Last Saturday evening, my wife and I went out, together with a friend of ours, to one of our favourite eating places, one where the service is impeccable, the food excellent, and the atmosphere enhanced by the complete absence of massive television screens showing the latest sporting fixtures. I’m always fascinated to note that eating establishments bedecked with such screens always presume that their clientele want to watch some sort of sport. The channels offering all the other options – anything hints at culture of any sort – might as well not exist.
Anyway, there we were on Saturday night in this restaurant. It wasn’t particularly busy, but then it was relatively early, and it was wonderful to be able to relax in a quiet atmosphere devoid of the pandemonium of cacophonous voices and scurrying waiters and waitresses. (I refuse to use the term “waitron”, that dehumanised, automated monstrosity that labels everyone providing you with service as utterly genderless.) We had a drink before ordering. Some people at a table not far from ours began the technological rituals of paying, then left. At that juncture, there were perhaps three tables busy with various stages of the menu.
Our main course arrived, but there had been no significant influx of customers such as one would expect on a Saturday night. Then another group of customers left. I began to wonder whether they knew something about the place that we didn’t. Perhaps World War III had been declared while we were cheerfully chomping our way through our last supper? Then, to my relief, a couple walked in. We ate steadily; they grazed rapidly. By the time our bill came, we were the only ones left in the place. Perhaps the waitress knew something.
“Sir, it’s the rugby!”
Was she serious or was she teasing me? Could a game of rugby really explain why the restaurant was so delightfully empty? Then I remembered: the place has no TV. It seems most South Africans can’t eat, drink, or talk without a plasma screen thundering away.
I still have no idea what teams were playing.