Why we should all vow to keep the noise down in busy restaurants from now on
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So Norfolk looks likely to remain in Tier 2, which is probably sensible, and does at least mean that our hard-pressed restaurants can stay open and try to rescue what should be the busiest time of the year. The days leading up to Christmas seem to be when everybody wants to eat out.
Although dining in a restaurant is for me one of life’s most wonderful pleasures, this is a time of year when I normally avoid them. It’s a month when what I regard as one of the single biggest annoyances in life is commonplace. It is something which in an instant can ruin an expensive night out, make even the most lovingly-cooked food taste sour, and is certainly one of the most selfish things known to man.
I refer to the braying, shouty, self-centred noisy table, which always seem to be seated right next to the couple trying to have an atmospheric and romantic night out.
I don’t mean those tables where everyone is having a genuinely good time, laughing and chatting in the way that restaurants are made for. No, I’m on about the restaurant show-offs, whose noise is deliberately aimed at showing everybody else what a great time they are having, or how wealthy and successful they are, when really all they are doing is demonstrating to everybody else that they are selfish oafs.
Often this is exacerbated by the restaurant itself pumping out music so loud you could be in a nightclub Perhaps this is an attempt to cover up the unpleasant braying from table five, but in reality it just encourages the shouters to up their own volume, in an unnecessary and wearing aural arms race.
It is too common for both restaurateurs and selfish customers to forget that as well as coming for the food, most people who eat out are mainly there to talk to each other. Which is practically impossible against a deafening cacophony of piped music and shouty customers.
Up until now the only recourse has been to vote with our feet, which is deeply unfair on the restaurant, but an inevitable consequence of most establishments’ reluctance to ask noisy tables to tone it down a bit for the benefit of everybody else. I say ‘up until now’, because it looks like the tide might be turning, and for this we have to thank coronavirus. The pandemic has mainly brought much misery and suffering, but every cloud has a silver lining, and banishing restaurant loud-mouths might just be the shiny halo around the Covid cloud.
Because it turns out that not only do such people spread noisy misery, but they are in danger of spreading the dreaded disease as well. A scientific paper recently published in Asia has suggested a close link between ‘loud talking or shouting’ in restaurants and an increased rate of Covid infections.
It would appear that the most annoying boors can spread infection over a 6.5-metre radius – far more than the two metres which we have all learned to respect. It’s the reason that hospitality venues have been instructed to turn down the music (hooray, let’s hope that lasts beyond the pandemic), so that people don’t have to shout at each other.
To protect us all, restaurants need to do more If serving staff are nervous that their entreaties to quieten down for good manners’ sake will fall on deaf ears, maybe the threat of being thrown out for being super spreaders might have the desired effect. All but the terminally thick or incredibly selfish have by now accepted we have to modify our behaviour for the sake of others’ health.
Like most people, I can’t wait for the day when we all feel safe going out to crowded places, without the need for constant hand sanitising, wearing a mask, and keeping our distance from strangers and friends alike. But if we can keep just one thing from the pandemic, could it please be quieter restaurants, with no or minimal music, and above all with the noisy brigade being told to shut up for good.