staffer Dom Sagolla showed it off around Seattle last spring, but I figured it’d stay stuck in the geek realm because most cool-seeming new things do. Yet there it was, on the artist’s iPhone, changing the equation.
What once was silly for small vendors is now kind of smart (and kinda of cool looking). More convenience, and more business. Win-win.
But one step toward convenience isn’t always enough. Square made an appearance at the Mobile Food Rodeo Sept. 17 (at the Street Treats truck, at least, which still likes it). But as was clear from attendee tweets and posts, tech wasn’t addressing the event’s biggest inconvenience: the lines.
A flier for Yorder, a free mobile app that’s out to facilitate ordering food at live events, appeared on the window of one truck. But it may have been largely a a teaser. Yorder’s website lists only Marination Mobile as a Seattle vendor. Maybe next year?
Some attempts at convenience lose something in translation. Washington’s Puyallup Fair upgraded their paper tickets — the kind you count up, rip off and hand to the ride guy — to “FunCards” pre-loaded with a set amount of digital tickets this year. “So you don’t have to worry about carrying around a bunch of tickets, just a card!” a Fair staffperson posted about the change on its Facebook page in April.
Convenient, sure. But when I braved the Wooden Roller Coaster, Zero Gravity and other rides this month, doubting how many tickets remained on my FunCard was … no fun. When a Mom handed the card to a guy with a scanner, I felt bad for the son holding her hand. Maybe the card saves bulk. But isn’t holding and counting and tearing up tickets part of the fun of going to the fair? All this kid got was a beep and a wave.
Respect the experience, and convenience wins. I take cash on trips because, like it or not, I need it for cabs. But this month, it hit me. I’ve traveled to New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago and New Orleans this summer, and every cab has taken cards.
Granted, the Boston cabbie didn’t like it when he stopped mid-traffic to let me out and I handed him my Visa, but that’s another opportunity for tech to take one more step. Private car services like Uber and Redmond’s Pinpoint Pickup make it easier to pick up and track a ride. Uber even lets you pay automatically, so you can hop out and be on your way. They’re not everywhere yet, but if their convenience is enough to beat out convention, they’ll get there.
And maybe give me a late night ride to Dick’s.
Mónica Guzmán is a Seattle journalist and community strategist who consults for startups and media and can usually be found tweeting away at @moniguzman. Also see this archive of her weekly GeekWire columns.