Sunday, June 26, 2011

Over Cracker Barrel

by J.S. Holland

My pal Carla and I stuck our beaks into Cracker Barrel a couple days ago, and it was immediately evident that a lot has changed around the old roadside cornpone eathouse. Firstly, they had a bunch of their tack from the gift shop dragged out front for a sidewalk sale, with not one but two brown-aproned gals greeting you and urging you to stop and check out the amazing bargains before you go in. Seemed a little too hard-sell for the Barrel, thought I, but OK.

Then when we got inside, we encountered another greeter, who again pointed out that they have all kinds of exciting crap for sale in the gift shop. Okay, okay, crackers, I get it, I get it. Funny thing is, then when we got to the actual podium where you say "party of two" and they tell you there'll be a 20 minute wait, there was nobody there. Too many greeters and not enough cashiers!

Once we got our table and grub, I was saddened to see that the economic hard times has resulted in some severe cutbacks at the ol' C.B. and it ain't pretty. Their pancakes, once huge and clearly for-real with irregular crispy edges, are now the same lame perfectly-formed pre-made little flapjacks that they serve at Denny's, McDonald's, and Hell. Their sausage patties are now tiny pucks with about the same circumference as a can of Fancy Feast cat food. And the side order of french fries, formerly served copiously on a plate, was a bowl with about ten fries sticking out of it. I kid you not.

I didn't come here to gripe about all of this, however. No, what really appalled me is that Crackle Berra, supposedly the epitome of old-fashioned living and values, has jumped on the bandwagon of cyber-stalky technocracy with the rest of you data-packet-pushing chimps. According to this sign placed on all the tables, they're proudly announcing that they've finally caught up with the rest of the world and joined Facebook, like, big whoopty doo. Even more sad and embarrassing, they're actually requesting you to click "like" on them. The only thing more pathetic than having a "like" button in the first place, is to actually beg people to click it.

But it's not enough that they've gotten the figurative mark of the beast by getting all Facebooky with it; they actually have gleefully accepted the literal mark of the beast, the QR Code. I don't follow this nonsense myself, but apparently if you have a smartphone, you can actually use it as a bar-code reader, and these here QR Codes (which look like a Wordpress user avatar), once scanned, can do all sorts of useless, pointless things. (Example: Kylie Minogue's music video for her 2010 single, "All The Lovers", featured an on-screen QR Code which allowed you to point your iPhone at the TV and decode the word "LOVE". Big whoop.) Many companies now use them in billboards so that people can access websites, messages, and info on their phone simply by pointing it at the billboard, even while driving. In other words, more useless information and more ads that very dumb people and their very smart phones will happily embrace just because the technology that delivers it is the gadget novelty du jour.

When you point your smartphone at the QR Code on this Cracker Barrel sign, guess what it does? It takes you to their Facebook. Wow. Golly gee, grampa, that's really somethin'. All the kids are really gonna think you're hep now. Instead of spending cash on this purposeless gimmick, why don't you put that money back into the quality of the food?

Hank Williams played over the loudspeakers as I left the restaurant. Can you imagine going back in time and trying to explain all this bullshit to Hank? "I don't b'leeve I care for any of that, boys, if it's all the same with you I think I still prefer to just go ahead and die in the back of my Caddy. Thanks, though."

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