Sound encloses every part of our lives from waking in the morning to drifting away at night. Sound controls many aspects of our lives, but can have several different interpretations or meanings. Even at a restaurant the different positions of an employee differentiates the type of listening being competed. At Taco Mac the soundscape consists of several signals, keynote, and sound marks. As the servers use causal listening to understand the signals that protrude from the kitchen, such as the Expo shouting for a “runner” and the servers either run away or accept the task at hand. This gathering of the Expo’s voice through causal listening can be demonstrated as a signal to the servers, and the urgency of his voice through rate and volume. There are other signals that run throughout the kitchen such as the receipt paper printing telling the cooks that more food must be prepared, or even at the end of the night when the bartender yells, “Last call!” allowing everyone the sense of relief as the shift is winding down. There are also other noises throughout the restaurant such as sound marks that are hardly noticed. These sound marks consist of the ice crashing down, or the gibberish of tables communicating, or even the clatter from the kitchen sink. The employees ignore these sounds, as they have zero significance to the tasks needed completion. For a server, intelligibility hearing must be utilized in order to prioritize the needs of each individual customer in order to ensure the tip is at a certain level. This means if “runner” is being shouted several times, but a table was sat in the section and needs drinks, there must be an interpretation of which sound is more important. In most cases, a server takes the drink order before running the food, making the customers’ voice first priority. In another instance, the managers must accept every sound at the same level as they must completely accept all responsibilities at the same level. They are not allowed to place certain employees or tasks above others, but must do everything to improve guest satisfaction. This means different levels of hearing are utilized through different employee mediums.
I enter the Woodruff Dining Hall (Woody’s) and immediately hear the sounds of people discussing their lives at Georgia Tech. Occasionally a loud clank of dishes can be heard them. As I approach the kitchen I can hear the faint sound of food sizzling on the stove and food being prepared. The whole dining hall revolves around the sounds of conversation and food.
As I sit down with a friend to eat my food I start to focus on our conversation and not the rest of the cafeteria. There has been a shift from listening for the fidelity of sound to the intelligibility of my friends voice. It has been prioritized and I start to listen semantically to the words my friend is speaking. The meaning of them has become the focus of my attention. I can still hear the sounds of conversations in the background, which at some points become overpowering, but they are no longer as important. All of these sounds; however, contribute to the soundscape which fits the purpose of the room: to enjoy a meal and socialize.
The soundscape changes dramatically during the late night hours of operation. Now there is no longer the sound of new food being prepared, and the lack of a large crowd lends to a quieter experience in the dining hall. Most have come here in the midst of a tiring late-night homework or study session, which means that less socialization takes place. The sound of the television can be heard more clearly now which causes it to be a larger focal point in the soundscape which has changed. Though the dining hall’s sounds still suit its purpose of being a place where people gather to eat together.
As I walk down the street, I can hear the roar from the field lofting down the street like the aroma of fresh baked cookies through a house. The sound is incredibly soothing to my stressed mind and body. To me, STAMPS field is a world within its own; a place to get out of my mind and relieve my stress.
My happy place involves my feet buried in the turf, floating on air in my Nike tempo cleats. While lacing them up, I find it hard to ignore the football teams shouting across the field, looking up just in time to see the ball make its way over the goal line. In correlation to the touchdown, the sideline players sprint down the field, piling on top of each other celebrating yet another marvelous touchdown. The sound of their cheers echoes off the wall behind them and engulf the field within seconds, mixing with the sounds of the people playing football, cricket and volleyball nearby.
As I finish putting on my cleats, I hear the ball gliding over the turf, like a hockey puck on ice, before it meets the back of the net. I close my eyes to savor the moment as if it were my first time stepping on the field and experiencing that emotion, hearing that sound. But most importantly, in that moment, if I shut my eyes for a little while longer, I can hear nothing. Nothing at all. The city fades away, the cheering fades away, and I am entirely at peace. The best way to accomplish my task of finding a second of peace in my busy day is to focus on the sound of nothing, tune out everything, listen selectively to the silence, and to take a moment to myself.