Monday, April 4, 2016

Deaf Like Me

My selective hearing has given me a bad reputation for being hard of hearing. "Dad's deaf!" frequently are the words I hear after I ask My Lovely Wife or any of our three children to repeat themselves.

The reality is I do hear them. I simply don't begin paying attention until right about the time whoever is speaking has delivered the final word of his or her statement or question. It isn't that I don't care what they're saying. I do. Really, I do. It's just that, because what they're saying somehow doesn't relate to my current task at hand, it takes a few seconds for my brain to switch from whatever it was focused on to listening mode.

There are times, however, when I legitimately am unable to discern the alleged enunciations of my loved ones. I suggest these moments are, for the most part -- and resulting from no fault of my own -- not my fault. Fortunately,  the unintelligible mutterings of my family fall into several convenient categories.

Mumbling Gingers
We have a Mumbling Ginger, which I suspect is the worst sort of mumbler imaginable. Our Ginger (aka, the German) is so softly spoken he might as well be whispering into a hurricane when attempting to communicate with other human beings. This is how most conversations with the Mumbling Ginger begin:

   Him: "Mumble, mumble, mumble."
   Me: "What did you say?"
   Him: "Mumble, mumble, mumble."

It doesn't matter how many times we repeat this opening exercise, the next time the German has something to say it will escape his mouth even more quietly than the last.

The House Crosser
My Lovely Wife specializes in House Crossing. The House Crosser is any individual who begins speaking at normal conversational volume while near you and then, without warning or request for you to follow, leaves your presence and walks all the way across to the other side of the house while continuing to speak at the same volume.

House Crossers might pass any number of noise-making devices along the way -- flushing toilets, running dishwashers, barking dogs, blaring radios, washing machines in spin cycle -- it won't affect the volume at which they are speaking or the degree to which they are annoyed once they realize you are still in the bathroom brushing your teeth and haven't heard a word they've said.

The Verbositizer
The Italian, fittingly enough, has the gift of gab. He's also the kind of kid you sometimes shush when he's making noise only for the sake of making noise, which drives the volume of conversation around him higher and higher until you realize you're yelling to be heard over him.

The Italian doesn't speak, he expounds. The fact he comes by it naturally -- his Mother and I are both card-carrying expounders -- does nothing to ameliorate the effects of being bombarded by a non-stop flood of exposition on his topic of choice. Turning a deaf ear has less to do with not hearing and more to do with self-preservation. Like "Moby Dick" or "War and Peace," the Italian is brimming with tangential details that might seem important but which do not really serve the purpose of the story. If only he came with CliffsNotes.

The Speed Demon
As if it weren't enough that Our Daughter sometimes speaks so quickly her words meld together into stream-of-consciousness babble, she also tends to rise in pitch to squeak level when she does it. It's like listening to a drunk mouse that's been sucking helium.

There is no defense against this attempted form of communication short of immediate mockery, scorn and/or ridicule, followed by a request that she repeat what she said in English and at a tone preferably below that of a dog whistle.

The Non-Transitioner
This one isn't so much a hearing issue as it is a "what the heck are you talking about" issue. When speaking with My Lovely Wife, no matter how long we've been together, I am almost never prepared for the abrupt mental rupture that occurs mid-discussion.

She could be taking the conversation in an entirely new direction, or harkening back to a topic from the previous hour, day or week. Doesn't matter. In her mind, the transition is seamless. I, on the other hand, feel like a thick-brained dullard struggling to figure out how I missed the bit where we went from talking about the German's math homework to a strongly worded condemnation of mayonnaise.

The You've Got to be Kidding Me
This final one is a catch-all for any situation in which any reasonable human being would excuse any non-hearing impaired human being for asking for an unreasonably quiet utterance to be repeated. For instance, when sitting in the middle of the Museum of Natural History Cafe in Washington, DC, on a Saturday surrounded by a thousand bustling tourists all talking loudly in a variety of languages, scraping cafeteria chairs across linoleum, moving tables and yelling at their children to eat more because they just spent their lives' savings on plastic pizza and cold chicken tenders. But, should I say "What did you say?" what do I hear in response? That's right -- Dad's deaf.

2016 Mark Feggeler

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