The Expensive Interview

Do you have close relatives that cannot remember to get your attention before speaking to you, or make sure you can see their lips, or speak clearly, with sufficient volume? Every time I get together with my mother (who lives three miles from me), I ALWAYS have to say one (or more) of the following phrases numerous times:

  • I can’t hear you!
  • What was that?
  • Did you know I have a hearing loss, Mom?
  • Are you talking to me?

Why can’t she remember to communicate properly with me? It doesn’t matter where we are; her place, my place, or in public. It drives me nuts! But one time it almost drove me into the poorhouse.

After I finished graduate school, I applied for a Librarian position several hours away in Jacksonville, Florida. I didn’t trust my old clunker to make the trip and asked my mother if I could borrow her nice car. She agreed to let me use it, and took a vacation day to go with me.

Driving to the interview was uneventful, and the interview lasted a few hours. Anxious to get home, I took a shortcut hoping to shave some time off this long trip. I did this by driving through a little town called Waldo (population 821). My mother chose this time to mumble something to me, and because the road was empty, I turned my head to lipread her.

For those of you who don’t know, Waldo is one of two places in the United States identified by AAA as a “speed trap.” The speed limit changes from 65 down to 45 in the space of half a mile! The good people of Waldo have only 8 police officers who manage to write an astounding 500+ tickets each month. The revenue from these tickets covers 25% of the town’s budget.

I don’t need to tell you that lipreading and driving through a speed trap is NOT A GOOD IDEA. The resulting $200 speeding ticket was tough to pay, as I was fresh out of school and jobless. Outrageous car insurance premiums hounded me for three years following this ticket.

And I didn’t get that job.

My Audiogram

 

This is my most recent audiogram. There’s no date on it, but I believe it was done last year, in 2006.

 

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Now you know my first name is really Cynthia.

Hearing Aids as Art?

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I used paint.NET to modify this picture of my hearing aids using the “pencil sketch” effect.

Visual Language

Ten years ago, I decided to go back to college. As anyone with a disability may do, I contacted Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) for assistance. I had to jump through many hoops as VR evaluated my fitness for collegiate life with IQ, aptitude, and psychological tests. A recently divorced mom with two young children, I knew I needed to earn a degree or two to provide for them and set a positive example.

My first day back on a college campus was thrilling! I was determined to do well in school this time around, but the reality of my deafness hit me in a new way as I sat in the classroom and understood half the lecture and none of the questions asked by my classmates. Flunking was not an option – not with two young children and no child support. I didn’t know sign language, and was unaware of other accommodations in place for hard of hearing students.

I knew about the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities and practically ran there after class. Two days later, I was pleasantly surprised to find an “oral interpreter” waiting for me in Biology class. She soundlessly mouthed my professors’ lectures, and wrote down what I couldn’t lipread. As many of you know, only 1/3 of speech is visible on the lips, and of the visible sounds, several look exactly alike. Have someone “mouth” the following words and see if you can tell the difference:

Elephant juice
Olive juice
I love you

Also – Island View (Thanks, Quixotic Deaf)

To satisfy the foreign language requirement, I took two semesters of American Sign Language (ASL) classes. Eventually, I gained enough vocabulary to “upgrade” from oral to sign language interpreters. Because English is my first language, my interpreters communicated with me using Signed Exact English (SEE), interpreting each spoken word, unlike ASL, which is grammatically and structurally different from English.

My friends, colleagues, and relatives are all hearing, and I rarely have the opportunity to sign. Deaf people are extremely welcome in my Library, and I practice my rusty signs with any willing person. As a Librarian, I have found that my familiarity with sign language is very helpful in other ways, too, as this story illustrates:

A group of homeless men are in the children’s section of the Library. The computers for children have signage clearly indicating they are for children, are on low tables, and have small chairs. But this group of homeless men seem to be oblivious to this fact, and proceed to sit down on these tiny seats. I stifle a giggle at the sight of these grown men – their knees snug in their armpits, hunched over a computer – and walk over to them.

Me: These computers are for children. I’m sorry, but you cannot use them. We have computers for adults over there. (pointing)

Homeless men: Okay. (all proceed to leave, except for one)

I walk back to the Information Desk and wait another minute, expecting the straggler to leave in a few seconds. It soon becomes apparent that he’s not leaving soon, and I return to the computer section.

Me: (Using sign language, I repeat my previous statements)

Homeless man: Huh? What are you saying?

Me: Oh, I’m sorry, when you didn’t leave with your friends, I thought you were Deaf!

Homeless man: (Chagrined look) I’m leaving now.

Yep – I know sign language, and I’m not afraid to use it!

The Lawnmower Man

It’s confession time!

The Local Government Building I write about in my posts is a Public Library. That’s right, I’m a Librarian and a musician with hearing loss. I work the Information Desk at the Library, and also provide programming for children of all ages. I’m currently working in an inner city Library where off-duty Sheriff’s Deputies provide “guard” services to ensure the safety of Library staff and Library customers. Now that I’ve revealed my secret, you can expect more candid blogging from me, starting with this little story that happened while I was at lunch:

Yesterday, a gentleman brought his lawnmower to the Local Government Building Library. Not a riding mower, but a “stand behind it and push” model. He propped it up against the glass entrance doors to watch it while surfing the ‘Net. This caused quite a stir with the Library staff, and the Senior Librarian immediately confronted him.

Senior Librarian: Sir, you need to move your lawnmower.

Gentleman: Why? It’s not in anyone’s way.

Senior Librarian: You can’t leave it there.

Gentleman: It isn’t blocking the doors!

Senior Librarian: Sir, please move the lawnmower.

The gentleman sighs deeply and moves the lawnmower a few feet, propping it next to the bookdrop. At this point, our trusty Deputy steps in and goes face to face with the lawnmower man:

Deputy: You can’t keep your lawnmower there. Move it off Library property.

Gentleman: This is ridiculous! There are bikes in front of the Library! Why can’t I have my lawnmower here?

Deputy: The bikes are in the bike rack. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lawnmower rack.

And you can’t park your jet ski, go-kart, boat, horse, donkey, or cow in front of the Library, either. Just so you know.

Never Put Them in Your Lap!

I’ve blogged twice about the destruction and near destruction of my hearing aids, and have to admit, it is somewhat embarrassing to tell the whole world about these calamities. The only thing I can say in my defense is that accidents DO happen, and in the past 31 years, I’ve only had 3 mishaps with my hearing aids. That’s once a decade – not a bad record. The most recent disaster was almost 4 years ago:

Not wanting to cook one evening after work, I drive my kids to Subway for dinner with my hearing aids sitting in my lap. When we arrive at the sandwich shop, I wait in the car while my kids place their orders. I pop the trunk open and step out to refill my water bottle. After the kids get back in the car with their sandwiches, we head over to the mall. I’m not in the mood for any drama due to my deafness, so I decide to put my hearing aids on ………only I can’t find them.

I feel sick as I realize what happened. Frantic with worry, I plead with my daughter to call information for Subway‘s number, then call Subway while I drive like a maniac, praying my hearing aids are intact.

Girly Girl on the phone: My mom dropped her hearing aids in the parking lot. Please send someone outside to pick them up before they get run over.

Subway employee: Click.

Girly Girl: Mom, he hung up on me!

Me: Call the numbskulls again! And hurry!

The second time Girly Girl called, she was placed on hold, and a minute later told there are no hearing aids near the store.

As I pull into the parking lot, I spot the oh-so-familiar beige on the pavement next to a car. Slamming my car into park, I open the door and almost trip over my feet rushing toward my “ears.” Scooping up my treasures quickly, I run back to my car, chanting, “Please let them work, please let them work.”

Alas, it was not to be. Only one hearing aid was unscathed. The other aid displayed its inner workings through gaping cracks in its formerly smooth exterior. Even the ear mold was split in half. Tears of anguish filled my eyes. I’m ashamed to write what happened next, but I was not in my right mind as I stormed into the packed Subway and began shouting at the employees, holding my hearing aids up for all the world to see.

Me: (Glaring at the poor sandwich artists) MY HEARING AIDS WERE IN THE PARKING LOT! THEY WERE IN FULL VIEW! WHY WOULDN’T YOU PICK THEM UP WHEN WE CALLED? WHY DIDN’T YOU PICK THEM UP???????? WOULD IT HAVE HURT YOU TO PICK THEM UP????

Subway employee: Mgh mgh kdom dofkd mgh mgh.

Me: What?

Subway employee: Mgh mgh kdom dofkd mgh mgh.

Me: (At the top of my lungs with my most theatrical voice) GUESS WHAT?  I   C A N ’ T    H E A R    Y O U !!!!!

……..And the crazy deaf lady went home to search for the warranty paperwork for her hearing aids.  Fortunately, the warranty covered Acts of Stupidity.  But The Stupid One had to pay a $425 deductible!

Was My Face Red!

A coworker recently returned from a week long vacation in New York. She stayed with relatives, and began to worry as she heard herself slip deeper into her native New York accent each passing day. She was a bit fearful of becoming the subject of one of my posts (Hi Michelle!) when she returned to work talking about her “muddah, faddah, and kwoffee.”

The funny thing is, I’m okay with heavy accents from The South, New York, the Cayman Islands, and the Bay Islands of Honduras, given sufficient volume and lip movements. My brain is able to “fill in” the missing sounds when I listen to people who hail from these places. But most foreign accents leave me baffled, especially when extra syllables are added and emphasized. Case in point:

Customer: Re – AH – roo.

Me: (Blank look on my face) Please repeat that?

Customer: Re – AH – roo.

Me: (Speaking quietly to coworker) Please help me! I don’t know if he’s speaking English or not!

Coworker to customer: May I help you?

Customer: Re – AH – roo.

Coworker: (Points to restroom)

Customer: (Begins walking to the restroom, but not before giving me a disgusted look)

Me: (Humiliated)

In moments like this, it’s hard to prove I wasn’t raised by a pack of rabid wolves.

Made for Each Other

I sit quietly at my desk in the Local Government Building. Customers are behaving themselves, and all is peaceful, when the door opens and The Dreaded Customer walks in the door. He’s never rude, never impolite, but I cringe inwardly the second he appears. Why? He’s the bane of my existence; every word he speaks looks EXACTLY the same. He simply repeats it endlessly. “Don’t look at his lips, don’t look at his lips,” I chant in my mind as he saunters up to my desk.

Me: Hi, may I help you?

Dreaded Customer: Bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub. Bub-bub-bub-bub?

Me: (Totally clueless look on my face) Excuse me?

Dreaded Customer: Bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub. Bub-bub-bub-bub?

Me: What kind of information do you need?

He gestures wildly, and speaks louder. Beads of perspiration form on my forehead. With intense effort, I manage to decode his nonsensical word formations and he leaves quickly. My sense of relief vanishes rapidly, however, as my gaze falls upon the next person to enter the Local Government Building. This is unbelievable! It can’t be! Not two in a row!

Now it’s time for an encounter with Miss Thith-thith-thith-thith-thith.

How to Annoy Normal Hearing People

I push the shopping cart through the aisles in the grocery store, and notice a woman giving me a quizzical glance. Maybe she recognizes me from the Local Government Building, I think to myself, and continue my trek to the cookie aisle, lured by Mrs. Field’s finest semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies. As I giddily reach my destination, several people turn to look at me, with the same quizzical expression on their faces. Aha – now I get it! My cell phone must be playing the Macarena. I check it, and sure enough, Super Hearing Boy is calling his Mama!

I’m truly perplexed by my cell phone. It’s hearing aid compatible, and I use it daily with my T-switch or Bluetooth it with my SmartLink and hearing aids. It is set to the loudest factory-installed ringtone, yet I can’t hear it ring most of the time. This past week, I have been fruitlessly trying to create a suitable ringtone using my piano keyboard, Anvil Studio, and MyxerTones. I’ve read blogs and forum posts devoted to the LG VX8300 promising ringtones without a hitch, and have been able to successfully create several. I’ve converted MIDI files to wav, MIDI to MP3s, and wav to MP3s. Unfortunately, only Super Hearing Boy can hear my creations.

As I previously posted, I don’t wear my hearing aids when I’m not actively listening to someone. As I write this, I see that I missed a call about an hour ago – and my phone was two feet from my ears! Does ANYONE know of a loud ringtone suitable for hard of hearing people? Please don’t suggest that I set it to vibrate and attach it to my waistband – that’s not gonna happen!

Thanks!

Cindy (Deaf person with a cell phone)

Elvis sang about me…..

Before I became a mom, I was a bit anxious about my ability to take care of offspring. Would I be able to hear my newborn’s cries of distress? Would I understand my child’s first sweet words? Could I take care of my children despite my deafness?

I need not have worried. Once I crossed the threshold into motherhood, I was pleased to discover my hearing loss adequately compensated with an otherworldly ability to gather information by scent. This skill has served me well over the years, covering every stage of development in my children’s lives. My olfactory sense enables me to:

  • detect a dirty diaper from 20 feet away (Infant stage)
  • determine who ate the missing cookies (Toddler  – Preteen years)
  • know if smokers have been around my children (Teen years)
  • smell TROUBLE (Early Adulthood)

Consider the following exchange between my teenage daughter and me just before she turned 18:

“Where did you go?”

“To a house.”

“What did you and your friends do?”

“Stuff.”

If she won’t give me details, I’ll find out for myself. I call my firstborn to me and begin sniffing.

“I smell cigarette smoke! Have you been smoking?“

“No!“

I raise her hands to my nose. She’s telling the truth.

“Let me smell your breath!“

She rolls her eyes and lets out an exaggerated sigh. Hmmm. No alcohol or tobacco scent.

“Okay, you can go.“

Before she departs for her room, she gives me the evil eye and says, “Mom, you’re like a HOUND DOG sniffing me all the time!“

Aren’t the teenage years precious?

NYC Airport Car Service JFK

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