What Pisses Me Off: Loud music in cafes

We all have heard or read how much time is spent in front of one screen or the other, whether

We all have heard or read how much time is spent in front of one screen or the other, whether a smart phone, iPad or other tablet, computer or television. Teens today are looking at a screen, particularly checking their social media feeds, for almost 8 hours a day. Our age group probably doesn’t come anywhere near this figure. Sure, we all have a smart phone, a tablet and computer. Most of us are on Facebook, but we still value and enjoy simply talking face to face to our friends, meeting new people over a cup of coffee, and try not to allow ourselves to become ‘hooked’ on and distracted by media.

Speaking of meeting new friends over a cup of coffee, just yesterday my wife and I attended our first Starts at Sixty coffee get together in Melbourne. We were looking forward to a chance to meet fellow ‘Starts’ readers, discuss our travels and travails, our grand kids and hobbies over a nice cuppa. We were not disappointed, and had a great time talking and making new friends.

More accurately, though, we had a great time trying to talk and be heard over the din of the cafe. Now, this was a pleasant enough cafe. The coffee was hot, and my pizza very tasty. But what pissed me and the others off was the noise of the place. Not the noise of people like us, chatting away, or the pleasant noise of cups and saucers, cutlery and plates being put down or cleared away. It was noise of another, unnecessary kind: loud, blaring music which no one could hear anyway!

Why is it that when people clearly have come to socialise (not just us, but every table had other couples or groups chatting away) over a cuppa, music is piped through the place? We couldn’t actually hear the music but it was there, an annoying crash and wail in the background. It made us have to raise our voices, which just added to the level of noise, and strain to hear others.

And on one wall was a large screen television. Thankfully there was no sound, which was just as well because on top of the background music and normal noise of the cafe it would’ve been a waste anyway, and just add to the cacophony. But it too detracted from the occasion. What is it about large, colourful moving images on a screen which demands our attention, and distracts us from the most important reason for being there: other human beings?

Why can’t a cafe simply let the sounds be those of its happy customers, chatting away about who knows what? What does loud though barely discernible music, and a television no one can hear, add to the ambience and pleasure? The young wait staff probably weren’t even aware of the music either, and certainly couldn’t pause and watch television. They wouldn’t have missed it – or would they?

So don’t hold your breath – it’s not going to change, but only get worse. I think this is the way it is going to be as the younger generation, who have never known life without a screen always on and music always playing, opens more and more groovy cafes and coffee houses with the ubiquitous screens and sounds making real socialising with friends harder and harder for those of us who don’t need a constant fix of media.

Actually, it doesn’t piss me off as much as makes me sad, sad for this younger generation who are never unplugged. They will rarely know the joy of just listening to the voice of an old friend or new, the laughter as we share our lives, with the only background music the gentle clink of cups meeting saucers.

Tell us, does this annoy you too?