Who invited the noisy yahoos out to dinner?

Somehow, diners have lost their sense of decorum: they're more likely to behave like they're at a sporting event than at a restaurant

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emergency gibberishTORONTO, Ont. Feb. 13, 2017 /Troy Media/ – “Kill the bum,” says the quintessential sports fan at a prize fight, football or hockey game. “Are you blind?” yells another at an umpire or other official. Fist bumps, loud yips of delight and almost as loud moans of disappointment fill arenas, basements, and living rooms in which TVs are tuned to the tragedy and ecstasy of sports.

Some of my fondest memories are of Les Carabiniers Tavern (The Carb) in Alexis Nihon Plaza, near enough to the old Montreal Forum to see the intermission commentators in for a beer and watching the game just like all the fans – on TV.

Other good memories involve an Expos game at Jarry Park, the Alouettes at the old Autostade and the B.C. Lions at Empire Stadium. And the crowds did roar. And did they roar for Ron Lancaster at Taylor Field in Regina.

The other urban experience is of quiet. The quiet of the lounge in the Admiral Hotel on Lougheed Highway in Burnaby, in which I had some of my first underage alcohol, rings in my ears. So too was the River Room and Maverick Room in the Beaverbrook Hotel in Fredericton, in which I had some more. Ditto Golf’s in Regina, but I was of age.

But somewhere along the way an arms race of sorts began. I don’t know who started it, but by the time I saw a Vancouver Grizzlies basketball game, the yelling had mechanized into roving spotlights, strobes and very loud music pumped into the pumped-up crowd. Then, in a box to see the Edmonton Oilers, the same thing had come to hockey games. Buffalo and Toronto feature the same migraine-inducing noise and light show.

Back in restaurants, many seemed to want to compete. Some feature that noise that is popular in place of music – mainly a monotonous base line. Others feature a type of music I don’t like. If I’m alone in a restaurant, I tell the servers that since no one is demanding this music, could it please be turned down? I sometimes open the decibel meter app on my phone and note that the noise level will cause permanent harm to hearing – especially the servers’. Sometime I note that if the restaurant could play Dion and the Belmonts, I’d not complain. Most don’t get my point – noise is unwanted sound and taste in music is individual.

Even in nice, quiet restaurants, patrons often replace unwanted music with unwanted exclamations. Really, this buffoonery knows no gender or age limitations. Those who can’t exclaim loudly enough, or guffaw at high enough decibels, augment their failings with serious hand clapping to punctuate a point.

Perhaps these folks are all making a public statement. They’re out having a good time and don’t mind letting the world know it. This is akin to the phenomenon of the mandatory standing ovation at live theatre. Habitual attendees reserve shouting “Bravo!” or “Brava!” for extraordinary performances. People who attend just a handful of live performances a year consider vigorous clapping, shouting and standing as part of their evening’s entertainment, regardless of the quality of the performance. Fair enough. It’s a free country.

But your right to shout and clap in a restaurant should really end at my ear, to paraphrase American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes. Have a good time. Enjoy your friends. Enjoy the food. But you’re not at a ball game.

Occasionally, put some of that good food in your mouth, close it, chew vigorously and stop making noise. Thank you.

Troy Media columnist Dr. Allan Bonner has consulted on some of the major planning and public policy issues of our time on five continents over 25 years. He is the author of Safer Cities. Allan is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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