Sometimes I think about the weirdest things. Earlier today I was thinking about all those boot camp scenes you see in movies, where they have a drill sergeant marching the guys along and yelling out that call and response thing. (Dave told me it’s called ‘cadence.’) You know what I mean, right? Well, if I was in that situation, I’d be screwed. The drill sergeant would yell out his thing, and when everyone repeated it I’d just be mumbling and hoping he didn’t notice that I wasn’t really repeating it. Because, of course, I wouldn’t know what the heck he was saying.
Oh, I hate call and response situations! We encounter them at concerts and presentations; we had them come up at both the kids’ college orientations. Sometimes I can figure out what I’m supposed to say, but usually I fake it.
This got me thinking about other situations that I, as a deaf person with CIs, and Dave, as a hard-of-hearing person, really hate. We talked about that today as we worked side by side, putting dinner together (chili, in the crockpot…can’t wait).
The first thing I thought of is people talking to me through a door. I don’t think Dave encounters this as much as I do; it’s probably more of a girl thing. People love to chat when you’re in a public bathroom. This always makes me freeze – if I’ve come in with someone else (you know that girls hit the restroom in packs whenever possible!) then I’m not sure if it’s them talking to me, or if it’s someone else in the bathroom talking to some other person. Not only can I not understand what’s being said, but everything sounds weird in a bathroom with all the tile everywhere and (usually) background noise like music or dryers going or toilets flushing, so voices are hard for me to recognize. If I know for a fact that I’m alone in the bathroom with the person I walked in with, then I feel like a big jerk not responding to them. It’s okay if it’s my mom or daughter, because I’ll just remind them that I can’t understand them. But I used to have this happen a lot with other female acquaintances that I didn’t know that well and who often didn’t even know I had a hearing loss. It was such an uncomfortable situation!
It also happens in dressing rooms. Helpful clerks will knock on the door and ask questions and that makes me nuts. To understand them, I have to open the door and have them repeat the question while I read their lips, and I’m usually in a state of undress. Just leave me alone, people! When I was in high school there was a popular store in the mall, Merry Go Round, that I finally learned I should never go into, because the sales girls always, always knocked on the door and chatted when I was in the dressing room. They’d ask how everything was, if I needed a different size, or they’d try to get you to come out so they could ooh and aah over how the clothes looked on you (and try to get that sale). It stressed me out so much that I stopped shopping there even though I liked the clothes.
I also hate when someone knocks on the door of either a public bathroom or a dressing room. At Goodwill, I’ve had dressing room attendants knock and then open the door on me because I didn’t respond. Talk about embarrassing! I couldn’t tell if they were knocking on my door or someone else’s, and it caught me so off-guard that I didn’t know how to respond. In the time it took me to stand there and think, Did they knock on my door? What do I say…hello? I’m in here? Uh…what should I do… I would hear the telltale sound of the key in the lock and see the knob turning. Usually I have enough time to cover up before they open the door and expose me to the whole damn store. The bathroom is the same way – I just freeze and don’t know what to say. Sometimes I say nothing, other times I just yell, “Occupied!” and hope that it was really my door the person was knocking on.
Let’s see, what else…oh. Talking into my ear. Please don’t do that! It doesn’t help me hear or understand you better…it just means I have to crane around and try to get your face in front of my face again. This goes hand-in-hand with whispering, which was the bane of my existence as a kid. Kids like to whisper! I felt like such a dork, having a kid whisper to me and then just looking at them cluelessly. I turned down a lot of sleepover invitations because of this (whispering combined with darkness…girls whispering after the lights are out…a nightmare for me) and also sleepaway camp for the same reason. I know my mom probably thought I was just clingy but this was a big part of why I never wanted to stay overnight anywhere.
Dave’s ‘crappy situation’ contributions were restaurants, cashier chit-chat, and events in big auditoriums or loud situations (especially the open houses and orientations we went to for the kids at school). All of these involve loud environments and unpredictable conversations. I can always tell when a cashier has stumped Dave with a comment or question he wasn’t anticipating. Sometimes I can jump in and save him if I’ve been paying attention and lipreading. I’ve mentioned before that we usually don’t go to restaurants, but if we do we try to get a booth along the wall, and Dave makes sure to face his good ear in the direction of the waitress. I do a little better now in these kinds of environments thanks to ClearVoice knocking out the background noise, but Dave still really suffers, poor guy.
Of course, we both hate drive-thrus, another thing I’ve mentioned before. It’s a good thing we don’t do a lot of take-out! You just never know what kind of goofy question they’re going to throw at you, if the speaker system is going to be clear or staticky, or if the person talking to you is going to have an accent you can’t understand. It’s not just food though; we also encounter uncomfortable drive-thru situations at the bank and the pharmacy as well. In those cases, we try to pull up to the window on the building, so we can (hopefully) see the person’s face and lipread if they have questions.
How about talking to someone in the dark? Nothing is more uncomfortable than sitting around a campfire or sitting outside at night and trying to talk to a group of people (especially those you don’t know very well). Again, this is something I dealt with more as a young person ; now we just avoid those kinds of situations if we can. Every now and then, though, we get invited to do something like this and we do go…we just don’t talk very much!
To end this on a more positive note (I’m starting to sound like a crabby curmudgeon here), I know I talked before about what it’s like for me at the end of the day, when I go to bed and everything is silent. In the morning, though, I go from total silence to instant sound, and it’s like the part in the Wizard of Oz when everything changes from black and white to color. I never know what my first sound of the day will be. Sometimes it’s just silence; I’m in the bedroom, usually alone, when I put my CIs on. Sometimes it’s really loud, because I have a tendency to put my CIs on right when Dave is grinding coffee beans in the kitchen. But today, the first sound I heard was loud, rumbly purring. Beanie was sitting at my feet, looking up at me. She went from silently (to me) staring to loudly purring in the space of a second. What an awesome way to start the day!