Quite recently an acquaintance was invited to a birthday celebration at a local pub. There were rumours that a few of the “old gang” were going to be there, so the night promised much: a few drinks, some old “war stories”, and lots of even older jokes. A good night, hopefully.
Around half-an-hour after he had left home he was back again. Illness? No. Over-indulgence? No, not even he could manage that in under thirty minutes. The reason for his swift return was the mind-numbing, tooth-filling shaking, ear-drum crushing and merciless din that was coming from the “live band” (is there any other type?) that had been booked for the evening. A brief nod and wink to an old friend became the only even semi-effective method of communication. Conversation? Forget it.
There does appear to be a trend, in pubs/restaurants/shops, towards employing noise for noise’s sake. Recently, a friend was sitting in a pub on a weekday lunchtime (he works shifts and yes, he is a borderline alcoholic) and had to ask the lone member of staff if she could perhaps turn the music down, seeing as 100% of the customers (him) weren’t particularly enjoying either the genre of music being played or the volume level that had been selected.
There is a message being transmitted to us all, not that subtly, that goes along the lines of “Yes, it’s noisy in here, and noise means fun. You are having a great time, even if you’re sitting there with your meal or drink and wondering why you can’t even hear the pneumatic drill in the street outside. Noise is good”. I like to transmit my own message to such establishments. It goes along the lines of “Well, thank you. And goodbye”.
People are being duped into this mass delusion. One online review of Quaglino’s in London (I think they call it an “eaterie”) actually states “despite the average food the atmosphere was buzzing”. Oh, that’s alright then. It’s a statement so witless as to be laughable. Perhaps the reviewer later moved on to a cinema that showed awful films, or a bar that served dreadful drinks, or went home in a taxi that reeked of vomit and swerved all over the road. All forgiven, of course, if the “atmosphere” was “buzzing”. What nonsense.
We are social animals, which does not mean we do not occasionally prefer our own company. I know I do. But, when we attend a social event we should surely be expecting a degree of sociability? This might include an exchange of ideas with our fellow primates through the medium of conversation, which experience tells us can be a pleasant and rewarding experience. We crave verbal contact with other homo-sapiens, though the degree of such contact will inevitably differ from person to person. If it is lacking in our daily lives we seek replacements, and if you doubt that then what is your explanation for modern phenomena like Twitter and Facebook?
I’m not saying that any of history’s greatest verbal exchanges have begun with “having sausages for tea”. But you never know, maybe such a cyber-revelation will one day spark a great piece of literature or poetry. Maybe. But what I do know is that people communicating with each other is, broadly, a “good thing”. The compulsory and utterly mediocre music that accompanies every restaurant meal can, quite frankly, get lost. The band in the pub can sod off too, perhaps to “Britain…What Talent”? or whatever Mr Cowell’s latest dry-ice extravaganza is called. The Debenhams lift can do without cover versions of Celine Dion’s biggest hits, though many might say it should be the only public place where that particular brand of garbage can be heard.
I don’t need or want a soundtrack to everything I do, thanks all the same. I will leave that to the idiots who can’t walk 50 yards to the corner-shop for a pint of milk without the aural crutch of their i-Pod (to cope with the boredom). I repeat, I don’t want a soundtrack to my life, especially one provided by someone from Marketing who thinks I’ll drink more, eat more or buy more. I promise you Mr Marketing Man, I won’t.
Now pour me a decent pint, cook me a decent meal, and just provide me with an average experience. It’s all I ask. Oh, and turn that f*cking music down.