So here we are. Today, even more of the Covid restrictions will fall away.
It hasn’t come a moment too soon for me and other no-longer-young folk.
We don’t need to wear masks, except indoors (when not eating, or at work and not interacting with others, or not at a karaoke outlet …).
We mostly won’t need to use to SafeEntry or TraceTogether apps our phones or on our tokens (except for larger places with more than 500 people …).
It is just as well as I have never been able to distinguish between TraceTogether and SafeEntry. It has been patiently explained to me repeatedly that TraceTogether is to keep us informed if we have come into contact with infected folk, while SafeEntry is to allow entry safely so we know we do not come into contact with infected folk.
Or is it the other way around? For now, we won’t have to worry about it, unless things take a turn for the worse.
I frequently forget to check out, and I have waited anxiously to see if my error led me to become a “close contact” of some infected persons, but thankfully, it never came to that.
Some malls and supermarkets have been even more frustrating. They have installed some sort of plasticky human-free entryway on which you have to scan or tap your phone or token. There is no one to explain how it works. You sort of wave your phone vaguely over every part of the entryway which could conceivably have been set up for this purpose. Eventually, after a number of tries, and a queue of sighing people gathering in my wake, it opens and I can get it.
I usually mutter something inaudibly about technology and things not working properly or such like and walk away with as much dignity as I can muster. There is some shaking of heads at yet another older techo-incompetent.
What’s going to happen to all that equipment which I’m sure wasn’t cheap to install?
Right now, the TraceTogether app on my phone says “0 devices nearby”, which sounds about right. At home, my phone often says something like “1-5 devices nearby”. With all the money spent on the technology, I am astounded that it doesn’t know with absolute precision. it has to guess like mere mortals like us? That last bit of bumbling along is somewhat reassuring.
On the other hand, my phone now also says “1,019 total exchanges today” which is plainly delusional. It is 8.45 am and I have not met or even passed 50 people on the way to the office. (Yes, astonishingly, I work at a physical office and I like it.)
With Covid, there have been fewer staff at restaurants, and even fewer physical menus. The fear apparently is by touching a menu I may get infected or transmit infection. Instead, there is an ubiquitous QR code somewhere on the table. Clean and modern. The theory is that I am meant to breezily scan the QR code and order my food. No bother. No fuss. But it is anything but.
I scan the QR code on my phone. It displays a link. I click on that link, and it calls out a menu in microscopic font of the sort preferred by banks, insurance companies and the exclusion clauses on the less reputable lucky draw operators.
I pinch the menu on my phone to expand it to a civilized, adult, size. By then, I can only read just a small portion of the menu and it takes an eternity to make a proper choice from the entire menu. The menu is invariably written by a spotty teenager or techno geek with no sense of humour and an axe to grind with older people to boot. That is if I can read the menu at all. Frequently, the minute font is accompanied with weak lighting or flickering candles — ‘romantic’ I am told — to ensure I cannot read anything.
I summon a server (not sure “waiter” is permissible anymore) and ask for a physical menu. Sometimes they can eventually extricate one from the bowels of the restaurant. Other times, the server has had to read the menu to me from my phone as if to some pre-literate child. (Don’t get me started when I try to pay sensibly with cash which never crashes.)
I see rejoicing online on the lifting of restrictions. I am less confident. “Wait and see” is my motto now. I have heard too much of what is laughably called the “new normal”. As far as I can tell, it is the good “old” normal without the good bits; a sort of normal lite.
I am bracing myself for the age of the QR code. My attempt at a fightback with a large folding phone might not be enough.
Tilting at windmills feels so old hat.