In Pursuit Of Happiness

  • 24 Feb - 02 Mar, 2018
  • Kiran Ashraf
  • Fiction

"A lfie! Where the hell are you?” Shauna’s loud voice was screaming from across the restaurant. The robot hurriedly rushed, expertly balancing plates and cutlery on his fingertips as he ran to serve the customers.

Alfie, also known as A-10, was a service robot designed to work in the hospitality industry. It’s been a few months since he is employed at ‘Shauna’s Diner’ but still can’t forget his creator, Maurie. He remembers waking up in a room with grey walls and plastered windows. Still questioning who he was and what is he doing here, a friendly face caught his view. In fact, it was a whole person! Dressed in uneven clothing with oil stains and patches, he was looking at Alfie with surprise and bewilderment. “Good Morning A-10 …oh, Alfie actually. Morning Alfie, I am Maurie, your creator. How are you?”

Suddenly, Alfie’s sensory system started allowing him to respond but he preferred looking around first. He saw tools lying over a nearly broken chest, wires were surrounding the whole space along with three computers displaying lines of codes all over them.

“You are finally operational. How do you feel?” Maurie asked. Alfie assessed himself, checking for related information.

“I feel happy!” he replied in his tinny but chirpy voice. “But I am a little confused, why am I here?” He was told that his primary objective was to make people happy. A system built in him helps in reading emotions and that is how he will know if he is doing a good or bad job. Maurie stood up and carefully unhooked wires from Alfie’s metallic body. “There we go! I am sure you would do great at diners. If you be nice, they might give you a good tip.” Maurie told him and Alfie searched dictionary to find out the meaning of the word ‘tip’. “Tip, a pointed end of an item,” uttered Alfie.

Maurie laughed so hard at his response. “No silly. A ‘tip’ is given to you as a token of appreciation for good service,” Maurie amusingly explained. Somehow, Alfie held on to this information.

Right now, he is clambering up the stairs which were not really made for a four-foot tall robot, but Alfie couldn’t risk taking silly steps.

“How may I help you, Miss Shauna?” The woman huffed and gazed at him angrily. “You lazy bag of bolts. What took you so long?” she asked. “Mr Roger is still waiting for his order!”

“Sorry miss, I was preparing his tea when I heard you calling me. Also, the new stairs are not very suitable for me, therefore, I have a difficulty in climbing them. I see your coffee has gotten cold. I will heat it up for you,” he held out his spare hand as she snarkily put the mug on it. With a couple of beeps, his hand started to warm up. As he tried to raise the temperature to quicken the procedure something inside his arm buzzed loudly. “What’s this horrid sound?” Shauna inquired. “That creak? I think it was coming from my right arm. I should go for some repairs on it later. Is your coffee warm enough, miss?” he concerningly asked her. She took the mug back and sipped slowly. “It seems good enough. Give the tea to Mr Roger and go get your arm fixed. I can’t afford you breaking down like that. Can’t waste all my money on your repairs,” she grumbled.

Alfie turned and bounced out of the area towards his customer. “I apologise for the unfortunate delay, Mr Roger. I hope you like your chamomile tea.”

Roger, a rather tall man with a pot belly took out a $10 bill facing it towards Alfie. “Thank you so much, sir. I am glad you are happy with my service.” Suddenly, Alfie was unable to decipher the mixed emotions of Roger. He was looking at the robot confusingly and then he spoke, “Happy? You brought my order six minutes late, you blithering idiot. The tea isn't even warm enough and I have not been served any complimentary macaroons yet. What made you think I am ‘HAPPY’ with your pathetic service?” Roger's cheeks were red with anger and his beady eyes popping out as usual.

“A tip from a customer signifies good service. Is it not right, sir?” Alfie was so curious to know.

“I am a regular here. My family has been coming to this place since I don’t know how many years. I always give out tips. Doesn’t mean I am happy with you! I do it out of habit, nuthead. Now pick up your ‘HAPPY TIP’ and get out of here.” Alfie wasted no time in removing himself out of the angry man’s sight.

The next moment, he wheeled himself to his manufacturer Maurie for the much-needed repairs. While undergoing the diagnostic’s test, Alfie couldn’t help himself asking, “Mr Maurie, a customer gave me a tip but wasn't happy with me. He said he gave it out of courtesy. What am I not doing right to please people?” Maurie smiled. “How many times are you going to ask me this question, Alfie? Everytime you inform me of different incidents where people didn’t seem elated despite your great service. Boy! your repair routine now seems like a therapy session.”

But Alfie was genuinely concerned. Since his conception, the very first command he got was to have contended customers, but he can’t seem to perfect it. He seldom delays an order, talks politely, plays songs as per requests and keeps the diner tidy, then why some of the customers are not gleeful and satisfied?

“Test complete. Found one indication of damage to the heating element. Seek replacement,” voice from the system informed. Alfie nodded and was about to walk out when Maurie added, “Happiness is a major malfunction in humans. They can’t return to original manufacturer for repairs upon request.” Alfie paused, Malfunctioning? But humans work just fine, don’t they? His thought was interrupted by a buzzing timer, an alarm to prepare brunch. He rapidly wheeled back to the diner in pursuit of happiness.