I’m not exactly sure when it became that when at a bar enjoying a drink you shouldn’t have to listen and talk to the person sitting next to you. This is a notion I am frustrated with. You go to bars to be with friends – it’s too bad the music is too loud for you to hear what they are saying.
Anyone staggering the streets of Amherst on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night will notice the all-encompassing noise drowning all thoughts of guilt, exam preparations and stories of your date’s latest encounter with the University of Massachusetts Minute Taur (the one story you’ve heard quite enough already).
Hell-bent on convincing you their establishment is the most entertaining of the strip, the bars all crank their stereos to 11 and happily encourage barflies to have another round. Were any UMass student to throw a party half as loud, the police would undoubtedly arrive to hand out the residents’ a summons to court for violating the town noise bylaws.
Being of the opinion that the only time college students ever really think about anything important is in the leisure hours, my friends and I rack our brains every weekend over the important question of where to drink and talk – a common complaint is “no, that place is too noisy,” but every place is. The options are not promising. There are ways to drink and talk: cafes and weekdays. Weekdays might work if our school work didn’t keep most of us chained to desks (guilt, worry and desperation all make good chains) every night. I don’t want to downplay cafés and their use for people who sit around drinking coffee with French names and discussing the themes in Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time,” but it’s really not what we’re looking for.
The bar room was once a source of all truth for a community, where men could discuss philosophy, politics and religion. A revolution was never worth having that didn’t begin in a pub. More than that, it was a place where people sang together, they didn’t gather to listen to what seems to be some rapper/rocker’s attempt to destroy your eardrums. The only place the average UMass drinker enters on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evening that has music at a reasonable volume is Antonio’s.
The University is an ideal place for alcohol-fueled talks on the meaning of life, meaning of death, means of production, mean people, harmonic mean or the Blue Meanies, a group of blue-colored, music-hating cartoons. Alcohol is the perfect substance for any chat session, most especially because it’s a relaxant and brings out the truth in most people. Plenty of students attempt meaningful discussions while smoking joints, and I respect that. But those conversations all too often tend to be about how they think marijuana should be legalized. Besides, there are still people on this campus who prefer a stout to pot.
Surely, it could be proposed that students get enough of thinking through academic matters and other affairs during the week, and that they would simply like to relax to the blasting noise of a stereo dying, but I don’t think so. There are college students who actually enjoy talking.
This brings up another painful subject – the academic who does not enjoy academic things. I can be just as snobby as the people in berets discussing Proust when dealing with people who care nothing for any kind of decent conversation. There are students who don’t care for their major or anything that they might do in a class or find in a book, but instead are here to party, others to get a better job and more to appease mommy and daddy. If Jersey Shore interests while history fails to, if Lady Gaga excites while mathematics leaves people cold, if gossip magazines are of much greater interest than literature, then it is no wonder there’s no need to speak in a bar. In fact, there’s little need to speak ever.
The government actually has limited the volume that a bar can blast its music with noise bylaws, but what’s needed isn’t more government intervention because some people want noise, but a bar, a lone ranger, that chooses to deviate from Amherst center’s noisy and conformative strip of sound by turning the noise down. When that happens and one of these bars realizes that there are people who want to hear their date’s laugh, friends’ talk or own humming, I hope to be there, relaxed and listening.
Mark McDonough is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.