True gripes: Hard for hearing: Restaurants need aural health warning

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Indy Lifestyle Online
So, why do we go to cafes and restaurants? Food? Drink? Good company? You must be joking. It's MUSIC TIME. Time for overwhelming undirected noise provided by nerds with an impervious ideology that it is not conceivable to serve food in a public place without loud aural disturbance. Why should we have to lean across the table with cupped ears trying to catch anything vaguely resembling words coming from the moving lips opposite?

Ask the waiter or barman to turn down the music and you get a stare of incomprehension mixed with 'she's never had sex'. Why? Are these airport decibels meant to avoid the harrowing prospect of silence during the eating process, or a pause too long during the talking process? Bunuel got it right; perhaps we should all be eating in the anonymous privacy of a toilet cubicle.

A couple of weeks ago I went with a friend to toss a bit of grief over a light salad and glass of chilled white wine. There's a vicarious pleasure in doing this in a public place. And paying for it. But it should be done in a soft interesting voice - not in hysterically rising tones. A gentle wallow with an avocado dip and vinho verde had become a battle of two women desperate to be heard. We moved from the terrace (sharing the music from two other restaurants) to a table inside. It was almost empty. Failing to see the electric piano in a corner we began (from the beginning) again, at which moment our 'musician' appeared, umbilically attached to amplification. There's an uncomfortable moral dilemma in asking the staff to 'turn it down' when it's alive. We left.

I have no problem with Jazz Cafes, Hard Rock Cafes, Spaghetti Operas and other great-night-out places which advertise their music. It's fun downing spaghetti and salsa putanesca with screaming Puccini if you're well prepared. I am not sad, spinsterly or embittered by other people's enjoyment. And I happen to like music. I just don't like gratuitous, disturbing and unlistened-to music. Music for no reason. Like a television left on all day with no one watching.

There are some restaurants with excellent food and no music. Even restaurants with passable to appalling food and no music, but for those who refuse to serve it without persistent ear torture there should be compulsory warnings as on cigarette packets. 'This restaurant can seriously damage your peace of mind.'

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