DEAR MISS MANNERS: Over the past few decades, restaurants have become much less relaxing and enjoyable. The noise level in many high-end dining establishments has become painful and obnoxious.
Sometimes I have been unable to converse with the person at the table with me because I cannot hear him, and he is unable to hear me. I have a vocal cord abnormality that prevents me from talking loudly to compete with the unnerving background noise. Although I always request a “quiet table,” I don’t often get one, because they don’t seem to exist anymore.
My friends who have traveled to France recently report that in that country, restaurants are quiet, even when young children are dining with their parents -- except for the voices of tourists.
I think that many restaurateurs prefer a high decibel level in their establishments in order to create the illusion of energy, and to turn tables over quickly by having people like me leave fast.
Frequently the noise level is elevated by the “background” music, which is louder than I prefer, so that diners have to talk above the level of the music. Once, when I requested that a waitperson turn down the music, he said he was not authorized to do so!
Sometimes the noise is due to the construction of the restaurants themselves, with no soft walls, ceilings or floor coverings to absorb the sound of excruciating, screechy conversation. Sometimes, however, the noise is from a handful of inappropriate people who are screaming at their table.
I am not privy to the blood alcohol level of those people, but they ruin my dining experience and make me want to get carryout and entertain at my quiet home. Few high-end restaurants offer carryout service, however. How do you recommend that I handle this problem?
GENTLE READER: By patronizing restaurants that will tell you on request that they have a reasonable decibel level. There are such places, and although they are admittedly rare, you don’t have to go abroad to find them. But you may have to ask to go elsewhere to escape loud drunks.