Frustrated when technology encroaches on my social life 

Joseph Bulmer

Shelley Szender is a presenter with Torbay Hospital Radio, poet, comedian and a writer:

They say that every day is a 'school day'.

Did you know 'QR' in QR codes stands for ‘quick response’ and was invented in 1994. That’s as old as my firstborn and heir.

Over the last 18 months QR codes have become synonymous with ‘track and trace’.

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for modern technology and I don’t class myself as a luddite. I use computers in my daily work life and as a presenter with Torbay Hospital Radio I have grappled with the newly installed digital broadcasting desk and have dabbled in a little bit of sound engineering.

But when technology encroaches on my social life it leaves one a tadge frustrated.

A few weekends ago some friends and I went for lunch on the quay at Exeter.

The weather brightened up after a grey, gloomy July morning and a good afternoon of bonhomie and riparian entertainment beckoned.

The young whipper-snapper of the coterie was the last to arrive, zapped the QR code and before you could say ‘Quick Draw McGraw’ she was gormandising on her bonnes bouches.

However, the ‘Golden Girls’ weren’t even out of the traps.

Of course, there was the customary deliberation of what we were going to drink, lots of ums, errs and I don’t know but after a while we had made our decisions.

So, here comes the tricky bit!  We duly aligned said mobile over the QR code, up popped the drinks menu we confirmed our drinks, email address, name, postcode, address, blood group, inside leg measurement and provided a saliva sample!

We went to pay with Apple Pay, the first hurdle. Could not find that facility. I had cash. My friend came to the rescue with her bank card and our drinks arrived.

High five!

Process was repeated for another round and we were on a roll! We got this! Until our stomachs started gurgling and bubbling once more into the breach of the depths of the QR code!

After a couple of aborted attempts - my fault, I’m a coeliac and couldn't fathom out to make mine gluten free and I fancied some sun-dried tomatoes on my harissa lamb pizza.

The alcoholic beverages were working their magic, the conversation was flowing although a little slurred and merriment ensued until we suddenly realised we had not received our rations.

Emails were checked, we had definitely ordered our solids. We managed to catch the eye of the garcon and had our first real interaction with another human who trundled off into the depths of the scullery.

Hey presto and a wave of Harry Potter’s wand and our luncheon was served!

Later in the afternoon my friend was then contacted by her bank as there had been some unusual activity with her account.

A code was sent to her mobile and the gatekeeper of the purses released funds and a few more rounds of drinks were ordered and by late afternoon/early evening we decided to throw in the towel and head home to the land of slumber.

I had a great day with friends but to be honest ordering food and drink via a QR code took the spontaneity out of a social gathering.

It felt very robotic and there was zero banter with a QR code. Even the most tech-savvy friends - no names mentioned - were in a well-known pub chain in Paignton which at one point had two fine hostelries in the town.

My friends were sitting in the pub in Torbay Road while their food was being served in the pub in Torquay Road.

I also know loads of ‘silver surfers’ who are techno whizz-kids but for those who are not it would be so isolating for them and we have certainly had enough of that lately!