This is probably the most pointless post I’ve ever written. No, really. You have been warned.
About once a week, I dine at a local greasy-spoon called King’s. After you place your order, the cashier hands you a plastic marker with a symbol on it, which you place on your table. If you’ve never been to King’s before, you might think your symbol is a number. After all, the symbols happen to look a lot like “43,” “86,” and so on. But in fact, the symbols are something else. For lack of a better word, they are totems.
You see, these markers do not correspond to any numerical sequence. They are handed out in random order. If the guy in front of you gets 62, you might get 17 or 74. They serve the sole purpose of identifying you as the person with a particular order. When an order comes up, the server looks at the symbol on the order slip, and then looks around the room to find a customer with a matching symbol on his marker. The symbols could as easily be flowers, stars, curlicues, and happy faces.
Despite its seemingly haphazard quality, King’s totem system works well enough. It has the advantage of not requiring manpower to reorder the totems after each use. And although I’ve never seen it happen, the totems’ number-like appearance might permit easier vocalization. If the customer with a specific totem can’t be found, I suppose yelling “fifty-two!” is preferable to yelling “flower with four petals and a leaf.” On the other hand, randomization of the number-like totems may sometimes result in similar totems appearing too close together. Customer 44 might angrily wonder why 46 got his meal before she did.
I don’t really have a point here. For some reason, I’m just amused by this system.