by Victor Sullivan © April 2012
Establishing tranquility in a hotel dining room.
I was preparing to polish the car and reached for the bag of cleaning rags that dangled from an overhead hook in the garden shed. The bag was suspended by a short loop of brown, twin-core, loudspeaker cable. Suddenly the shed seemed to vanish from around me, replaced instead by an image of a dreary hotel dining room of many decades ago, as memories came storming back.
Its sign declared it to be a luxury hotel. Perhaps it had been one in a previous century but luxurious it was not. Adequate, maybe. Its clients were mainly company sales reps. and visiting technicians like myself, working long hours in the nearby industrial estate. A few residents had simply arrived because they needed a bed for the night. I was an intermittent resident at this now long-vanished establishment.
Breakfast consisted of 'Full Irish' and it was just that. No skimping in the hotel kitchen. Four sausages, two slices of bacon, two fried eggs, two slices of black pudding, a large dollop of baked beans and a couple of chunks of fat-sodden fried bread. It was served by the owner-manager on a huge plate with as much decorum as a crash-landing aircraft. A harsh, irritating racket, intended to be background music, reverberated constantly around the dining-room.
I shared a breakfast table one morning with one of the other guests and tried to make polite conversation. Sadly, I gave up the attempt, conceding victory to the one undersized, over-loaded and over-powering loudspeaker that blasted out the acoustically distorted meaningless 'music.' A request to have the volume turned down was met with a gruff, 'Can't! Knob's gone.'
'Then please switch it off.' I demanded.
'Can't. The staff like it that way. Keeps 'em happy.'
So much for Customer Care.
Breakfast finished, I left the dining room with my table-mate.
'You here again tomorrow?' he asked.
'Unfortunately. Are you visiting one of the factories?'
'Hospital. Servicing X-Ray stuff. You?'
'Working on control systems in that animal feed mill over there.' I replied.
'We will have to do something to improve breakfast conversation tomorrow.' he declared.
That evening, in the hotel bar, I sought support from the other residents. They all nodded and smiled in response to my request that the table directly under the loudspeaker should be left for me to occupy at breakfast.
I arrived in the dining room next morning and sat directly below the offending loudspeaker where the X-ray techie joined me. We shouted our 'Full Irish' requests and, as the owner-manager vanished kitchen-wards to execute our orders, I climbed onto the chair and, with a couple of quick snips with my wire-cutters, the blaring loudspeaker fell silent. Permanently. The other guests grinned their approval and made soundless hand-clapping gestures as I sat down, pocketing the cutters together with the twelve-inch length of twin-core flexible cable. I had cut it from the loudspeaker at one end and then cleanly snipped off the other end flush with the smooth plaster surface of the wall through which it had emerged, thus ensuring that restoration of the cacophony would not be a quick fix.
By the time the sausages, bacon and fat-sodden fried everything else made their obligatory crash-landing in front of us, a happy, healthy buzz of cheerful conversation had been established all around the dining-room and we got to know each other very well.
In response to your unspoken question: Sorry, I don't know. I never went back there again. But thirty years later that twelve inch piece of loudspeaker cable still usefully suspends a bag of old dusters from a hook in my garden shed.