Sometimes I wish I was better at letting things slide. I’m definitely better than I was but there are times when I simply feel that not saying anything is tantamount to complicity.
But have I ever been thrown out of somewhere as execrable as Bowlplex? Almost certainly not. ‘You got thrown out of Bowlplex?’ I hear you say… How does anyone get thrown out of a place that is all neon lights and having to wear other people’s shoes? The answer is ‘I complained’.
Bowlplex in Tunbridge Wells is something of a favourite for birthday parties with Luca and his friends. They go bowling and then they go next door for burgers and pizza at Frankie and Bennies. It’s all pretty easy. One game of bowling and they’re ready to eat. Bowlplex is open plan and there’s not much that can get wrecked so it’s OK to let a group of six and seven year olds run around without having to worry too much.
So far so good. But for reasons beyond my ken this morning the management decided to have the music on so loud that it was well over the borderline into painful.
Don’t get me wrong – I can do loud. I saw Motorhead’s 10th anniversary bash at the Hammersmith Odeon. Sure, the hearing in my left ear has never quite recovered, but noise in a good cause? Nil problemo. And Lemmy and chums were but one of many loud rock bands I’ve enjoyed seeing over the years.
But this was simply extraneous, aural wallpaper, except the wallpaper4had decided it was the main attraction. It wasn’t just me at ten thirty on a Sunday morning. The other parents were uncomfortable. It wasn’t possible to hold a conversation.
But the acid test was that Luca and friends were walking round with their fingers in their ears. It was that bad. All they wanted to do was bowl and celebrate their friend’s birthday. And if it was bad for Luca it was worse for one of his friends and classmates who has Down’s Syndrome. She was positively distressed.
So I simply asked if they could turn the music down. Surely not too much of a problem? Except it was. A McJobsworth by the name of Susie didn’t even bother to check. She simply declared that because another group had a birthday party booked they’d get complaints if they turned it down. I asked for the manager. She didn’t call him but just sent me to the other end of the complex. He wasn’t there but I did ask the DJ to turn the noise down which he did happily. So far, so fine, except then they simply shoved it back up again.
This time other parents started complaining. Then the manager turned up and refused to turn the noise down. I suggested that it was so loud that it would probably contravene environmental health rules. If it was a workplace and sound levels were such you couldn’t hear colleagues talk over the noise you’d probably be issued with ear defenders. He was adamant that the place had been checked and approved. I said that perhaps I should call the local environmental health department and get their opinion. This, I was told, was a threat and he didn’t like being threatened. In my understanding when businesses ask you not to threaten their staff they mean threats of violence or abusive language, rather than exercising one’s right to report them for possibly breaking the law. Of course environmental health officers rarely work at times when people are doing stupidly loud things – such as when you’re trying to sleep through a party next door at 2am on a Saturday.
So instead I decided to ask the parents at the other party, who would apparently complain if the volume was dropped, if they wanted the music so loud.
The party group (apparently there may have been three parties mixed together) were all younger than Luca. So the deafening music was for the benefit of five and six year olds. Except when I asked it transpired than the parents I spoke to there also found the music uncomfortably loud and didn’t mind our asking for it to be turned down at all. Moreover they mentioned that among the party guests were a number of deaf children who wore hearing aids (and by implication that it was uncomfortably loud for them too).
But when I explained this to the manager he told me that it wasn’t my job to talk to other patrons. True – it was his job. He was simply too arrogant and stubborn to do it. But then he simply ordered me off the premises. The other parents later told me I’ve been banned for life.
So there you have it. You complain about being treated with contempt by the lazy and rude staff at a pit like Bowlplex and you get a lifetime ban.
I’m tempted to see the upside and be relieved I have a good reason never to go back. On the other hand I’m pretty damned unimpressed because I don’t go there for me. Believe me I can think of a million less awful places. I go there because my seven year old son has fun bowling occasionally. So they’ve punished him rather than me. And all I did was complain. I didn’t even tell the boorish wombat of a manager what I thought of him. Perhaps he’ll read this and find out.