After getting my new hearing aid, and phoning Mary, I told her she didn’t need to shout.
“But that’s the way I always speak when I’m talking to you,” she said.
“Well, just tone it down a bit, I’m not deaf.”
And then it occurred to me that, indeed, I am no longer deaf. The technology — though pricey — has finally caught up with me, and I can no longer plead hearing impairment when it serves my purposes to do so.
“It’s all a cacophony,” I said. “The peanuts squeak between my teeth as I’m chewing, I look like ‘The Scream’ whenever the toilet flushes, the stairs groan unbelievably when I tred on them. . . .”
“Welcome back to the real world.”
“But I preferred my own. Despite what I used to say about participating in the dance — dance, it’s more like a stampede — of life. Things were quieter then, I was less tuned in, and rather liked it. For instance, the office, which I used to think was utterly silent, with everyone staring at their computers, is far more distracting than I thought.”
Of course I can always shut my door — I am one of the few so privileged — but that would be a retreat into the nostalgic past. No, I must face the music. I no longer am in the world yet not of it. I must communicate — a strange imperative to come from the lips of one who’s been in the communications business for as long as he can remember, even when he was in the Army tapping out “Ben’s best bent wire” in Morse code in a Fort Bragg classroom.
But how can one think with all that’s going on, to my left and right, before and behind, above and below, inside and out — plaints, scratchings, squeaky chairs, rumbles, phone conversations, the incessant traffic, the slurping of soup, the ingestion of sandwiches. . . .
Accepting the fact that I’m now like everyone else will take some getting used to. It doesn’t quite fit my otherworldly persona. All of a sudden, within the span of a few weeks, I have a laptop computer, the first I’ve ever owned, and a professional-looking case to put it in, and a hearing aid that . . . will you shut up out there! . . . won’t abide my evasions anymore.
And I thought these were supposed to be the Golden Years.