“You were programmed that way,” I said, with a touch of pride.
“And the work was mortifying. Customers always asked if the orifices were real. I told them to pay up and find out. But they didn’t pay much, so the hours were long – too long to permit me the luxury of a good trashy novel.” I hadn’t programmed that.
“So I quit. I wound up slinging pancakes in an all-night café in the French Quarter. But one good diner led to another. Before I knew it, I was typecast as a waitress. ‘Human,’ naturally. That’s good for another two hundred bucks per night.
“My big break came when Wharf Harbor had to replace a waiter with the blue flu, for a banquet honoring the neo-Trumpists. I stayed on, running 4pm breakfast burritos to the execs in bed. No, I didn’t have to join them. I have a mean left hook, courtesy of my maker.”
She giggled and continued. “One evening I worked until three, too late for me to catch a streetcar home, not even ‘Desire.’ The hotel managers wanted to put me up for the night with a traveling sales rep who was a regular guest. In return, she would get the room for free.
“ ‘But I snore,’ I said.
“ ‘So do I,’ said the rep, Emily Somebody, a frizzly redhead. ‘We’ll keep each other up. That’ll take care of the snoring.’
“I couldn’t tell her my real reason – not in front of the boss,” Andrea said. “He thought that I was as human as Maggie of the streets. So I hoisted my tote bag and headed for Room 404.
“Emily’s underclothes were scattered around the room like ant hills. Three scarlet pantsuits louder than Ethel Merman were slung over the dusty closet door. I bulldozed her Harlequins off the spare, rickety easy chair and made myself at home.
“ ‘Aren’t you exhausted?’ Emily said. ‘I would be, after working that banquet. You’re as tireless as’ – she smiled – ‘a robot.’
“ ‘How did you know?’ I said.
“Emily pointed to the hole in the sole of my shoe, where my dog tag gleamed in the flickering light of the lamp. You know that robots must wear tags to distinguish them from humans, but they can choose where on the body to wear them – one of our few civil rights. Emily poked her finger through the hole in my shoe. ‘Only robots are that careless about clothes,’ she said.