To fully understand and appreciate what I have to say here, read this first.
I have noticed a disturbing trend in restaurants and retail establishments: the need to have music. I’m not talking about Montovani and his orchestra, or watered down instrumental versions of 80’s pop hits, or even (I shudder to think it) Kenny-G, I’m talking about full-bore-pick-your-genre-and-crank-it “music.” In one store it’s country music, in another it’s classic rock, in another modern hip-hop, in all cases played at a volume that I rarely put my music at when I’m home alone and needing motivation to clean my office. A volume that used to be reserved for raves and line dancing.
I have nothing against music per sé* and at a low level I have trained my mind to let it wash over me without getting in, but I find it hard – no, nearly impossible – to buy spaghetti sauce or talk to the butcher in the meat department when I have to shout over the noise from the PA to be heard, and all the grocery stores in our area are doing it. Maybe that’s the point: maybe the store wants me confused so I can’t, say, compare prices between Classico and Ragu, though I’m fairly certain the goal isn’t to have me fleeing their store confused and pissed off. It’s not even the genres they’re choosing. I feel the same way even on those rare occasions when they play music I grew up with.
Grocery shopping has become a misery for me.
I remember when I was younger (oh christ, here it comes) that stores with music that loud were reserved for the shopping malls, catering to the 15-25 year old “hip” crowd. Musak was still de rigueur for most places, music specifically designed to lull you into relaxing your grip on your wallet.
I’ve seen the saying – and had it told to me – “If the music’s too loud, you’re too old.”
Oh yeah? Well fuck you. It’s easy to be dismissive when you can filter sensory input, which I cannot.
I visited several stores while Christmas shopping for my wife. I did some of the shopping online, but we try to keep our money local whenever we can, and so, one bright, sunny, chill day, I visited a local shopping area and braved The Music. One place in particular (which I won’t name, since I don’t want to give any Christmas surprises away) had the music so loud I had to ask the cashier to repeat herself when she spoke to me.
Three feet away, and I couldn’t hear her.
Okay, well, yes, I could hear her voice, but I couldn’t filter her words through the cacophony of Jingle In-Your-Face Bells and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentle-Jesus-Christ-That’s-Fucking-Loud!-Men.
I have contacted the management of my favorite grocery store, and got an almost obsequious – and ultimately fruitless – reply that they’d look into the matter. I’ve talked to store managers. I mention it every time I’m in the checkout line, and had other patrons step up and agree with me.
Nobody listens. How could they hear us, anyway?
* except modern country: to my mind, it is the music of uber-patriotic isolationism, ignorance, and xenophobia and, as a genre, unlistenable.