Pat and I have been going to a Scandinavian restaurant named the Norske Nook for over 20 years with our friends Ed and Judy Ramsey. It’s a local restaurant made famous for its delicious pies so sometimes it gets very busy and noisy as the adults at each table talk, while children yell, and babies scream. We never cared much. The pie was too tasty.
Things changed this summer, though, at the height of tourist season. One time we sat near two tables, one occupied by 4 parents and the other by 4 shall I say “undisciplined” kids. Pat tried to be OK but gradually I saw in her eyes something I interpreted as fear and then panic. I didn’t know if she was going to run or smack those kids (Later she told me that her choice would have been to go after their neglectful parents). She did manage to get through breakfast, but I stayed worried throughout the hour. Fortunately, the parents eventually split the kids up so two parents were at each table with two kids. Otherwise I don’t think Pat would have been able to stay seated. (HE says.)
Pat tells me that she cannot handle chaos. It’s not only the noise but the crowded tables, the waitresses moving around, the line near the door of hungry customers eagerly eyeing the diners, etc. Chaos. I remember the line from a poem by Yates: “the center will not hold.” I think her brain must work hard to maintain structure, to keep her center from dissolving into pure chaos.
Naturally, I want to protect Pat. We’ve considered where in the restaurant would be quietest, but that varies with the diners. We do request a table away from people with children whenever possible. I’ve even suggested a couple times we just quit going to the Nook. Pat’s declined. It’s one part “I should be able to handle this” and one part “I won’t let Lewy Body stop me from doing the things I’ve always done.” [Pat’s added note: Especially when I like to do those things]. She’s right, of course, but maybe not realistic. We may have to curtail predictably noisy situations in the future. Perhaps we are like a football team with a lead near the end of a game: let the other team make a few yards at a time but don’t let them score quickly. Concede a few restaurant visits but maintain your sanity.
Noise from Pat’s Perspective:
[Pat to Ron] “I just can’t stand it when people are yelling. It hurts too much.”
Sometimes when others around us begin to talk or laugh loudly, or disagree, or children begin to fight, with each other or their parents, or scream and cry to get what they want, I will feel absolutely buried in the noise with the back of my head falling off. Others see my discomfort quickly, but I seem never to know what to do. My face contorts, I begin to shake, and sometimes I count on Ron to see this and help me move away. I mostly feel powerless. But I know that I am not powerless. I may begin to read something, to avoid the noise and that often really helps.
When the noises continue, I tend to curl up in a ball and look helpless.
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