Hay: The fine art of guessversation

So a buddy and yours truly went to a new restaurant the other day. Well, more of a pub really. You could tell it was a new pub in town from a mile (1.6 kms) away on account of the one kilometer (.6 miles) line up at the door. Also, there was a prevalence of young attractive servers all dressed in black and all female. Also the decor was trendy and typical – 25-foot industrial ceilings, a bar the size of a department store, two layers of stylishly uncomfortable booths and tall tables. Oh, and the real give-away: it was loud!

Really loud. As in the middle of a public market in Calcutta loud. As in being at the Rogers Place when the Oilers score a game-winning goal in overtime (very rare, but deafening). Industrial-strength, hearing protection-required, loud.

Now it should be said that my buddy and I have been playing in rock bands since the Jurassic Period and as such have been regularly saturated by levels of decibels that would make an audiologist cry. Imagine standing between, say, a shrieking skill saw (guitar) and Husqvarna lawn mower without a muffler (bass guitar) and throw in a construction site pile driver (drums) all at full blast for three to four hours every couple of days and that would begin to explain why I, personally, am so weird. Also, deaf.

Now, this is not worn like a badge like the colors on a Hell’s Angels jacket – by the time somebody invented decent ear plugs for musicians and jackhammer operators, the horses had already left the barn.

But when the background sound in a restaurant approaches the level of a 747 taking off even normal people have a tough time with ordering or talking or other activities requiring the ability to hear anything at all besides the deafening din of NOISE. So for us hearing-challenged weirdo musicians it goes something like this:

Waitress: (shouting) “Hello, how are we doin’ today?”

Me: (shouting) “Yes!”

Waitress: (shouting) “Um, er, is this your first time here?”

Me: (shouting) “I’m fine. You?”

Waitress (valiantly forging ahead) (and shouting) : “Could I get you something to drink first? We have miffle muffle squibbell budweiser special flubother flip flop $5.95.”

Me: (shouting) “This is my first time here, i think my head is exploding.”

The Waitress points at the menu and enacts Universal Server Sign Language for “Are you going to order or not – I have five other tables!”

Me: (shouting) “I’ll just have a small Coors light draft, please!”

Seventeen minutes later she brings me a large bottle of Budweiser.

So my buddy who shall remain nameless (Dave) and I bravely shout at each other, mostly not having a clue what each other is saying. But we are both well-practiced at what I like to call “Guessversation”. There is a lot of nodding in affirmation, shaking one’s head back and forth slowly (which is suitably vague if performed correctly) and responding with carefully crafted non-committal shouted conversation standbys, such as: “Wow.” “Really?” “Hmmm.”

So you know how they used to have smoking sections in bars and restaurants? How about “quiet sections?” A nice area in the corner of the place where the background sound is, say, under the level of a fire alarm in a phone booth. Of course, it would have to be a bunker made of cement with no windows, but I’m sure the quiet section servers would appreciate it. And they would be easy to spot. They’re the ones who don’t have the bleeding ears.

Harley Hay is a local writer and filmmaker.


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