Last Call: Where Do You Stand On Restaurant Noise?

Food writers tend to get lots of, shall we say, interesting unsolicited emails. I will not be sharing any of mine, as I'm saving them all to one be published as a horrifying coffee table book. New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells gets his fair share of notes from the peanut gallery as well, and has divulged that most can be divided into one of two camps: those who think that restaurants, as a concept, are stupid, ergo his professional contributions to society are completely worthless, and those who think that restaurants are too damn loud, and believe that he is the only person who could possibly save us all from the audible hellscape of 21st century dining.

After receiving an email from a doctor-slash-"noise activist," Pete wrote a little something nice about why restaurant noise is actually a good thing, and why there shouldn't be, as the email had suggested, a law telling people to shut the hell up and eat their food quietly. Personally, I'm on the fence. On one hand, it's lousy going out with someone and having to scream at them across a small table, being forced to smile politely and nod after everything they say, even though you have no idea what they're talking about. On the other, my husband and I have been together long enough that we've run out of things to talk about, and on the off chance we get a night away from the kids, we like using a noisy restaurant as an excuse to say absolutely nothing and eat a meal in peace. Where do you guys stand on the noise issue?