Sunday, December 09, 2007
Next time you are in a busy restaurant, stop for a minute, and listen. Listen to what you hear, the cacophony of sound. Listen beyond the music. Restaurants utilize an array of powerful speakers, and sometimes televisions to mask these noises.
As a long time restaurant worker, I find myself occasionally marveling at the sheer volume and variety of noises that go on in our place of employment. I've long wondered why there haven't been more law suits and investigations by OSHA into the sound levels of restaurants. The prolonged exposure of workers in the dish room has to take a toll on long term hearing. The clang and clash of dishes as servers deliver them. The noise of sorting, scraping and spraying them. The constant whir of the big dish machines as the cycle nearly continuously to keep up with the ever pressing demand for more clean dishes. The dish is probably the noisiest place in the restaurant most of the time.
Another loud place is the bar. Spindle mixers whirring. Ice machines grinding. Margarita machines cycling, beer bottles clanking, glass washing machines buzzing, and glasses rattling. Drink orders being called. Phones ringing, customers asking for things - quite the din.
And then there is the service line and cooking lines. Beeps from fryers and other timers. A half dozen microwaves screeching nearly incessantly. Plates banging as they are loaded with food and condiments or as they are restocked for the next round. Speakers connected to microphones relaying every item needing the prep team's attention. A never ending call for more bread. Cooks calling food back and forth with each other. Alley coordinators yelling at cooks for food missing from plates. AC's yelling at servers to walk food. Managers dealing with everything else. Servers talking about everything under the sun. Venting. Planning. Working.
Air vents sucking. Machines running. Grills, ovens, steamers and refrigerators. The noise goes on.
Then in the dining room you have the roar of the masses, constantly trying to overpower all the other sounds being created. As the restaurant fills, the volume goes up exponentially it seems. Large parties are louder than small. Some ethnic groups are louder than others. I marvel at how quiet my Japanese families often are. It can be a challenge hearing their orders.
So at the end of the night, if dealing with customers wasn't enough to give me a headache, then the sound pounded the last nail in. Nothing is better than getting in my car, and listening to the quiet hum of the engine. Without the radio on. Bringing me home. To silence. Bliss.