Posted by: foodtalker | December 18, 2010

loud and clear

What is it with people who have loud voices? 

People with spatial unawareness will bump into a lamppost.  But somehow people who lack volume awareness have no such impediments.  They just keep on yelling and the rest of us have to suffer – often in silence.

It’s one thing if you are in the cinema and the movie’s showing.  Everyone feels justified doing the “ssshh” thing.  There’s a kind of heroic status that goes with that.  But what about at a restaurant?  It’s so not cool shushing someone sitting at the next table.  

But sometimes two-tops are squeezed so tightly together you may as well be at one big communal table with everyone stretching, reaching, grabbing, chewing and shouting. There’s no combobulation and, as my mother would say, it’s just like the Irish Houses of Parliament – everyone’s talking and no one’s listening.  Except in this case they’re all shouting. 

They’re shouting, but sadly not to make an emphatic point or because anyone is hard of hearing, it’s just that they are loud.

When I eat out, one of the first things I do is try to scope the occupants at the next table to see if they look like they’re going to be the volume uncontrolled types. 

If it’s a large table with more than three people, it’s a bad sign.  Recently I was having sushi with a friend and a couple sat down at the empty table next to us.

Immediately, the woman started a running commentary – first about her work day, then about the restaurant décor, then about the food – projecting as if she was on stage at the National.   “Fishy”, she screamed, “tastes fishy”, she yelled at her dinner partner.  He wasn’t seated across the street so why was she shouting?  Hers was hardly a profound observation anyway. 

Then last week I was at my hairdressers where I knew I’d be trapped for a three hour ordeal.  It’s hard enough to sit still that long without going into orbit. 

After a long selection and elimination process, I’ve found a wonderful hairdresser who doesn’t require small talk.  We can while away three hours in simple silence.  There are occasional questions “you like the color?”, “another coffee?” “should I take more off?”, but other than that we nod and beam at each other over the soothing hum of the dryer.  It’s almost relaxing.

But ten peaceful minutes into my appointment last week I heard someone over the partition request a glass of white wine.  “Hell, I’m gonna be here for a couple of hours”, she shouted, “it’s cocktail hour somewhere”.

Twenty minutes later after having tried really hard to read my book and not listen to all the problems of her children, her daughter’s dilemma with parking permits for a boyfriend in downtown Charleston, what she was fixing for dinner, who was getting what for Christmas and references to this person and that person, I was really sorry I’d left my stun gun at home.  

Listening, once removed, to someone else’s inane conversation is my version of water boarding.  There’s really no good way to say to people “can you lower your voice”.  Or how about “shut up” as a last resort?  If I were to say something like that then I know exactly what would happen.  Suddenly I’d be the rude one.

What I need is a little mute button on the side of my head that when switched on will block all outside noise.  The only problem is – then I’ll be forced to listen to the voices in my head.


  1. I totally agree. There is nothing worse than trying to have a nice dinner and having to listen to someone else, especially on their cell phone. I don’t post my personal business and really don’t like hearing complete strangers discuss theirs. However, after having four kids, I am fairly adept at blocking out the noise.

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