DON'T FORGET TO LAUGH
“Welcome. We’re Artists Stoned,” declared the thin woman as I entered the small art gallery in Asheville.
“Wow, that’s honest marketing,” I replied. She just smiled. After admiring the pottery, quilts, and 50,000 pairs of earrings, I headed for the door. That’s when I heard the same woman greet newcomers, “Welcome. We’re artist owned.” Shoot, maybe I really was hard of hearing.
My sons had been telling me for years I need to do something about my deafness. They would ask, “Want to get some coffee?”
And I’d reply, “Why would I want a golf tee?”
Or they would request, “Pass the salt.”
And I’d ask, “What’s my fault?” I swore they just weren’t enunciating.
I have a dear friend who is more understanding than my mumbling kids. He has trouble with his right ear. I have trouble with my left. So, we’re perfect bookends, sitting with our good ears facing each other. It works out beautifully till friends join us. Then it’s a game of musical chairs as we get separated (gasp) and move from seat to seat, trying to hear conversations.
This results in a lot of smiling and nodding when we don’t have the slightest idea what someone is saying. If only people would speak at the same volume as movie theaters (way over 11), then life would be fine.
A fast food speaker does a great imitation of what I hear on my left. Unfortunately, this is the ear that faces an actual speaker when Jesse and I go to Taco Bell. So, when the cashier repeats the order and I only hear “blmomofhblmofjiy,” it is Jesse who has to yell “Correct.”
I’ve learned “Do you want a bossy hat?” is really “Do you want sauce with that?”
“Mild,” I proudly respond.
My inability to communicate has been both irritating and amusing. I thought I could live with it. But what if somewhere down the road a guy asks. “Will you marry me?” and I hear, “Will you carry me?”
Then I’d reply, “Gee I would, but I’ve got a bad shoulder and you’re too heavy for me.”
Hurt, he’d say, “But I love you.”
Backing away, I would wonder why he wants to shove me. Is it because I won’t carry him? Rejected, he’d ride off into the sunset and I’d spend the rest of my life wondering why he wanted me to carry him and to where?
I really didn’t want my life to become a running Abbott and Costello routine. So, I bit the bullet and decided to get a sexy, chic hearing aid.
The first step was the hearing test. Sitting in the soundproof booth, I felt like I was on a game show. As I replied “yes” to the beeps I heard in the right earpiece, I was proud of myself for doing really well. Yes, I know this is ridiculous. It’s not like I pulled an all-nighter for this exam. (I am also irrationally proud when my blood work comes back “normal.”)
After hearing the range of tones with my right ear, it was time to try my left. Whoops, it failed and there was no grading on the curve. I had hoped the long silences were due the doctor being distracted and forgetting to “beep” me. Nope, that ear is giving me the silent treatment.
The doctor needed to make a mold of my ear for sizing the hearing aid. He stuck the medical equivalent of silly putty in the canal. It wasn’t nearly as fun as the real stuff I remember from childhood. There were no reversed cartoons on the putty when he pulled it out.
Next, I got to choose which device I wanted. Thinking of my mumbling kids, I wanted a model that would make even Bob Dylan understandable. Evidently, such a thing doesn’t exist. I settled on a cute little number that brings out those lovely high-pitched sounds in the world.
Some of you may notice the tube leading into my ear. I swear it’s not a clever way of delivering vodka straight to my brain. It leads to the blob of plastic that magically makes my left ear work again.
The world has become a bizarre mix of exaggerated noises as my brain adjusts to new sound input. (You wouldn’t believe how loud it is to type on this keyboard.)
And now, it is official. I am old. I want to tell young women to cover their cleavage. Babies make me all gushy, “Ahh, how sweet. They grow up so fast.” And I have a hearing aid.
The future should be brighter with this new addition. Conversations will be clearer, and misunderstandings will be few. Yet, part of me is a bit sad.
Those poor stoned artists. I’m going to miss them.
Carol Wilber Bradfield
Carol Wilber Bradfield is one of those "Lake People." She snuck into Davidson many years ago when someone left the gate open one night. If seen, please approach carefully and give her a hug... and cash if you have it. Lots of cash. Thank you.