I just ordered (and ate) some fish and chips. I am Bengali, and so, as far as stereotypes go, I expect my deep-fried fish to be as good as Mitra Cafe’s or Apanjan’s. I know it cannot be as good, when it is not from either of those establishments, or from a Bengali eatery at all, for that matter. But, I can’t help it if my standards are high – the fish should be that fresh, that flavourful, that truly melt-in-the-mouth. There aren’t many things that can live up to advert-speak, but if you’ve already tasted heaven, you know you won’t be rating mere earthly morsels as highly.
But, I shall have to rate it. I ordered it on a food app, and my statistical dilemmas have already begun. And I’ve also gone through the profile of the restaurant, which posed yet another dialectical problem – they provide very detailed replies to your relatively casual critiques. Imagine trolls, but those that actually make sense. Normally, these are people I would not only support and stand by and possibly join, but champion with big fat tears in my eyes because they are hard to come by. We would be comrades, for I’ve written many a detailed letter to all manners of companies and people, using the power of language and my sense of civic duty and justice to improve the quality of life, and right wrongs, and reward rights and so on. But, I’m not ready to take it.
I’ve been rated before, of course. I know what it is like. So have we all. We’ve all let our scores in schoolwork or work or sport or hobbies or whatever it is we’ve ever had foisted our way that comes with an ABCDE or a 1*2**3***4****5***** tell us what we mean to the world, and how good we are for it. We all know that most of it isn’t fair, or accurate, or even useful. And yet, we continually find ourselves trapped in the system of handing out, or being handed, scores that possibly cannot reflect who or what it is.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love statistical analysis and all those things that, like all other science-y stuff, claim to explain the world as close to the truth as possible. I, myself, am more of a humanities person, so I do appreciate the paragraphs of wordy analysis underneath. Words are able to enunciate all the microtones between A and B, and 2** and 3***, and thus, provide you with some explanation as to why you’ve scored so and so, and what you could possibly do to score some more. The thing is, most of the time, I cannot, as the fish-and-chips-loving Brits would say, be arsed.
I’m generally generous. I try to keep a tab of my reading on Goodreads. I used to write quite snarky reviews before, but I don’t take myself so seriously anymore. If I find something truly extraordinary and personally affecting, it gets a five-star. If I admire its ambition and also gain something from it, it gets a four. If I don’t enjoy it but understand how others could, and how it could potentially influence others, it also gets four. The last two sentences carry different arguments, but they amount to the same rating. For further reference, I give a three-star to something that is not as well-written or useful, but not totally disposable either. I’ve never given a one-star, and only once did I give a two – which was to Richard Bach’s Illusions. One star for the central theme, and the other for the flying lessons.
As you can tell, my method for rating books – the only thing I think about the most out of all the things in my life – isn’t very scientific. Writing a book is such a hard thing to do (I’ve never managed to finish one), that I feel compassion for the writer even when it is badly written. I can’t even begin to comprehend all the factors that go into making and delivering food. If it is too spicy for me (and yes, I am one of those rare Indians who cannot handle spice), do I give it a lower rating? If it is stale, if it contains dead cockroaches or other members of the animal kingdom that are not meant to be there, then shouldn’t there be the option for a zero or a negative rating, for what could justify the one-star?
Even when you get a description of the rating, like in most Psychology questionnaires where you get a ‘most likely’, ‘almost never’, ‘sometimes’ etc., it doesn’t provide you with a foolproof answer either. Is there anybody reading this who has never said words like “I wish I were dead” or “Kill me now”? Assuming that was a rhetorical question, how are you then supposed to answer “Have you ever considered suicide”? Life’s a bit of a b*tch you see, who doesn’t want to take a break from it sometimes? But, that doesn’t answer the question or provide useful data to analyse. Let me put it this way, on a scale of one to ten, with one being the lowest, how likely are you to wish you weren’t here?
What if I just ate the book? I mean, what if I just read the book, and ate the food, no questions asked? That’s the whole reason I ordered on an app, because I can’t be fucked with a phone call or going outside and sitting at a table with a menu, trying to engage with a waiter who’d probably find me way too nervous to be a customer who needs to be served pronto. You can’t have your choice between statistics and a short essay. Ideally, you should do both, rate the thing, and write why you rated it so. Or risk the chance of being berated, as the restaurant I ordered from does to its customers. If you don’t participate in either, because you’d rather be kind and not say anything than say something unpleasant, or because you’re too busy to think about the thing you’re consuming then, well, you aren’t living your life fully, are you?
But, how unfully are you living it? On a scale of one to ten…or one to five if that’s too much…a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would do? No? Oh, as in no, you don’t want to tell me. I understand. It’s your democratic right not to share an opinion, of course….
Do you rate/review things? What’s your system? On a scale of one to two, how likely are you to not respond to these questions in the comments?