Shortly after we moved to Mountain View nine years ago, we started walking to dinner every Saturday night–either some place really close (0.7 miles each way), some or one of many further away (about 1.2 miles to Los Altos, about 1.5 miles to downtown Mountain View).
For a while, there was really only one “nearby” restaurant: a local pizza parlor that also happened to produce really good food–calzones with no grease on the plate, pizzas with vibrant flavors, a small assortment of very well made Italian dishes. Local (not part of a chain), and a “neighborhood pizza place” to the extent of sponsoring youth soccer teams and having a banquet room where various kids-league teams would hold end-of-season dinners.
We went there anywhere from once every two weeks to once a month–more often in the winter (when the longer walks are less desirable), a little less often once we discovered that the Chinese restaurant in the same neighborhood center was really quite good.
The last year or so, we started encountering situations where we really couldn’t enjoy our meal: In addition to the big group in the banquet room, there would be another big group in the main dining room, with parents making no efforts to keep their kids from shouting. So, for a while, we’d call before going, ask if there were going to be multiple parties coming in during the time we were planning, and plan accordingly.
That started breaking down a couple of months ago and finally broke down entirely last Saturday. First we’d call and the person answering the phone either didn’t understand my question (being only marginally English-speaking) or just said “No problem.” We’d arrive, the place would be intolerably loud with parties that had made reservations, and we’d go eat Chinese food.
Last Saturday, we called. The person wouldn’t or couldn’t answer the question. We went over. Walking in, we asked; the hostess said “Just one party, and it’s in the banquet room.” Good enough. We ordered.
And the kids started trooping in. By and large, the kids moved along to the banquet room, but some of the parents wanted to stand around with their kids, and one of the kids was literally whooping every few seconds. (Eventually, that parent took the kid outside…and then came back a couple of minutes later, and the whooping resumed.) But as it turned out, this time the kids weren’t the main problem–or at least not the underage kids.
This time, apparently many of the parents didn’t want to be with their kids. So they stood three-deep around the “bar” (beer and wine, but they weren’t ordering anything), talking loudly and MORE LOUDLY and EVEN MORE LOUDLY as more of them gathered. (There was about 3 feet between the bar and the booths; we retreated to the most distant booth, 6 feet away, but that made no difference.)
We could not and did not enjoy the meal. We finished it, paid (yes, with a good tip), and left. And my wife said “We’re not going back. Ever.” I can’t disagree.
The owner has obviously chosen to give precedence to big groups–and not to make any effort to remind them that it’s also a restaurant and that others may not be as excited as they are. I think that used to be different. As my wife said, it’s probably the right decision–for the 12 weekends/24 days a year when there are team banquets. But if enough regular customers feel the way we do, it may not be such a hot decision for the other 288 days. Used to be, we’d see half a dozen or more couples and family groups there when we were there. This time? One other couple, and they didn’t look real happy either. (This is actually passing strange, since the owner also recently switched from one-sheet paper menus to nice multipage menus with an expanded menu–seemingly trying to attract the same diners he’s driving away.)
I noted that, the previous Saturday when I’d planned to have lunch at the Chinese place, there was a sign on the door: “Banquet in progress. Takeout only.” Those owners decided that they really couldn’t handle both at the same time, and didn’t attempt to. Unquestionably, they would have answered a phoned question correctly…and we would have come back another day.
Library implications? Maybe. Meredith Farkas posted about her husband’s experience seeing a favorite magazine go bad because it shifted its attention and resources to the web. (An excellent post, by the way, which you should go read if you haven’t already.) Part way through, Farkas adds this note:
(Aside: As Iâ€™m writing this, I realize this offers another lesson that librarians need to heed. While itâ€™s important that we provide better services for teens and those in their early 20s, we shouldnâ€™t do it at the expense of services to the rest of our patrons. We do not want to lose that core audience any more than we want to lose the Gen Y folks.)
Yep. Don’t look for a denunciation of gaming in libraries here because such a mass denunciation would be as absurd as saying that every library needs a gaming librarian (which I’m sure nobody would actually say). But I do wonder: Are those wonderful at-the-library gaming tournaments, particularly ones with such quiet pursuits as DDR, driving out older patrons who have loyally supported the library? If so, will they come back or will they just give up–and vote against the next tax override?
I don’t know the answer. Well, that’s not true: I do know that there is no single answer. I’m sure some libraries, maybe even every single one that does these gaming nights/tournaments, have set things up so that the noise and disruption from one activity doesn’t upset the browsers and readers in the rest of the library.
But I also know that it would not be an answer to say “We need the gamers, so we’ll just have to let the old folks go.” And, just to clarify, I haven’t heard anyone say that either.
Oh, and Meredith? That magazine isn’t the only one. PC Magazine has dropped almost all specs and details from its printed reviews, substituting glossy columns and big pictures; effectively, the print magazine is now sort of a sideshow to the web version. Except, of course, that I’m not interested in the web version…and will think long and hard before renewing the print version. (After all, I get the web version free anyway…)