Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXII No. 24, April 1-15, 2023
You: (calling up Long-Suffering-Offspring): Hullo, nice lunch place you suggested for me and your aunts today.
L.S.O (self-defense mode snapped on): Now what?
You: Such a problem we all had. Didn’t know how to order. Those patchy-messy, Rorschach-type thingies.
You: KO, more like. Aunt Drama-Queen had a mini melt-down, and began speechifying about how this is why she hates stepping out of the house these days as life is too difficult for our generation, with even credit cards becoming obsolete what with all this This-Pay and That-Pay, and in any case all she needs is a little toast and a glass of mostly tepid water because not one flask in her house stays warm, and she, (unlike certain other people who shall remain unnamed but are at this table) doesn’t have her children living in the same town, or even country as her, you see, and it amazes her how some people just don’t know how lucky they are, and while this background score rumbled on, your Aunt I-Know-Everything (I swear, that woman never runs out of self-akshathai) tried to prove she can handle the squiggles, but couldn’t (obviously), plus wasted 20 minutes arguing with the younglings at the bistro (how’s that for fancy-schmancy?) who were more than willing to help, but she wouldn’t listen, then finally blamed her cell phone for not bending the right way. Is that even a thing? Finally, the bill-person found an old menu hidden in the third drawer of her desk and brought it to us, by which time everyone was frazzled and nervy and ended up having too much dessert. Next time…
L.S.O: (exhausted but firm) No. No next time. You just stick to good old Tried-and-Proven Sapad Bhavana Vilas or whatever, with the same menu over decades… literally, because the last time you got the very one you had spilt sambar over two weeks earlier. Remember? You said you recognised that peculiar-shaped stain.
You: So basically, you are both a snob and a foodist. But why can’t…
L.S.O: Sorry, Ma, getting another call. Talk later.
The ‘Why?’ however remains.
Why can’t we go back? Back to those wonderful, far-off days when acolytes either ceremoniously or hurriedly placed menus in your hands?
Yes, systems had to be revamped during the pandemic. All that no-contact stuff.
Look, as it is those pesky screens are everywhere. But having to peer at them while deciding what to eat? ‘Scrolling’ up, ‘scrolling’ down, forgetting where you saw what?
Doesn’t spending so much time poring over screens completely ruin family connectivity (touch of irony there) which is the whole point of a dining-out exercise? Incidentally, what about all that lecturing on ‘no screens at the table’, when that’s precisely what’s going to put food on said table?
Nightmare situations – extreme hunger pangs, and no network.
Or, having been subjected to endless messaging and aimless surfing for hours, your phone chokes and dies on you at the precise moment a yummy-looking list of dishes you want to plunge into rises magically from the squiggles.
In addition, this system demands a sacrifice – a scapegoat – upon whom, for having committed the crime of understanding techie-stuff, the mantle of Chief Menu Handler falls. This poor soul is now like a traffic cop…or maestro… conducting the comings and goings of food. Tough job, as very few groups can handle the what-to-order process in a harmonious, smooth manner. No wonder some ‘sacrifices’ feel the only reason they are included in dining-out plans is because they are the only ones who can…er… crack the code. Hey, insecurities are never far away, people.
Now imagine accessing choices through a ‘portal’ that does not involve batteries or networks, which will never betray you by ‘not opening’ and doesn’t require at least one tech-savvy member in any given group… just pick up and read. Paper. Print. Remember?
People are out more; dining spaces are packed. Half the fun lies in poring over menus, sharing, going back and forth…somehow a small screen is not quite the same.
It isn’t just food, is it, with these pesky codes? They’re everywhere. The other day, a well-known theatre group staged a play where all tickets were via QR codes. All very zeitgeist and tech-enabled… but – bunches of theatregoers who chose to do this as one big happy party were scrunched up on one code which apparently needed all parties to be present at the same time to be allowed in.
Why wasn’t the QR code sent to all members of any given group on their respective phones, you ask? No idea. But you’ll never forget the sight of one supremely harassed gentleman who had 16 people on his particular plate…or code. All he did for what must have seemed like hours, was stand sentinel next to the kid who was doing the scanning, calling up people and checking them off as they arrived. ‘Person one, person two, person three….’ All the while making frantic phone calls: ‘Where are you? Come soon. Stuck in traffic? Anna Nagar arrived. Porur and Thiruvanmiyur, not yet. Stuck in traffic. Neelankarai unreachable. Must be…”
Yep…stuck in traffic.
He was visibly older by the time the play began, and if anyone had subjected him to a chest X-ray at that point, the words ‘Stuck-in-traffic’ would have appeared, carved on his heart.
Oh, for the old days of reading menus, complaining of dim lights, or getting old-fashioned movie or play-tickets, (and misplacing them on the evening of the show and being spoken to sharply by the entire family) …those were the days.
Gen-Now will probably do that signature eyeroll of theirs at all this lamenting, but, much as you hate to admit it – Aunt Drama-Queen was right.
Getting tougher for those who either missed the techo-bus or were just too scared to get on board in the first place.
(Note to Editor: No QR codes were hurt during the writing of this article, and the author distances herself from any and all technical errors, pleading sheer ignorance…which is still not a crime in this country, when last checked.)