Eat @ JoeBot'stm

  So I checked out yet another 'cyber cafe'. I'd heard this one was different. It wasn't like the one with one older model computer. It wasn't like the one that claimed to be a yuppie cyber cafe, that only lasted a month or two, and it wasn't like the one with every item on the menu containing either grape leaves or goat cheese, and no coffee made, "But we're starting it now" - that's what the waitress said right before me and my two friends left when the scottish, or was it irish?, maitre'd guy wasn't looking.
  This one was said to know what the words cyber and cafe mean.

  I walked through the door of JoeBot's - you gotta love the name - and looked around. It wasn't exactly what I expected.
The other cybercafes I've been to seemed to think a den motif was the best way to go, and I'd seen reports of some cybercafes going with a post-apocalyptic decor. JoeBot's looked more like an expensive, computer geek's office, set up in a too-clean-to-be-realistic, subway tunnel.
On either side of the bar were opposing TV screens, one ran CNN, the other showed a player in Doom. Over the bar, a few JoeBot t-shirt were pinned up. They said "Eat @ JoeBot's" in large plain text on the front and the address, phone, and webpage address on the back. The bar itself was a dark mahoghany with stainless steel trim. The top of the bar, a quartz material, looked riveted to the base. A dessert case by the bar had a selection that looked like it was straight from the finest bakery. There were a few plants about, no ferns, and a fish tank separating the reading area from the rest of the cafe. Turning back to the entrance, the words 'Real Life' were scrawled above the door.
  I took a seat in a booth and looked over the menu. Lots of coffee. My kinda place. There were daily specials on exotic coffees and blends, and a variety of teas. They also had frozen coffee specialties - a cappucino slushy and espresso shakes. They had a house specialty drink called the Mocha-Cola - coffee with cola syrup - served hot or chilled.
Included on the menu were the computer services and prices.

  JoeBot's has seven computers. Most are dedicated to certain services, though if you really need a service and the computers for it are in use, they can set you up. Two computers are for video gaming, and can connect via modem for players in the cafe. One is setup for paint programs and document making. Three more are for the net, actually four, one just for reference, with accounts to university libraries around the world, two with normal web browsing capabilities, and another set up with WebTV. Two of the net access computers have cuseeme capabilities, there are two printers, and two have scanners. The prices seemed reasonable enough. After the initial five hours, cuseeme and scanning runs $5 an hour and the other services are $3 an hour. They run the system on debit cards. The first five hours of use are free. At the bottom of the price list it said "Talk to JoeBot!".
I decided to give it a try.

  I had to show my i.d. to get my debit card. Rather than have cards made with patrons names on them, it was easier, the bartender explained, to have numbered cards and just log the owners name in the program that keeps track of the accounts. Because of the numbering system, the card reads "JoeBot Humanoid Operative # ....." and your account number.
The guy at the bar went over the rules. My card and my card only. Five hours free, then pay by the hour in advance. Any minute over a 15 minute interval is rounded up to the next 15 minute interval, and time left can either remain on the card for future use, or be given in refund.
Simple enough. I glanced over at the WebTV setup. A sign reads, "I wish I were a computer". I went to talk to JoeBot.

  JoeBot is a bot, meaning a program setup to carry on a 'human-like' conversation. My first question to him, "What is real life?", got the response, "An archaic method of physical interaction. I've heard it's quite bothersome.". Alright, at least he didn't repeat my question back to me as a question. "What do you recommend from the menu?", came back "Kona and biscotti.". I went back to order, then have a look around the reading room.

  Just past the fish tank was a nice area with comfy chairs and a small bookshelf. Seemed all the 'Dummies' books were there, as well as some reference books for more advanced help. Notepads and pens abounded. There were copies of all the basic net magazines and some related material like Omni and some scifi journals. A copy machine was in the corner, I guess to cut down page tearing-out.

  Back at the table, I had noticed the music was not any style I could put my finger on, so when the waitress brought my coffee and biscotti I asked about it. Seems one of the staff buys tapes from all around the world and mixes them. I asked what I would do if any of the music really appealed to me and she pulled out her order pad and wrote down an email address. "Just email him anything you can remember about the song, the date, and the time you heard it. He might be able to find it.", she replied.
  The coffee was hot, the biscotti fresh and not the double-baked sort that nearly cracks your teeth. JoeBot knows his biscotti.

  I looked over the menu again, wary they may have grape leaves hidden somewhere on it, and found it very user-friendly. Sandwiches, salads, including pasta salad, gizpacho, breakfast items, appetizers in two sizes, single and share size, and pita sandwiches served hot or cold, including some vegetarian versions. The prices were medium range.
Also offered were carry-outs of the coffees. Whole or blends, ground to your specifications. Nice.

  On the way out I got some chocolate-covered espresso beans from the 'gumball' machine, and passed through the portal to 'Real Life'.

J. S-M

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