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Take Out

Being an early adopter can be good business.

I have a favorite place for Chinese carryout, located near a university campus. The place is clean, spacious, and nicely lit. And the food is always good.

But not the lunch buffet. Lunch buffets are a slop-line pretty much everywhere-mass quantities for quick consumption. However, if you order from the menu at this place, you are in for a treat.

When I say favorite, I mean I go there maybe once every two months. I’m not a regular. When I come in the door, they don’t hail me. I merely mean that I go there more than anywhere else.

So Tuesday night I called in an order for my family. Shrimp lo mein, spicy chicken with lemon grass, spring roll, and subgum chow mein for my mom, who has come to live with us.

When I arrived, the dinner hour was underway. Half the tables were filled. The dining room was full of clatter and chatter. And the reflection of the diners’ faces in the windows reminded me how much fun it can be to eat out with friends.

“Can I help you, sir?” the owner said. He stood before a dozen brown paper bags of piping hot carryout. I had seen him before, many times. But we had never had a conversation.

“Yes, I called in. Shrimp lo mein–“

The owner interrupted me with a display of apparent super-memory. “Shrimp lo mein, spicy chicken, spring roll, and subgum chow mein.” He pushed the bag toward me.

I smiled, because I know his trick. “You know, you were the first business I knew that used Caller ID. It has always amazed me when I would come in and you would know my name.”

“It’s good business,” the man said. “Save time. Save having to write everything down.”

“Well, to me it was like, supernatural. You knew who I was before I said anything.”

He laughed. “I enjoy doing that,” he admitted.

“May I ask, how did you become an early adapter? Are you a computer person?”

“Yes, I have been on the Net since 1995. I file taxes online. I do my investments online, through Charles Schwab.”

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