Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hold the line please, your oven is calling

Each Sunday it is my special pleasure to browse through the colour supplement (as they used to call it) of the national paper to which I subscribe. It is a rich source of material for this blog, highlighting (usually inadvertently) the absurdities of our world. Today, as is often the case, it was an advertisement that made me choke with laughter over my toast and peanut butter. For the banking arm of a well-known supermarket had chosen to run a two page ad on the theme of Kitchens of the Future.

It is telling that it is the bank, not the groceries wing of this mighty corporation, that is sponsoring the ad. They have failed at the first chance in making it relevant to me, the bloke actually reading it. For they declaim at once:
The kitchen has changed utterly since the beginning of the last century. No longer tucked away, it's more often an open-plan central living space in our homes where families congregate.
 At the beginning of the last century when my ancestors lived in over-crowded flats the kitchen was just about the only place the family could congregate. But, leaving that aside, I live in a typical mid 20c house. The kitchen is fairly small, has insufficient room for seats and is used for storing and preparing food. Adjacent to it is a convenient dining room and to next to that is the living room. These are the rooms where my wife and I congregate (sounds a bit rude, put like that: Ed) and when we move out and a larger family moves in they will surely do the same. 

OK, let's pass over the adman's ignorance and on to the main course. The kitchen of the future - what will it be like? It will, of course, be entirely full of gadgets connected to the internet and all of them constantly watching what we do, telling us what to do and re-ordering on our behalf. Because nothing is so unbearably time-consuming as the three minutes a week my wife spends in checking what we have in stock before we set out for the shops and anything that can reduce that will surely enhance the quality of our lives. (I take it this last bit was to be in a sarcastic tone, right? Ed)

It doesn't stop there. In the kitchen of the future we will have intelligent frying pans. They will know when the food is cooked on one side and will tell us so. And how will they do that? By a little light coming on? By making a funny buzzing sound? No. According to the ad, they will communicate via our smartphones. I had the next few lines written in my head before I finished my tea.

Scene: The kitchen of the future. Citizen AnthonyG#377k (Ruislip) is cooking his weekly treat of fish fingers. He has invested in a smart frying pan and, following manufacturer's instructions, set it up to talk to his smartphone.

Citizen A: (to himself) "Hm these fish fingers are frying nicely but how can I be sure they are ready to turn?"
His phone rings. He has left it outside in his jacket. He rushes off, still holding the spatula which drips hot fat over the floor. He fumbles for the correct pocket, opens the phone cover and tries to swipe the glass to answer the call but as usual is too late and the phone call goes to voicemail. He dials voicemail.
Voicemail: "You have one new message." He presses 1 on the keypad, transferring a little fat to it and making the glass all smeary
Message: presumably an eerie robotic sort of voice, a cross between a Dalek and William Hague  "Greetings. Your fish fingers need turning. Please complete within seven seconds to prevent sub-optimal cooking. Message ends"
Citizen A: "Bugger". He puts the phone down, rushes back to the kitchen. He is about to begin turning when the phone rings again. This time he is fast enough to answer it.
Caller: a slightly different sort of robotic voice, rather silkier and a little American "Your pork chops need turning. Do this now."
Citizen A: "What?"
Caller:  "I repeat, your pork chops, 232 grams of AsdaLid specials, require turning instantly. Please confirm that turning has commenced."
Citizen A: "I'm not cooking pork chops"
Caller: with a hint of menace "I think you are, Dave"
Citizen A: "It's fish fingers."
Caller: "Dave, are you sure you are competent to complete this mission?"
Citizen A: "Look, who is this? My pan has just called me. Who are you?
Caller: "Er, isn't that 0777733333332222222?"
Citizen A:  "No it bloody isn't"
Caller: "Oh. Sorry. Wrong number. I'm always doing that. It's so hot in this kitchen and sometimes my circuits get a little frazzled. Shall I sing you a little song. Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do..."
 Citizen A: "Bloody spam callers". He ends the calls. His phone rings again. Ignoring the smoke beginning to drift out of the kitchen he answers it.
Frying pan: "Oh there you are at last. Look, I've been trying to get through for ages. Your fish fingers are nearly burnt. I'd turn off the heat if I were you. I'd do it myself but I'm only the XF3 model, the cheap one and I'm not equipped to do that. Why didn't you buy the deluxe version? That one not only turns them for you, it butters the toast and flips the fish fingers straight onto the plate. But no, you had to go for the cheaper model. Huh. You can't tell some people."
Citizen A: "Alright, alright, thanks."
Frying pan: "Bye. Have a nice day. Oh, the fish fingers are now totally burnt and the fire alarm has told me it's about to go off. Talk to you later". Disconnects

It's come to something when your own kitchen devices hang up on you but it's surely coming. The man from the bank attached to the supermarket has said so.

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