UFV’s new campus restaurant opened today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. It doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday. Regardless, I had thought to dine there, for no particular reason other than that it was there, and that in this absurd and painful existence we’ve been helplessly thrown into, we have to munch on something every now and then.
The Camus is on the second floor of the Student Union Building, right above the Student Union Society. This day, the restaurant was filled with students, whose food and drink and chatter kept them ignorant of the reality that they are only distracting themselves from the inherent suffering and pure boredom of being alive.
I was seated in a corner — the perfect vantage point from which I could observe the patrons engaging in their absurd rituals of laughter and gossip. I asked for a French press, and hearing they only serve drip, I scoffed and went with water instead. I was taken equally aback when I was told that I shouldn’t be smoking inside. Fine. I then ordered a Godot burger with a side of fries.
The place looked nice enough. It was exceedingly well-lit, with a view of D building and the swamp beside it. When I saw dinner orders being taken to their tables, I marvelled at the plates first. The Camus serves their food on very nice plates. Perhaps that is why the food costs as much as it does.
However, the food cannot live up to the impossible standards of the plates, and I feel a sense of empathy for the food: here is the human condition in miniature, with food that will never truly meet its ideal expectations. For better or worse, the thing in itself will have to do.
The fries came pleasantly quickly, in a small basket. The basket resembled the kind you’d place in a deep fryer, only it’s smaller. Someone unable to finger the dismal pulse of the world might deign to call it “cute.”
I marvelled at the state of these things inside of the basket. They were potatoes once.
Are potatoes not unlike human beings? Are we not, in our own way, plucked from the womb of the earth, only to be carved up by the cruel knife of societal expectation? Are we forever condemned to be deep fried in the anguish and ennui of living?
I slathered ketchup and vinegar on my fries. I watched my waiter act so bereft of his own human freedom. Making small talk like a waiter, running tables like a waiter. Did he not see his Sisyphean plight — that in spite of his efforts, the customers would simply leave the restaurant, only to be replaced by more customers?
I despise such an inauthentic way of life. I devoured my fries.
When it came time to leave, I went to the front of the restaurant to pay up. It was at this moment that the heat from the kitchen was magnified by the heat of the dazzling sun, and that’s when everything began to reel. I felt the debit machine in my hand, and I pushed four buttons, unwittingly paying for a Godot burger that I never got to eat.
And it was like punching in the four-digit code to the bank account of unhappiness.