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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 119: Hastings 222
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Beam 101
Stepping away from their training area, Lauren took an interest in some of the environmental control machines. There were meters, which it occurred to her meant either that humans were expected to be able to check these or that there were robots that used optical sensors not unlike eyes and processed visual information such that meters would make sense to them. Or maybe the meters were here from force of habit, that the people who designed the systems used equipment that already had meters installed and saw no reason to remove them.
The meters would be quite practical, she thought, had she any notion of what normal readings ought to be.
Speaking of normal readings, she should learn something about the computers.
“You should teach me,” she said, assuming that Tommy would know this was addressed to her, “how to order stuff on those computer panels. There’s one by the door, and I could learn to order dinner.”
“If I taught you how to do that,” Tommy replied, “you wouldn’t need me.”
“Nonsense,” Lauren laughed. “First, I’m sure that it would take you years to teach me everything you already know about using the computers here, and by the time you’ve taught me half of it you’ll have doubled what you know about them. Second, you underestimate your value to me as a student. You force me to practice and to delve into my skills more deeply so I understand how to teach you. Third, I think I’d be pretty lonely without you.”
“Well, O.K., but really, it’s very simple.”
“That’s something teachers have to learn: what you can do easily you think is easy, but usually it’s not. The student is going to struggle with concepts and techniques which come almost naturally to you. Anyway, show me what I have to do to order some food with this screen over here.” Lauren moved up to the screen by the door. Tommy came up alongside her.
“Well, these were made to be fairly simple. The ones on the walls have a pad on the floor in front of them, and if you stand on the pad it turns on the screen.”
Lauren followed the instruction, and was quickly looking at a lit screen about shoulder height.
“There are more icons on this screen than on the ones in the apartments,” Tommy continued, “probably because it would be expected that the people using this one would be technicians of some kind, but you should be able to find the shopping icon.”
Lauren quickly found a picture that looked like an old time cash register--peculiar, she thought, since the world apparently didn’t use money and those cash registers were out of date almost as long as she could remember.
“Where’s the mouse?” she asked.
“No mouse. No keyboard, either. It’s a touch screen. Touch the icon.”
Lauren did, and the screen changed. It was now covered with images of a great variety of what she took to be retail items.
“Now look for an image that looks like food.”
“There are a lot of images that look like food.”
“Right, because you can order from supermarkets, bakeries, butcher shops, green grocers, ethnic markets--you want something that looks like prepared food to connect you to restaurants and delis.”
Poring over the images, she finally found one that might be it. Still she hesitated. “What if it’s the wrong button?” she asked.
“There’s always a back button, and you can try again.”
She touched the button she had selected, and it opened more images of many kinds of foods.
“What do you want?”
“I would happily go for steak with fried onions, mashed or baked potatoes, gravy, spinach or green beans, and maybe a cup of soup or a tossed salad. But what do you want?”
“Go for a diner, then. I like the sound of soup, and I think fish, French fries, coleslaw, with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and lemon. That should be a challenge for you.”
“Me?” Lauren was not expecting that.
“You want to learn. This is how you learn.”
Opening the menu for the diner, she began with Tommy’s order. She read the soup list aloud, and Tommy selected cream of mushroom. There were also a few varieties of fish, and they came breaded and fried or broiled. The rest was easy enough. Lauren decided that the mushroom soup sounded good, and so went with that along with the rest of her order.
“Do we want dessert?”
“Sure. What do they have?”
“Several pages, and it’s more like what don’t they have.”
“Apple dumpling with vanilla ice cream?”
“You really are testing my abilities at this, aren’t you?”
Tommy laughed. “No, they had that at a diner near home, and I always liked it.”
Lauren managed to find a dumpling that came a la mode, and ordered one for herself as well.
“So, now that the order is placed, how do I get it delivered here?”
“There should be a button at the bottom for delivery, and the system knows where this screen is, so you just have to say ‘here’ and it should do the rest.”
She looked, found the appropriate buttons, and soon was satisfied that either she had succeeded or they were going to be hungry tonight.
“O.K., let’s figure out where we’re going to camp,” she concluded.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #397: Verser Challenges. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: