Monday, May 17, 2010

Indian territory

Another little anthropological exercise, this one derived from an imagined receipt for subcontinental cuisine, dated next year (but discovered much later).

The slip of paper, approximately 4 cu by 9 cu, fluttered to the ground upon opening the printbook, Grand Expectations, a 27 series text on usan society in the hegemonic period (26). The slip was badly faded, but simple inkling techniques restored the typography, which came from a dining establishment called "The Taj Mahal," coordinates "525 Three Springs Road Bowling Green Kentucky 42104," which would have placed this establishment in southcentral usa. Date coding on the slip indicates origination on "February 12, 2012."

This little document proved quite a distraction from the printbook that was to be the focus of the day's work. There was a substantial amount of digital coding on the slip, apparently invoice management and payment methodology. Of the most interest, however, was the hand-generated data, evidence of direct handling by the purchaser of foodstuffs. This data was part of a column of figures. At the top to the left reads the words, "2 lunch buffet," and to the right the notation $21.90 (all figures usd). In the second tier of this column is the word "tax," and to the right, $1.31, which amounts to 6% of the base price of the transaction. In the third tier left of the column is the word "tip," and next to that is the hand-etched figure $4.60, which represents 19.8% of the base/tax total. At the bottom left of the column is the word TOTAL; the sum of all these figures is $27.81. Under the figure is the notation "A. Hanks," which would appear to be the usan who paid the fee. At the very bottom of the slip, in the center, are the words CUSTOMER COPY, suggesting incomplete digital integration of this transaction for A. Hanks (though not, one assumes, its purveyor or finance agency).

Perhaps the most surprising revelation of this document is the segmentation of the purchase price. Late usans were highly tax averse, yet such a levy is explicitly a part of what one surmises is a fairly typical transaction. Even more surprising is the "tip," which translates to a bribe, apparently paid to an agent who assisted in the delivery of the meal (this may explain the identifier "Kathy K" which appears near the top of the slip, though it typically in the nature of a buffet that recipients access food themselves). Such forms of casual corruption were not uncommon in the westpheric civilizations, though the practice was reputedly widespread among the usans, reflecting the extreme degree of unregulated trade that characterized the conduct of managers, workers, and customers.

It is difficult to discern the socioeconomic level of the clientele for this establishment, though $10.95 usd (approximately 111 cu) would not appear be an especially high price for an usan midday meal. It is of note that the name "Taj Mahal" is indicative of subcontinental cuisine, suggesting the degree to which at least a pretense of international fare was available on an unremarkable basis in provincial usan society. It is difficult to resist speculation on what prompted A. Hanks and his companion to indulge in this pastime. Was it part of a larger commercial transaction? A leisure event? A matrimonial habit? How long did this meal last? What items were included in the "buffet?" There is no indication of beverages; perhaps the duo drank water? (No separate charge for that? Perhaps this is a hint of the role of "Kathy K.")

Before returning to the task at hand, which is of course datascan analysis of the printbook Grand Expectations, perhaps we can indulge in a moment of imaginative fancy. We can picture A. Hanks with the imaged companion of our choice. Their water glasses are full; the curry is still on their plates. The walls still have Mughal themes; the building is still standing. A political entity with the name Bowling Green Kentucky still exists. A small slip of paper, the sole survivor of that moment, conjures a world. Not an especially remarkable world, perhaps. Except that it once was.