By John Toth
I recently went to eat out at lunchtime at a very crowded restaurant. When we were seated, it became obvious that talking and hearing was going to be difficult.
I kept telling my table mates that I couldn’t hear them. There was a group at a large table near us wearing company uniforms, and they were loud.
They were shouting over each other and letting out ear-shattering laughs, while the rest of us struggled to conduct a conversation without having to scream.
I have noticed that in my older years, I’ve been having trouble hearing people in noisy places, but this place was super noisy, thanks in part to the people wearing the same company uniforms near us.
This wasn’t the first time that I’ve walked into a restaurant where the noise level may have equaled that of a jet airliner taking off. I usually leave, but I was told the food there was supposed to be really good and inexpensive - drinks included in the price of lunch.
That’s unheard of these days. Soft drinks and tea usually cost another $2 to $3. So, I put up with the big mouths and stayed. I’m glad I did, because the food was very good. I’m a sucker for good Tex-Mex, and this was as Tex-Mex as it gets. I inhaled it and then cleaned off my plate.
I was hoping that the loudmouths would leave, because they got there before we did, but we left before them. I’m thinking that they wanted individual checks also. That takes a while. Meantime, they continued shouting.
I don’t know why restaurants don’t prepare for these types of situations with some sort of sound abatement or putting such parties in a separate room, if one is available.
I feel sorry for the servers, hosts and hostesses who have to stay in that environment for hours. I hope they regularly get their hearing checked.
A few days later, we tried another restaurant, again at lunchtime. This time, the people wearing the same clothes were not there. The floor, however, was concrete, and the ceiling exposed, with metal pipes and air ducts snaking across it.
We tried to get an outside table, where it was not as noisy, but that would have been another 40-minute wait, and we were all pretty hungry. So, we settled for an inside table, hoping that the noise would be tolerable.
It was horrible - again, even without the loudmouths in uniform. We gave it the old school try and then decided to leave. I apologized to the waiter. I hope he heard me over the noise. I tried to give him a consolatory tip, but he refused it. That was very nice of him, I thought.
The people around us didn’t seem to mind the noise. They were adding to it by speaking louder so that they could be heard. We then went to a nice food truck park and enjoyed a delicious lunch without the noise. We could actually hear each other without having to yell. And, the sunshine was refreshing.
If this sounds like I’m an old fogy, I can assure you that I am not opposed to all high-decibel events. I was a teenager in the 1970s. Loud music was inescapable. My first concert was in an auditorium where the band cranked it up so much that I had no idea how they could still hear anything after doing this each night.
I still enjoy that type of noise - noise with a purpose. But I do carry a pair of earplugs with me, just in case I need to save the remainder of my hearing.
There is one exception - when I am trying to talk business with someone, and the music strikes up in the room. The band may sound great, but there is business to be done, and the person I am talking to needs to hear me.
This actually happened to me recently. I tried to squeeze what I had to say in between the numbers the band performed, but it was hard. They finally took a break, and I could quit yelling. I woke up with my throat hurting and my voice hoarse the next morning.
Rock ‘n’ rollers in their 70s who still are touring - like the Rolling Stones - must have super tough or artificial eardrums. (Is there even such a thing as an artificial eardrum?) If they were to go into a super noisy restaurant, I wonder if they could hear what people around them are saying.
Probably not with a long table full of people wearing the same company uniform nearby.
“I can’t hear you, mate,” Jagger would say. In a British accent, of course.
I’m bloody knackered. Cheerio.