Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Mild Mannered Architect Changes a Reservation

Sometimes an architect has to change their approach when working with others to build a consensus. Sometimes we have to use these skills outside of a classic “architectural conversation.”

If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, you might not fully appreciate the complexity of managing the inflow of customers, table sizes, waiter workload, and reservations. For instance, if three parties come in at roughly the same time, a party of three, a party of four, and a party of 10; how would you seat them if you only had two adjoining tables of five available?

This might seem to be a simple case of first-come first serve, but ask any restaurant manager and they’ll tell you it isn’t that simple.

You can therefore imagine my utter fascination / contempt for the women with the advanced education in third grade mathematics who answered the phone last week at my favorite fine eatery.

I had a simple request. Mind numbingly simple I thought. Here is how the conversation unfolded.

Math-challenged hostess: “Thank you for calling Seafood R Us Emporium; we have mortgage plans for most of our dining selections. How may I help you?”
Mild Mannered Enterprise Architect: “Hi, this is Eric Meredith; I called yesterday and made a reservation for five people at 6:00 tonight. I’d like to change the reservation to four people, and move it to 6:30.”

MCH: “Certainly Mr. Meredith, first let me see if we have any tables that can accommodate your party.”
MMEA: “Wha...?”

At this point, several neural connections have spontaneously combusted, and my ears begin to throb. Before I can speak, she responds.

MCH: “Good luck we can seat your party of four at 6:00. Let me see if we have anything available for 6:30.”
MMEA: “Wha... but... wouldn’t...”

MCH: “Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Meredith; we don’t have any tables available at 6:30.”

Pain courses through my corpus callosum sending lightning bolts between parietal lobes. My left eye is bleeding. Maybe if I give her a hint, and by hint I mean give her the answer.

MMEA: “Sure you have a table available; mine”
MCH: Chuckling, “That’s funny Mr. Meredith, but no I’m sorry, we have nothing available.”

I realize she actually doesn’t see the illogic of her comment. I quickly try to calculate the odds that she thinks that my party of five was going to show up at 6:00 and would have exited the restaurant by 6:25, and thus my table was already spoken for at 6:30. As this is not Wendy’s, she could not possibly anticipate my 6:00 table would be available before 7:30.

Executive brain function kicks in, and I decide to change tactics.

MMEA: “What if we left my reservation for 6:00, and I happened to be a little late?”
MCH: “Oh that would be fine sir. If you are delayed by more than half an hour, just call and we’ll hold your reservation.”

I’m reasonably sure that I didn’t stand speechlessly blinking for 45 minutes; but the mind’s ability to sense time is disrupted during seizures, I can’t actually know. I think I stammered, “Excellent, that would be great.” before hanging up.

Sometimes us architects have to change our strategy to accomplish an important goal.

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