I had the pleasure of being at the Bad Manners gig in Edinburgh on Friday. Being a purveyor of ska music, for me Buster Bloodvessel and the band were a must see and they didn't disappoint. A hugely enjoyable end to a difficult week.
Before the gig, I went for something to eat with The Girl From Granton to Jimmy Chungs. I love Chinese food and this seemed the perfect way to begin the evening. The food was good, as is usually the case at Jimmy Chungs. However, it is yet another sign of my advancing years that the experience summed up the lack of etiquette and dropping of standards of society today.
As is customary with Chinese buffet establishments, we were greeted not with a 'Good evening, sir and madam, would you care to be seated?' but with a grunt and 'table for two is it?' After being served with our drinks, we were left - as is customary nowadays with the 'help yourself to all you can eat culture' to, erm, help ourselves. Now there are plus points to this. For one, you don't have to wait for what can seem an eternity for your meal - I've been in some restaurants where it's been 45 minutes from having my order taken to actually having my meal served. However, there's something rather disconcerting to the Auld Reekie Ranter about the dogfight to helping yourself to the food on offer at buffet establishments. Everyone seems to be in so much of a rush these days. In restaurants, there's something atmospheric about sitting down, choosing what you want to eat and then conversing with your accomplice about anything that takes your fancy. The art of conversation can be uplifting and invigorating (depending on the company) However, at establishments like Jimmy Chungs, no sooner are you shown to your seat and take your jacket off, you're off to join the dogfight for food.
The 'all you can eat for a fixed price' philosophy, also sums up society today. People pile food on to their plates before scuttling back to their table and shuffling it down their throats. It seems like no time at all has passed before they are up again, piling more food on to their plate before darting back to their table. At Jimmy Chungs, it seemed to me there were more than one pair of Chinese eyes watching my every move, for as soon as my plate was empty there was a hand on my my plate with a curt 'are you finished?' before snatching it away. I suspect there may have been a shortage of crockery...
As if the rapid eating practice wasn't alarming enough, I was dismayed to see two giant television screens at the restaurant. This enabled people to watch whatever was on BBC1 at the time. My heart sank a little at this discovery. It's bad enough that many people can't spend an hour without their mobile phones whilst eating - the amount of people texting etc. with their mobile devices while in the company of others was bad enough - but now Jimmy Chungs seem to believe we also need television to stare at while simultaneously texting and scoffing Chinese food down our throats.
Yes, I know I'm old fashioned. I just prefer to sit down to a meal that has been served specifically with me in mind and not have to leave my table every five minutes. Or be distracted by mobile phones, whether mine or someone else's (mobiles have off buttons, for goodness sake) Or have a man in a suit delivering more bad news on a big screen.
The art of eating out, it seems, is much like the rest of life these days - not what it used to be. And, like so many other aspects of living in the modern, instant communication, must have everything quickly world of today, that is really quite sad.