Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Place: Pita Pit
Lunch: Bacon Cheeseburger Pita (no lettuce, no tomato), chicken Quesapita, Pibb XTRA

We had six Pita Pits locally to start with but there's only two left so I figured I'd better try one before they were completely gone as if I'm actually obligated to or something.

I enter and head for the sign that says "ORDER HEALTHY HERE".  Please.  None of this crap is healthy.  You're getting overglorified Subway with potato chips and high fructose corn syrup soda.

Worried Counter Girl looks worried.  Probably because I'm the scariest and ugliest person she's ever seen.

Me: "Bacon cheeseburger pita..."

Worried Counter Girl: "Do you want that in a combo with chips and a drink?"

Me: "I'll take a drink, but I want to try the chicken Quesapita thingy."

She spends a ridiculous amount of time entering crap into the register.  $15 and change.  No wonder everybody refers to this as "the place to overpay for pitas.":

Me, pointing to reader next to register: "Is this for Apple Pay?"

Worried Counter Girl: "We use a points system now."

Me: *stares*

Worried Counter Girl: *looks worried*

Me: *hands credit card*

Much to my surprise, steak and chicken is tossed onto a real grill.  She sets up two pita breads, which essentially is a flour tortilla with a kangaroo pocket.  Ingredients are placed in the pockets.  The bacon cheeseburger is then rolled like a burrito while the Quesapita goes to the grill.  Nice.  Takes way too long to make, though, so consider ordering ahead on the app or the website.

Both items are delicious.  The Quesapita is listed as a side, but it's really a meal in itself.  Could use a sauce.  Might ask for one next time if I make it back before this location closes too.

Remember a few years back when some rich guy was going to build a replica of Titanic for cruising?  Yeah.  Apparently, that plan is back on track.  Titanic II will have modern engines and propulsion and enough actual lifeboats for all 2,400 passengers (and yes, iceberg detecting stuff), but otherwise they want to give you as close to the original experience as possible.

This somehow seems ill-advised.

I imagine there's a bunch of Titanic fanatics (Tifanics?) excited by this.  And I would love to tour the finished ship and maybe even take a ride for a few hours.  But not much longer than that.  What they're planning is regular voyages that are much, much longer.  Transatlantic voyages that follow the original ill-fated path, and elsewhere.

Modern cruising happens on big floating resorts with a dozen or more decks full of restaurants and activities.  Multiple pools, some even with waterslides.  Multiple restaurants and bars.  Clubs.,  Activities.  Theatres.  Shows.  You typically spend five days practically smothered with activities and food and near daily stops at ports with an abundance of tourist traps and touristy things to do.

Titanic was built in an era when ships of its kind were the primary source of transcontinental travel.  You didn't fly to Europe, you sailed there.  Unless you were elite rich, you probably sailed in a shared little four-birth cabin that didn't even have its own bathroom.  Given they still plan to shoehorn 2,400 people on this ship, I don't see how this design is any roomier.  A Princess Cruises Coral Class ship of similar size (well, slightly longer, wider, and way taller with 12 passenger decks) has a capacity of 1.970 passengers.

So who really wants to cruise under those conditions on a voyage that doesn't see a port call for days on end?  How long can you stare at the open sea and its vast nothingness?

Bring snacks.  And lots of books.  And your tablet, pre-loaded with books and movies (even most modern ships don't offer shipwide wifi, you have to go to ship Internet areas and pay a premium to connect), and hope they build charging ports into the new ship.  And noise-cancelling headphones so you can ignore your bunk mates.

On the bright side, maybe if the new ship hits an iceberg and sinks, you can write it off as a cruise activity.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Service with the Speed of App

Place: Sonic Drive-In
Lunch: Quarter pound double cheeseburger, chili cheese coney (add mustard), Philly cheesesteak (add pickles), Rte 44 strawberry slush

Sonic has a sordid history here.  They built one and had to hire off-duty cops to handle the massive amount of traffic it drew.  The franchisee quickly put up five more (because it takes like 20 minutes to assemble one out of a kit you order from Sears) around the metro.  A couple of years later, we were down to two of the six and a different franchisee out of Missouri was running those.  It's been like that for at least ten years now.  That first store was demolished and replaced by a Hardee's.

The last time I had lunch at one, it took way longer to order than it should have because the girl on the other end doesn't listen and puts in the wrong food (this happens all the freaking time) and it was close to half an hour before the food finally arrived.  Since it takes fifteen minutes to drive here from the office, that makes work lunch impossible.  Sonic's original slogan was "Service at the Speed of Sound."  But this store has always been Service at the Speed of Slug.  Until now.  Now, you can order through Sonic's app and the food should (in theory) be ready when you get there.

Folks, I can't even begin to describe how the idea that I never have to talk to a Sonic order taker ever again excites me.

The app menu is straightforward and logical.  You can customize stuff to a degree.  Sonic has a reputation of being willing to make literally anything you can dream up with the available ingredients on hand, but this app isn't that flexible.  I can add pickles to my cheesesteak and mustard to my chili dog, but I can't make the item I used to have them make every time I stopped for breakfast back when there was a Sonic on my work route...the amazing and wonderful chili breakfast toaster.  Chili, egg, and cheese on Texas toast.  This is never a bad idea.

I build my order and set the arrival time for 11:15am.  Then it comes to paying.  Here's where it all goes wrong.  You can't just pay with your credit card or with Apple Pay, you have to purchase a virtual gift card in specific increments.  So I'm going to have to pay $15 for my $10.50 order.  Yes, you'll still have that $4.50 for a future order, but you know you're eventually going to die with a languishing amount on the card.  That's just stupid.  If you can buy the gift card through the app, you should be able to just pay for your food through the app.  There's no excuse for this.

You also can't set a tip for the carhop.  So you're either stiffing the carhop, or you'll need to keep a couple singles in your wallet anyway.

Once I buy the gift card and reorder the food (because the shopping cart expired in the time it took to buy the gift card), I head to Sonic.  I arrive and check in at 11:10.  Check-in requires you pull in a stall and enter the stall number in the app to let them know where you are (the number is on the driver-'s side pole that holds the menu screen.  It's also displayed in the left corner of the screen itself.)  There's no option to use the drive-thru.

A black bar shows up on the bottom of the screen with my name on it.  It's showing the order process.  Eventually, the screen says "JUSTIN is about to arrive with your food!"  Which he does.  Food arrives at 11:22.  It's late, but still plenty of time to eat.  Everything is hot and delicious.

So will the app make me want to Sonic more often?  Yes.  It absolutely will.

But it would help if they built one closer to the office.