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My Lawn, Get Off Of It

My wife is working nights at the moment. She’s a nurse, which means that working nights for her entails leaving the house at 6:00 pm, arriving at the hospital at 7, working until 7:30 am, and getting home around 8:30ish.

This schedule flips 12 hours every three weeks. On top of that, she’s a new nurse, which means that her schedule is periodically interspersed with eight hours of classes — in the daytime. Even when she’s working nights.

This messes with the rest of her schedule, such that every so often she ends up working one night, having a day off, then working another night.

This is not conducive to normal human behavior.

As a show of solidarity during this last round of nights, I’ve been doing my best to try to match her schedule, and so last Thursday found her with a night off, and us looking for something to do around Cleveland in the middle of the night. As it turned out, a sushi restaurant I’d been meaning to try is open late on Thursdays. (Sushi Rock, for you Clevelanders; there’s one downtown but we went to the one in Beachwood.)

This excited us, as we’d not been out for sushi in ages. So we got dressed all pretty-like, hopped in the car and drove the 20 minutes or so to Sushi Rock.

Now, I’d known this was considered kind of a hip place, which is normally so not my thing. But it was late and we were feeling saucy, so when we walked in and saw the dim lights, noted the Spartan decor, and heard the thumping dance music, we sort of grinned at each other and followed the hostess to our table.

It was about that time that we realized how loud the music was. The conversation went something like this:

“____ ____ __ ___”

“What?”

“I SAID, THIS MUSIC IS QUITE LOUD.”

We were sitting about two feet from one another and literally had to shout to be heard.

Now, look: I’m 36 and married. I know I’m not the target demo for a swank sushi restaurant for singles. But here’s what I genuinely don’t understand: Assuming your venue does not have a dance floor (as this one did not), what is the benefit of playing music so loud that your patrons literally cannot speak to one another? What am I missing here? Is it so that we antisocial Americans need not feel pressure to interact in anything but exaggerated facial expressions and suggestive gestures?

I say “Americans” because this is something that immediately struck me on my first visit to the U.K.: here you have a society practically founded on pub culture. There as common there as Starbucks are here. (I know that’s hard to believe, but trust me.) And the one thing nearly every pub I’ve been to in the U.K. — and there have been many — has in common is that even when they’re playing music, it’s never too loud for conversation. The result?

People converse.

Shocking, I know. But there, pubs are community hubs, centers for socialization, for making new friends and enjoying the company of old ones. (The one exception I found? The “Chicago Rock Bar,” an American-themed joint in Norwich, East Anglia.)

It drives me crazy, and constantly perplexes me, that so many bars I’ve been to around here seem designed not for interaction, but for shared solitude. It’s sad, but it’s more puzzling.

Can anyone help shed some light on this, one of the great mysteries of our time?

Oh, and if you’re wondering, we of course left Sushi Rock immediately, and headed down the street to my friend Fish’s place, Melt. Tonight we finally got our sushi fix, at the outstanding Pacific East, where I had literally some of the best sushi I’ve ever had — and I lived in San Francisco for five years. So this story has a happy ending.

But I just can’t stop thinking about that crazy-loud music, and what purpose it serves. Maybe I’m just getting old and crotchety, but I just don’t get it. I wish I did.