In a society of sensory assault, I can’t believe how many of us have become willing victims. We’re addicted to distraction. Merging onto an expressway isn’t difficult enough. We have to be texting our friend at the same time. Are there no sanctuaries against this onslaught?
Remember how boring elevators used to be? Sure, you could learn Braille while sharing uncomfortable silence with strangers. But thanks to screens, we now learn who won the game last night, what the weather will be like tomorrow and how the stock market did today. It is information overload but it’s difficult to look away. Up-to-the-minute news can also be viewed at the gas pump.
How about waiting rooms, oil change places and fast food restaurants? You may be treated to a talk show, where teenage girls accuse their boyfriends of being the father of their baby. You may be subjected to blaring rock-n-roll or music videos. At White Sox games, where Nancy Faust used to tinkle the organ keys, conversation can’t compete with Top 40 rock songs.
I’ve found this same loud music problem in local restaurants. We were at a Forest Park eatery, where I bit into one of the best chicken sandwiches ever. The problem was we were shouting at each other from a very close distance. I complained to the waitress twice with no reduction in volume. Then I spoke to the assistant manager. She acknowledged receiving hundreds complaints about the noise. However, the staff refused to reduce the speaker below 11.
That’s a shame. The food was great but I refuse to go back there. Conversation is a crucial component of dining out. According to an article I read, high noise levels are hurting restaurants. A survey showed that half the diners above 48 would dine at full-service restaurants more if they would reduce the volume a notch. If you consider that Baby Boomers are already having trouble hearing, why drive away our business with hip-hop?
It’s not just noise that is driving us to distraction. An entire generation hasn’t looked up from their phones in years. I don’t get it. Of course, I don’t have a smart phone, so I don’t know if I would fall prey. My phone barely earned its G.E.D. I’m pretty sure it takes pictures and texts but I stubbornly refuse to learn those skills.
Music blasting, phones distracting and nuclear-strength colognes – I’ve never been so over-stimulated. I’m a single-tasker in a multi-task world. I crave face-to-face conversation, in a quiet setting, without the game on. Imagine what a popular concept that could be for a restaurant.
I say bring back boredom. You know those quiet moments when we don’t know what to do with ourselves. It may be uncomfortable and the minutes may drag. But, I’ve noticed that it triggers some good things: contemplation, insight and inspiration. I’ve actually come up with great ideas, while bored out of my mind.
How do you achieve boredom? My method is to go into a dark bedroom, prop up some pillows, close my eyes and fold my hands. Thoughts flit in and out of my brain – mostly mundane – until I reach an advanced stage of monotony. This process may not yield profound insights. It may lead to a nap, instead. But at least I can hear myself think.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.