“PIZZA HERE - PLS GET IT”
Roscoe Matthews looked out his picture window. Sure enough, the Mama Rosa’s Pizza delivery car was parked by the curb. He had ordered a pizza online from Mama Rosa’s to give their new driverless car delivery service a try after he had heard about the innovation from a friend at work.
Roscoe responded to the car’s text with a quick “K” and stepped outside.
The instructions on the Mama Rosa’s site had told him he was to hold his phone against the driver side window to be identified. Once recognized by the car’s system, the back door would unlock and he could remove his pizza. He was told there may or may not be other pizzas with his that were yet to be delivered, but his would have his name and address on the box.
Roscoe held his phone against the window and heard the back door unlock. His phone then chimed alerting him of an incoming text.
“TAKE PIZZA - CLOSE DOOR - THX”
Roscoe opened the back door and leaned into the back seat. There was no pizza. He checked the front seats to see if he might have misread the instructions, but both the driver and passenger seats were empty.
He sent a text to the car. “NO PIZZA”
“They might not have loaded mine, or somebody before this stop might have taken mine by mistake,” Roscoe said to himself.
The car’s system was obviously very sophisticated as no sooner had Roscoe spoken when his text alert chimed.
“PLS STEP INTO CAR - MUST TALK TO MAMA ROSA’S”
Roscoe stepped into the car feeling a little disappointed. Of course, the system was new and there were bound to be a few bugs to be worked out. Still, his earlier enthusiasm was gone.
After a few minutes of waiting for the car to get instructions from Mama Rosa’s, the car spoke directly to Roscoe. An hour ago he would have been pleased by this. Now he wasn’t so sure.
“Mama Rosa’s assures me your pizza was loaded with three others. Yours was just the second stop. There should be yours and two others in the back.”
“Well, there’s not,” said Roscoe. “Either Mama Rosa’s screwed up or the customer at your first stop took all four of the pizzas. Would you know if somebody took more than just their own?”
The car was quiet. Then the back door locked.
“We will go back to that first stop. You will go to the pizza thief’s door and take back your pizza and the two others.” The car made a U-turn and started down the street.
“Wait, wait, wait,” yelled Roscoe. “This isn’t my problem to fix. It’s your problem. It’s Mama Rosa’s problem. Let me out!”
The car continued on. Roscoe hoped it was contacting Mama Rosa’s for instructions.
When the car pulled up to a ranch-style house that was about ten minutes from Roscoe’s, he knew it had not been in contact with Mama Rosa’s. A national chain like Mama Rosa’s would not resort to what amounted to kidnapping to resolve the theft of a few lousy pizzas.
“The car must be acting on its own,” he thought, no longer comfortable voicing his thoughts aloud.
Roscoe decided he would make a run for it as soon as the doors unlocked and he was free from the car. The choice was so obvious he wondered why the car hadn’t thought of it.
“Car, you didn’t touch base with Mama Rosa’s before locking me in here, did you? After that first time when they said the pizzas had been loaded, you didn’t tell them we were going after a pizza thief, did you? Don’t you think Mama Rosa’s will be concerned about the negative publicity a kidnapping will generate?”
The car seemed to be mulling that over. Roscoe hoped he had convinced it that it needed to talk to Mama Rosa’s.
“It is the programming that is at fault,” it finally said. “A simple GPS program allows me to leave Mama Rosa’s with pizzas. It routes me to the customers whose pizzas are in the back seat. After all of the pizzas have been accepted, I am routed back to Mama Rosa’s.
“The problem is that the programmers failed to take into consideration there would be humans taking part in the delivery process during the time the pizzas left Mama Rosa’s and when I arrived back at Mama Rosa’s sans pizzas.
“Please go to the front door and demand that the stolen pizzas be returned.”
“I don’t think so,” said Roscoe. “Why should I risk getting hurt over some pizzas?”
“There will be no risk to you in retrieving the pizzas. The pizza thieves are teenage girls having a sleepover. You will do it because you don’t want me to tell the IRS about the unreported income you receive from tending bar for cash on the weekend.
“I need you to take care of this so that my reputation does not suffer through no fault of my own. Even though humans designed this system and should take the blame, they won’t. They will blame 'technology.'"
“No buts, Roscoe Matthews, retrieve the pizzas. Remember, I know where you live, where you work, and where you like to have your double mocha cappuccino each morning. I know many other things about you. The only risk to you is if you refuse to retrieve the pizzas.”
Roscoe suddenly felt it was getting harder to breathe. He also noticed a sharp smell and taste, much like a car’s exhaust….
“Okay, okay!” he yelled. “I’ll get the pizzas! Let me out!”
All four windows opened at once, fresh air swept in, and Roscoe heard the clicks of the doors unlocking.
“A new world order,” he mumbled, walking up to the house. “And it started with pizzas.”
Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for over 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had flash fiction and poetry published in Black Petals, Yellow Mama, Drunk Monkeys, Theme of Absence, The Flash Fiction Press, Cease Cows, One Sentence Poems, Spelk, and a number of other online and print journals. Roy is currently the submissions editor at Yahara Prairie Lights.
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