My mother, who recently turned 103, and I had an Indian Restaurant where we liked to have lunch. The moment we stepped through the door, steam rising from the kitchen, beckoned with aromatic fingers. Curry. Cumin. Saffron.
Too often, we were the shop’s only patrons. Not because the food wasn’t wonderful. It was. A line of takeout customers testified to that. They’d flash their credit cards at the register and scurry out, balancing their pyramid of cardboard boxes. Noting the inconvenience, I often wondered why these customers didn’t pull up a chair before one of the large bay windows and, for an hour, watch the world go by.
They never did. Perhaps they had conferences to attend or deadlines to meet. Too bad. Mixing lunch with business isn’t good for the digestion. In the end, the stomach has ways of making its complaints felt. And, in the end, the restaurant stopped opening for lunch. The proprietors concentrated on their dinner menu.
Why do we treat time as if it were gold, I wonder, hoarding it with an ever-increasing fever? In my blog, A Moveable Feast, I note the changes restaurants have made to accommodate this need to save time. Matching speed with distance, they send out couriers, hoping that when the meal arrives in its cardboard box, it will approximate one served on china.
Of course, their efforts have unintended consequences. Without realizing it, we are creating a new, indigent worker. Never doubt that those who brave rain, snow and sleet to bring food to our door are poorly paid. In fact, some customers even skip the gratuity. In New York City, apparently, 27% of the patrons do. (“Restaurants: The cost of instant gratification,” The Week, March 29, 2019, pg. 33.) Perhaps, they assume the tip is embedded in the delivery fee. It isn’t.
Despite these negatives, not to mention issues of recycling, people’s taste for cardboard meals is on the rise. In Seattle, a city big on delivered meals, the average household spends $2,520 a year for the convenience. (Ibid, pg. 33.)
Given what I’ve observed about this growing trend, I’m left with a simple question. Now that we’ve found another way to chase time, what shall we do with it should we ever catch it?