Stephen Ayers

Technology in the hospitality industry. A nightmare or a dream?

The dream: “I sat in the rental with my wife, hopelessly lost on the country roads of New England, the vivid fall colours of the leaves blowing across the windscreen as the wind took them from their trees.

We stopped to the side of the road and tried to make sense of the large map spread across her knees, pencil marks following the route I had mapped out for the day. It was no use, we did not have a clue as to where we were.

I wound down the window and let the fall breeze cool my face and fill the cabin in refreshing gusts of cool. ‘Let’s head to the next place we come across and ask them for directions,’ I said, as I pulled out onto that country road lined with trees on both sides full of colors of gold, yellow, orange and browns.

We smiled as we came upon a rundown restaurant somewhere in New England and drew up to the gravel covered entrance. It was obvious to me the second, no, fraction of a second, that they were deep frying everything on this particular autumn day. The oil hung in the air just waiting to settle on unwary customers that came through that door.

I got what I thought were my definitive answers on directions and headed back to the rental. The face my wife made while squeezing her nose with thumb and forefinger told me all I needed to know. I now stank of deep fry oil and was carrying the cloud around with me everywhere I went!

We burst out laughing, splitting our sides until there were no more tears to fall. Of course we continued to get lost that day but discovered this great little diner for lunch. More laughter as everyone dining in the place thought a giant bag of French fries had just through the door. I ordered a large fries and whenever diners turned to look for the overpowering smell of deep fries I just raised my eyebrows and pointed lamely to my food.

For the rest of that vacation I became known as Mr. Deep Fry.”

A nightmare or a dream? A dream or a nightmare? For the Millennials being tech-free would no doubt be a nightmare, for me it was a true dream. That was then and this is now. Is it better? In many ways of course it is, but in some ways it has brought slavery and addiction to technology.

The latest iPhone is new on the market, touting all sorts of new qualities like facial recognition instead of fingerprint technology, and boasting a front where the whole thing is a screen and ‘fully loaded’. All at the incredible price of CAD $1,300 over here in Toronto, and over £1,000 in the UK. TVs used to cost an arm and a leg but with time, have become smarter and cost less. Only the smartphones become more costly with every model launched, and yet probably everybody with $1,300 in their pockets will line up overnight and smile for the news guys for being the first to lay out that kind of cash for a small gadget that will go on to take over their lives.

The map we used to get lost with on that magical fall trip cost me, if I remember well, around $0.75 (45p). For that low price it took us on an adventure that we still remember fondly to this day. The laughter, the fall colours, the deep fry, being lost, all of it. How wonderful to be alone out there, no contact with anyone. Ah, the freedom of it! The poor map was folded so many times that in the end it literally fell apart in neat squares.

If I had had my cellphone with me then, map apps would have kept us on the straight and narrow. We would have got from A to B in luxurious air conditioning with no problem, but we would not have had the fun that freedom brought us; freedom from the shackles of the mobile phone, our alternative technological brain.

Today, I cannot imagine life without the damn thing. Ever since they came out I need to know that all the family is safe and fine – and at regular intervals. On vacation this turns to worry when we do not know what is happening at home or at work. The emails keep piling into the inbox. Whatsapp keeps bleeping, CNN keeps sending updates of ‘breaking news’, Google Maps keeps telling us turn by turn instructions, and half the vacation day is taken up just trying to keep up with the damn gadget.

So I just figure, after a lot of thought away from my mobile brain, that some people’s dreams are other people’s nightmares, and some people’s nightmares are other people’s dreams.

Me? I just loved being Mr. Deep Fry for that glorious, tech-free, fall day, and was so glad at being lost on the magical roads of New England.

This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of Hotel Owner

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