A weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
Old Before My Time
On those occasions when I do get to dine out without the tiny human air-raid siren I’m not as attuned to standards of service as I otherwise might be.
This week my friend and fellow blogger Tim McNally wrote a piece addressing noise in restaurant dining rooms and poor service
. I am doing him short shrift by summarizing his points, but essentially he noted that some restaurants are loud and service is often poor. I can’t disagree with either point, really, but my perspective is different and for a reason that makes me feel older than my age.
I am 45. I am relatively fit, but I define “relatively fit” in the context of “I am 45 and have a 2-year-old daughter who likes to run around in restaurants laughing like a maniac as I chase her.” By which I mean my wife and I don’t eat out for dinner very often, and when we do it’s usually over by 8:30.
At 8:30 the people Tim McNally is complaining about with/re: noise are still having cocktails somewhere before heading out for dinner. They are not being boisterous in my presence, or if they are, it’s because we’re all dining in a “family” restaurant where their boisterousness is simply one color of a din-rainbow.
I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school when I suggest that Mr. McNally and his lovely wife Brenda Maitland may dine a bit later than I. And I don’t think I’m too far off-base when I suggest that by doing so they are exposed to a somewhat different crowd. I am not suggesting that they deserve a loud restaurant because they don’t currently have small children attached to them like lampreys, because that would sound bitter and I’m not bitter despite the fact that this evening I took a shower specifically to clean myself after changing a diaper. (“What’s that on your forehead? OH MY GOD IS THAT POOP?”)
I also agree that restaurant design plays a large role in the aural atmosphere in a dining room. I wonder, though, whether the volume is entirely unintentional in some venues. My guess is that some restaurateurs think a loud dining room gives their customers a sense that the place is hot and happening, and perhaps counter-intuitively more likely to return.
I do know this, the complaint I hear most often about restaurants generally is exactly what Tim is describing – the crowd noise is so loud you can’t hear the person across the table. When I hear that complaint, I nod and agree that it’s a shame and think back on the days when such things were more relevant to my life.
I have a feeling that my experience with service is also related to the times I generally dine out. Again, the later in the evening you’re dining, the worse your service experience is generally going to be. That’s not true of all places, or all servers, but any of us is going to be more chipper 2 hours into our workday than we are after 8 hours of dealing with customers who, unlike you dear reader, are sometimes unreasonable.
Again, I’m not disputing Tim’s point or suggesting his experiences with poor service were deserved because he was fortunate enough not to have to dine out with an adorable little ball and chain hanging on his arm and demanding to be let go because “I NO LIKE SITTING DADDY I NO LIKE SITTING <child emits high-frequency wail felt in the marrow>” On the contrary, I must admit to a certain sense of … envy for Tim’s position.
I’m just saying that on those occasions when I do get to dine out without the tiny and altogether wonderful human air-raid siren I’m not as attuned to standards of service as I otherwise might be.
When Tim mentioned he might be writing about noise and service he was kind enough to ask me whether I’d mind, given that it overlaps somewhat on my general subject. I told him that it was fine by me, since he’s every bit as qualified to address the dining scene as I am and in addition I’d be interested to hear his thoughts. I told him I might even get a column of my own out of it. I guess I did, and I have the added benefit of feeling somewhat more mature than I did before I started writing. So thanks for that, Tim.
Now get off my lawn.