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Cynthia had been working as a waitress at the same diner since before the robots took over. As computers began to be better at most jobs than humans, a typical 40-hour workweek became a thing of the past. Even the robots realized, though, that there was nothing like a sweet young woman with a subtle country accent to bring you plates of home-cooked, slightly greasy food. Although Cynthia had started working at Teddy’s because it was the only place hiring, she seemed to fill a necessary role, and robots paid better than people. So, Cynthia continued to come into work at 8 AM sharp, apron tied tight around her waist, smiling wide.
On any given day, Cynthia would serve dozens of human clients: with the world largely automated, people’s jobs only lasted a few hours a day, doing the things that robots simply couldn’t do. This gave them more time to spend time with loved ones, travel the world, or simply go out for a nice brunch. The less traditional part of Cynthia’s job occurred when she had to serve robots. These mechanical clients didn’t order burgers or waffles, but simply enjoyed acting like people. They would go on business meetings or even on dates. Although they took up tables that could be filled by human customers without ordering anything, they always tipped very well for the small service of simply coming over and chatting for a few minutes. So, the waitresses put up with it. They didn’t really have another choice.
On one Saturday, at around noon, a pair of automatons walked into the diner, arm in arm. It was obvious what they were there for: their silvery bodies glistened in the sunlight, freshly polished, a clear sign that they were on a date. The knowing hostess seated them in a booth in Cynthia’s section, winking at her. Cynthia straightened her shoulders and her apron and strolled forward.
“Hi, and welcome to Teddy’s. What can I do for y’all today?” Although a friendly smile was glued to her face, Cynthia was concerned. The robot on the left side of the booth was slowly sliding towards her.
In her line of work, it wasn’t particularly unusual for customers to hit on Cynthia; uncountable dozens of (mostly) men had asked her for her phone number or done still bolder things. However, this kind of behavior from a robot: that was new.
“Can I help you, friend?” The tone of Cynthia’s voice was kind, but strongly implied “why are you doing this?”.
The robot sliding towards her made a sound that sounded like a chuckle, but it was hard to tell. “Terribly sorry, ma’am, but I’m afraid I’m attracted to you.”
Cynthia inhaled sharply. “I beg your pardon?” This robot was on a date. This was poor manners to say the least. Their date, however, was entirely unfazed.
The robot sat with a puzzled expression for several seconds, then all at once realized something. “Oh! I must apologize; I had a translation error. The silverware in your apron is magnetic, and my body is made of iron.” Their date made a sound rather like giggling.
Cynthia’s waitress-smile returned. “Well, if that’s it, I’ll make sure the silverware’s gone when I come back to check on y’all.” A voice from the kitchen called her name, and she left quickly, the entire incident slipping her mind in the hustle and bustle of serving customers. As she picked up a tray with an omelette and hash browns, she accidentally grabbed the bell used by the cooks to notify waitresses that food was ready. As she walked past the booth with the dating robots, she stopped for a moment.
“Everything still okay over here? Need anything?”
Once again, the robot began to slid toward Cynthia. Glancing down, she saw that there was no silverware in her belt. I knew they were lying about the magnets, she thought to herself.
“You alright there, friend?” Her face was still friendly as ever.
The robot scanned Cynthia up and down until their eyes locked on the bell in her hand. “Ma’am, it’s the bell.”
“The bell in your hand. It’s magnetic.”
Cynthia mumbled a curse under her breath, but then regained her composure. “Thank you so much, I’m so scatterbrained today I might just lose my own head. Let me just return this to the kitchen and I’ll get right back with y’all.” She brought the omelette to the next table and sheepishly returned the bell to the kitchen.
The next half hour brought Cynthia to an entirely different corner of the restaurant, rushing around serving and tending to solely human customers. As she was clearing away a stack of plates from the table of a family eating lunch, a metallic glint in the corner of her vision drew her over to the booth housing the two dating robots. After bringing the plates to the kitchen, Cynthia checked and double-checked to make sure that there was no magnetic material anywhere on her person, and went over to check on her metallic patrons.
“Anything else I can do for you two?” Cynthia glanced down and noticed that both robots were securely in their seats and sighed with relief.
The robot on the left turned to their date and said, “Do you want to wait in the car? I can take care of the tip.” Their companion smiled and left, waving slightly to Cynthia on their way out. Cynthia began to walk away, but before she could, she felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning around, she saw the robot. They handed her a ten-dollar bill folded around a small piece of paper and left without a word. Cynthia pocketed the money and unfolded the note. It read:
My body is constructed from aluminum.
Underneath this, in a neat mechanical scrawl, was a phone number.