By Jim Williams
My wife and I have fond memories of some of our favorite restaurants when we began dating more than 50 years ago. For the many years we worked downtown, we enjoyed dining in quiet restaurants, having a glass of wine, dinner, soft music and quiet conversation.
I’m sure many of you remember restaurants such as the Spur, later known as Valentine’s, the Cloister, Lord Chumley’s, the Round Table and the legendary Park Lane.
Now let’s fast forward to the present and, to coin a popular ballad from the ’60s, “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?” My spin on this song, and I’m paraphrasing, is “Where Have all the Quiet Restaurants Gone?” Are we so caught up in this sports bar rage that finding a quiet place to dine today is harder than locating a corner telephone booth?
Believe me, I enjoy watching sporting events in venues that have multiple TVs, cinemascope-size screens and high-definition images coming at you from every conceivable direction. I sometimes feel as though I’m sitting on the 50-yard line at a football game or behind third base.
It seems that most restaurants today, whether they are neighborhood pubs or fine dining venues with table cloths, have multiple TV screens with the volume turned to such a level that patrons have to yell above the TVs to be heard.
I have finally gotten over people talking on cellphones, texting and even wearing a backward baseball cap while eating. The issue I am having the most difficulty with now is the noise level. According to Mr. Webster, “Noise is a sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant, or that causes disruption.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had an outside voice and an inside voice? It seems everywhere my wife and I go, we have to talk louder than we normally would in order to hear each other. Is that being fair?
We deal with noise on a daily basis – cars, trucks, planes, construction work, loud music and the list goes on. But having to deal with excessive noise at dinner is difficult for me to accept.
My wife and I wondered if we were the only ones bothered by this disruption we’ve been experiencing during dining out. One evening, as we were having dinner with friends, the subject arose because of some loud patrons sitting next to our table. And, yes, our friends had the same problem dealing with restaurant noise.
Bolstered by our friends’ concurrence, we began a survey of friends and relatives. Lo and behold, we are not alone. One friend observed that perhaps this restaurant noise is a generational thing.
Being “empty nesters” living downtown and enjoying the renaissance of the city, we are discovering many new restaurants. Sadly, whether they are casual or more formal, we cannot escape the noise.
Perhaps one day when we are being seated in a restaurant, given our menu and greeted by a server who asks for our dinner choices, her next question will be, “May I offer you a set of earplugs with your dinner?”
But seriously, back to the dilemma at hand. In a few months, my wife and I will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. To mark this occasion, we would like to have dinner in a restaurant in quiet surroundings.
Actually, we did find a solution to our problem. The answer, offered by one of my neighbors, is profound but simple: “Jim, if you want a quiet evening while dining, stay home!”