I’ve been writing about my experiences when I go somewhere for a meal. More and more, noise has become an important ambience issue. It led a local writer to lash out at places that make one raise one’s voice to be heard. It became part of an ongoing news story:
And it made me decide against having lunch at a place in Longfellow whose gentle ambience was as important as its food.
Now, some writers are using hearing loss as the springboard for their concern. I have no doubt that somewhere there are places where hearing loss is the primary health issue. But I don’t think a venue needs to damage your eardrums to affect your health.
The difficulty about writing intelligently about noise in America is that our national lifestyle is full of things that make us a sicker nation, a nation that outspends peer nations only to achieve mediocre results. The background to our lives is unhealthy conditions. Only things that somehow stand out from that background raise issues.
We need to seriously consider a cycle we are locked in and don’t even acknowledge. I’ll call it stress-depression-stimulation. It leads to depressed immunity which we then take pills in a futile attempt to resurrect.
Stress doesn’t just wear you out. The hormonal result is depression. What we think is fatigue is actually the body becoming depressed. Since our demands make depression inconvenient, we then seek all sorts of stimulation to escape depression. Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, energy drinks, loud and driving music, offensive entertainment. It is all self-medication to escape the after effects of stress. But it merely layers on more stress, so it insures a continuing cycle. We also sometimes seek a more nutrient-rich diet to restore lost nutrients which are used up by stress-torn bodies. That’s an excellent idea except it isn’t an exit from the cycle, it merely slows the body’s decline.
We cannot, most of us, just quit some of the more stressful aspects of our lives, such as our jobs which become necessitated by our lavish habits of spending. America, perhaps for historical reasons, has this religious belief that insecurity combats inherent laziness. Which means an unthinking acceptance of high stress as “normal”. The victims of the lifestyle vote for politics of insecurity. “I can take it, so I won’t accept less effort by anyone.” If I have a noose, let everyone have one.
This is relevant to me since entertainment and dining out have become more and more stress-drenched. Owners buy into the notion that raising the stimulation level of their property insures competitiveness. In fact, I don’t know of a locale in the Twin Cities that is on the “road less taken”. Some owner with yoga as a hobby should open a yoga restaurant incorporating the healing principles of yoga into its atmosphere. It would be a unique niche.
Meanwhile, what can we do till wisdom arrives. I believe I’ll start rating the ambience some way. Stars, A-F, descriptive text. Anything to hint how well the diner’s digestion will be aided by music choices by management. The voice of a friend is better medicine than any recorded music. A dining place that truly cared for the health of its patrons would bend everything to encourage the music of conversation. And not require everyone to shout to be heard. That is my frame of reference as I judge places I patronize.