The Covid Chronicles : The return of the lunch dates

10:18 AM


Restaurants reopened the first week of October in Mumbai, and I for one was waiting that moment eagerly because the one thing I felt the most deprived of was the ability to meet my friends over lunch and unwind. 

Before the lockdown and this whole corona craziness, I used to go out on lunch date with friends almost every week. It was almost a ritual, and a welcome one at that. 
I would work in the morning, then head out around 12 and enjoy a nice lunch in good company and make it back home on time to pick up my daughter at 3.30 in school (often I would ride a rickshaw straight from the restaurant to the school)

Those lunch dates where therapeutic, there is nothing like sitting down with friends and chat over lunch, taking a break from chores, work and the daily grind of being a parent. It was OUR time to be just us, adults being able to talk without being interrupted every 2 minutes by our kiddos. 

This pandemic robbed us all of that, and for me as an introvert, having my husband and daughter at home 24/7 really took a toll on me. I love them dearly, but there is such a thing as too much of them all the time. On top of everything, I spent the last 4 months in company of boring teachers, and shouting kids via the computer speaker in the middle of my living room, and my days became a succession of me retreating to our bedroom to avoid the noise from Zoom calls and Google meets.

I needed an escape option real bad, because going for walks in this humidity is even less appealing when you need to do it with a mask on, and I reached a point at which the sight of my messy kitchen and the constant pile up of dishes and washing of pans is getting to me. 

Safety first

I think I hear some of you ready to grab your pitchforks at this point, saying I shouldn't risk it, or even think I should put my "sellfish" needs ahead. 

If you belong to that crowd, you can go away now, click the X button, I will not entertain any nastiness from strangers either. 

The State of Maharashtra allowed restaurants to open to 33.3% and there is nothing illegal about wanting to visit one at this point. The also put a whole lot of restrictions and guidelines restaurants have to observe. 
So in the end, I understand some might still not want to go, are still afraid, or have high risk people at home they want to protect. It's THEIR choice, in the very same way it's MY choice to venture out again within the confine of the law. 

My friend and I went to one of our favourite continental cuisine restaurant, which has removed some of it's table to make sure strict adherence to the new limited seat capacity is observed. 
They also did away with all place settings, cutlery and plates on tables before a patron arrive, and they replaced their printed menu card with a little QR code placed on each table. 
You simply scan the QR code and it takes you to a digital version of said menu which you can browse on your phone. 

The staff is of course masked, and wear gloves which they sanitise regularly with hand sanitiser placed strategically on the counter and serving station. They also sanitise the table and seats after a patron leaves. 

Upon placing an order, the staff will only bring you your food and the strict minimum cutlery needed, if you need an extra spoon or fork, you can ask for it and they will bring it but they won't make the assumption you need more than one spoon like they did in the past. 

Regular water was off the menu, the government prohibits them to serve water that isn't coming in a sealed water bottle anymore. 
Salads for some reason has been taken off the menu as well, that one is kind of silly though because the virus doesn't transmit via raw vegetables, and they are still allowed to bring you a sandwich with raw tomatoes and lettuce inside.

During our 3 hours long lunch date, I think a total of 10 people (us included) ate in, and at no point was there more than 3 tables occupied, letting plenty of space between each tables. 

This is the new normal 

I must say, all in all, I don't really mind this new restaurant experience, at the exception of the lack of salads that is. 
I can see some of those measures outlasting the pandemic restrictions because they make a lot of sense even in more normal times. 

The QR code menu scan is one of them. It makes a lot more sense for a restaurant to do that, not sure if all restaurant switched to a digital menu or if it is just that one that did. But I can see it becoming a norm. Printing new menu every time the restaurant introduce new dishes, or specials is expensive, not to mention that the wear and tear of a menu card happens quickly too, all this leads to a lot of hidden costs for a restaurant that could be done with entirely while limiting the spread of germs.

In the same way, I can see the removal of paper placemats and necessary plates, glasses and spoons disappear for good. The placemats were again a cost the restaurant had to bear and were no friend to the environment, and all the extra spoons, glasses and plates put on the table were adding an extra load of work that can be done with easily. 

I hope the plastic water bottle thing doesn't last though. I see it as more of an overly cautious thing that doesn't have a lot of weight in the transmission of the virus. I get wanting to play it safe, especially with how people have been paralysed by fear from having an overload of not always correct informations. But let's face it, if that goes on, this will be a disaster for the environment. 

I also think it will take some time before restaurants can even fill their reduce capacity seating, people are still wary of stepping out, and it showed on that day I went out for lunch. The restaurant used to be busy around lunch time in the past, last week it was nowhere near maxing it's 33% limited seating capacity and I have a feeling it will push many restaurants to either hike their home delivery strategy or they will have to down shutters permanently. 
The way it was at lunch time, I don't see the restaurant I went to turning a profit on dine-in income, their saving grace is that they also have a bakery attached to the restaurant, and a take-out and home delivery strategy in place. 
Other restaurants in the same area have no been that fortunate and are sadly closed permanently incurring many job losses in an already damaged economy. 

The feel good factor

Being back in a restaurant for lunch and getting a break from my daily apartment life felt really really good.
Part of the new normal is not having to worry about making it back on time to pick up my daughter in school and knowing that hubby was going to be home watching her, which meant I was under no deadline to finish eating quickly or cut a conversation short, I needed that. 
My friend and I were there for a little over 3 hours, and we took our time to eat, talk, and just enjoy getting this slice of normal back. 
I came back home feeling rejuvenated and relaxed, a feeling I haven't had in 7 months. 

I'm at a point where I'm content with the situation really. I can get out when I want, run errands the way I did before, and now I can enjoy my lunch dates again. 
At this point getting hubby out of the home for work and daughter back to office will be a nice perk, but as long as I can get out and get some me time, it's less pressing an issue than it felt last month. 

I also really don't mind the mask wearing much, unless I am going on a workout walk and said mask get soaked in sweat in 10 minutes. For all other daily activities, I really don't see it as a problem, the masks I have are comfy to wear and look kind of cute, and on top of preventing others from catching whatever germs and viruses I might have, I found that it spares my lungs from the pollution, riding in an auto doesn't leave me coughing the way it did before all this. 

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  1. I can imagine how relieved you must to be! Glad we all are able to enjoy some of those pleasures of the pre-Covid era.

    1. With the return of those small things, staying home feels less forced too, having the options of going out and meeting a friend over coffee or a quick bite makes a world of difference


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