Can that order for a carton of eggs wait?

By Purva Grover

We’re a home delivery generation, and that’s unlikely to change. So, here’s to more genies in our lives, who assist us with a necessity, comfort or luxury. But here’s also to us using the magic wand to call out for them, a little thoughtfully.

It’s 36 °C, summer is yet to arrive in Dubai. We’ve decided to go with calling this season ‘spring-ish’ for as long as we can. Not long enough, our armpits, amongst other things, are suggesting. A mirage on the roads is commonplace during this time of the year, as are migraines. The leaves of date palm trees would soon bow down to the harsh rays, but until then they’re standing tall, putting up a brave front as they draw relief from the water sprinklers. The crows are cackling at a volume lower than the usual, hiding in the narrow shadows formed at the crossroads.

I’m at a traffic signal, in my air-conditioned vehicle (just like most of you). Around me are four — no, five motorbikes. I am not into machines, so I can’t identify the bikes by the brands, models, year of manufacturing, et al. I identify them by the colours of delivery boxes fixed to the rear ends. I read the names painted on the boxes in big letters and bold colours; and the phone numbers of the associated brands in bolder hues and bigger typeface. Of supermarkets, coffee shops, pet stores, restaurants, shoe services, dry cleaners, and more.

I take a moment to watch these men. They are dressed identically, wearing tee-shirts in hues corresponding to that of the delivery boxes. There’s a glaring red, a vivid blue, a blazing green, a dazzling orange, and a beaming yellow. All glittering, courtesy of the harsh sun rays. These men are delivering stuff from destination A to B. Stuff, which can be categorised into a need and sometimes greed too.

Hot chicken curry with a portion of steamed rice. The clutch from a favourite brand’s Spring-Summer collection. A loaf of bread, a bottle of milk. A pack of cigarettes. Pad Thai in a box. A packet of batteries. A salad bowl. A pair of clean shoes. Three glasses of juice. A pack of crisps. A dozen apples. A box of detergent.

Irrespective of the time of the day, noon or evening, this is my view — from outside my home window or the rear view of my vehicle. Let’s call it the landscape of delivery.

We are not walking enthusiasts, we aren’t expected to be either. Our walking tracks are defined by the distance between the driveway and the doorstep. The sun is always at its pompous best hence we are better off inside. Of course, occasionally we run by the beach, jog in the neighbourhood park or take part in challenges. And yes, go to work. But that’s about it. We are not questioned about our walking habits. For indoors is where we belong, absolutely during the summer and mostly during the ‘winter’ and ‘spring-ish’ too. Still, we never miss anything in life. For everything is delivered to our doorstep. We often joke, “Dubai is a place where you can go about living your lives without leaving the house ever!” We click, call and message. We put our feet up. We are looked after, really well. We’re the home delivery generation.

Laundry. Lunch. Lipsticks. Pizzas. Plants. Perfumes. Crime, fantasy or romance. A title is dropped off and then picked up when we are on the last page. Standing in queues. Being put on hold by customer care executives. Lingering in waiting rooms: we detest them all. Many men and women work for us. ‘On our behalf’.  Soon, drones will.

I, like most of you, take pride in the system we’ve created — offering employment opportunities, providing necessities, and adding convenience to the lives of many. From errands to emergencies, numerous delivery services in Dubai have us covered, in every department.

But here’s a question for all of us. How often do we ask ourselves — do I need just a carton of eggs or can it wait until tomorrow? Perhaps, we can chalk out a grocery list. Maybe we can choose a better time to place an order, which is not 1pm or 1am. At work, many of us order our lunches from the same place. Why not check with our colleagues, if they too want to order in a salad, a sub, a juice, a coffee; and place one order? Sometimes, the items being delivered cost less than the fuel spent on delivering it. Add to it the manpower spent on the same.

A couple of weeks back, a friend ordered a tee-shirt via an online shopping portal, apparently at a discount. She was really looking forward to trying out this steal deal. A day later, when I was visiting her, she received an SMS, which read: Your personal stylist is on the way. An hour later, the doorbell rang and there stood a man, probably in his 20s, with beads of sweat on his forehead. His face a shade in red and his clothes wearing signs of perspiration. Standing tall and brave, as he drank a glass of cold water offered to him. Not the perfect picture of a personal stylist, right?

These services exist to smoothen the wrinkles in our daily lives. But, then getting a box of chocolates delivered to our doorstep in the middle of the night sucks up many resources too. Getting a no-cooking offer does come at the cost of perhaps the cooks getting paid less and less, if not a compromise on ingredients, hygiene, etc.

But my case is not to take an idealistic stance on it, rather a real, conscious one.

In my neighbourhood, within a radius of 1000m, four stores offer the service of 24-hour home delivery. You can call them up to place an order. They’ll come to your doorstep in the middle of the night, with a loaf of bread, a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of water, etc. The staff of these local, small neighbourhood stores use cycles or mopeds for delivery. I’ve spotted a man, riding the same, with a pack of tissue boxes; buy four, get one free.

Yes, it’s the men’s job to attend to our orders. And delivery should be about convenience, but whose and at what cost? This summer, perhaps we can add a twist to the culture of convenience as we attempt to order with a conscience. For remember, while your food is ‘looked after’ in the fibreglass boxes, the men with the gloves, scarves and full sleeve shirts aren’t really.

So, here’s to more genies in our lives, who assist us with a necessity, comfort or luxury. But here’s also to us using the magic wand to call out for them, a little thoughtfully.

Purva is a storyteller in search of her favourite word

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