After a band rehearsal, a couple of us decided to go out for a drink. There is this Irish bar that just opened on Lincoln Avenue. And when I say Irish I mean IRISH. We were probably the only three people in there who weren’t from the Land O’ Erin. We’d been there before and found it to be a quiet tavern with soccer on the many television sets and good beers on tap.
Upon walking in I realized we’d stumbled in on the wrong night. There was a bachelorette party going on and there was deejay. Granted it was like we walked into a party and we probably had no business being there, but that wasn’t what made it so unbearable. The deejay was playing traditional Irish music, i.e. the Clancy Brothers or the Chieftains with male chorus, fiddle, and concertina. And it was extremely loud. Loud in a way that was bone shattering; the treble was turned up all the way so that it was a sharp piercing sound. With every note, every lyric it was like someone was sticking a pencil in my ear. We struggled to talk over the din, but it was impossible. I looked around and the place was filled with a mix of people, young cute blond girls, strapping drunk guys, but mostly people in their mid-50s all dressed up for an evening at the local pub. They just sat at their tables unable to do anything but stare blankly at each other. It completely stopped any sort of possible socializing. We left after one beer and my ears are still ringing.
It brought to mind a question. Why does everything have to be so loud? What happened to background music played at a reasonable volume so that you could actually talk to the people you were with? When did it become expected that an evening out with friends meant screaming your head off? I’m not talking about Circuit clubs where it’s expected or even when going to see live music, but I’m talking about stores, restaurants, the local tavern. Even the announcements on the El train are turned so high up that you’d have to be completely deaf not to hear them. Is it just me or did the population take that Pump Up the Volume song too literally ? Am I just getting to be to an old fuddy-duddy slipping into old age shaking my fist at “these kids today”? As a popular tee-shirt says: If it's too loud you're too old.The loud music issue comes up at least once a week. During lunch there is a restaurant/bar that I go to with co-workers. It’s noon, during a weekday, and there may be at the most eight people having lunch. Nine times out of ten the sound system is blaring some 80’s rock song so we have yell over each other. When we tell the waitress to turn down the music a bit, we are given the stare of death like, ‘How can anything you have to say to each other be any more important than listening this wonderful John Fogerty song ?’ I’ve had this happen in other restaurants where it was impossible to hold a decent conversation because the din was so impenetrable. To paraphrase something Gary once told me about when he was a waiter, “No one every complained to him that the music was too soft”. So why do businesses feel that the only way that their customers can have a good evening is to burst their ear drums.
One of the most insane examples of this I encountered was when I went to a dermatologist a couple years ago for a wart on my finger. I walked into this tiny crowded waiting room. Pouring from the ceiling was the soundtrack to “Star Wars”. I walked up the receptionist and had to yell at her my name while the “Imperial March” blared. “What…” she yelled back…” I yelled again. “Sit down, we’ll call you…” The room was filled with a mixture of Latino mothers with their children and senior citizens all struggling to hear their names called, waiting their turn while the bombastic John William’s score drowned out all thoughts of their impending skin procedures. It was crazy! Needless to say I didn’t go back to him.
As our population ages will we all become a country of hearing aid wearing seniors whose eardrums were blown out by too many nights at the clubs and bars? Or is that already the case. When you go into Dollar Deals and the music is turned up full blast is it because the 40 year old manager doesn’t realize that it’s too loud; is he already on the way to hearing loss. Does he think that your enjoyment of buying cheap cleaning supplies will be improved by hearing Green Day at the same level as you would listen to it on your home stereo system.
A few months ago I had a particularly stressful dinner at a restaurant where the music was unnecessarily loud. When we asked the management to do something about it, they turned it down for about two minutes only to boost it back up again a little louder. I think I have decided to take a different tactic. When that happens again I’m going to ask for them to keep turning it up. And maybe after the fifth time of saying, “No, it’s still not loud enough; I can still hear what people are saying to me.” Maybe they’ll get the idea…
Everything does not have to be turned up to 13.