I hate to admit it, but I’ve begun to notice that several of my friends and I aren’t hearing quite as clearly as we once did.
Phone calls are particularly bad because I find myself either having to repeat things or shout when I’m talking. And in return, I notice I’m saying “huh?” so often, I probably sound as if I’m trying to hack up something that’s stuck in my throat.
Cell phones definitely don’t help the situation, especially when people call me from their cars. I have one friend who often phones me on his drive home from work. Bad enough he uses the speaker-phone mode, which makes him sound as if he's calling from an orbiting space station, he also loses his connection every time he drives by a certain area.
“Wait till you hear what happened to me last night!” he’ll say. "I was driving home and didn’t know a cop was right behind me. All of a sudden he put on his flashing lights and then…"
Static and silence.
Meanwhile, I’m shouting, "And then what? What happened? Hello? Are you there? Do you need bail money?”
The calls I have the most trouble with are the ones to customer service, which usually involve being connected to someone who barely speaks English and is in some obscure, foreign place I’ve never heard of, like Atowedudu. I can’t hear clearly to begin with, so add a heavy accent to the mix and I’m pretty much doomed.
The last time I talked to a technical-support guy when my computer was acting up, his accent was so thick, I had no clue what he was saying through most of our conversation. At one point, he instructed me to “click on Internet options.”
I honestly thought he’d said he was sick and nauseous.
“Have you tried drinking ginger ale?” I asked him.
He must have thought I was the one who was drinking…something much stronger than ginger ale.
And I remember when my husband started to lose his hearing. At first, I couldn’t figure out whether he was just ignoring me, or if he actually had a problem.
But as time passed, I noticed that no matter what I said, he’d just answer, “Yeah.” He probably figured I’d be happy if he agreed with me, so “yeah” was a safe answer.
I’d say, “Do you want steak for dinner?”
“You want fries with it?”
“Or would you prefer mashed potatoes?”
“Is it OK if I run off with Ricardo, the Brazilian landscaper and part-time exotic dancer I met last week?”
I have to confess I’ve also been guilty of using my husband’s “yeah” technique fairly often lately when I’m on the phone. It was evident last week when my friend in Scotland called to chat. Her thick Scottish accent made my struggle to understand her even more challenging.
So I uttered a lot of “yeahs” throughout most of our conversation.
Judging from my friend’s tone of voice after some of my responses, however, I’m pretty sure I said, “yeah,” when I should have been saying, “no,” or “Oh no, that’s terrible!” I’m also afraid I might unintentionally have offended her.
I mean, I’m still not sure if she said, “I’m getting a cat” or “I’m getting fat.”
Either way, I answered “Yeah!”
If she doesn’t call me again, then I guess I’ll be able to figure out which one she actually said.
It’s tough getting old.
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Sally Breslin is a native New Englander and an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org