Monthly Archives: January 2013

I Can’t Hear You, I Have a Bagel in My Ear

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My boss brought in bagels last Friday as a special treat.

I almost didn’t get one.

“But I told everyone about it,” my boss said. “I shouted it in the hallway.”

I don’t know how I could have missed it. The shout in the hallway, followed by the sound of a dozen co-workers as they stampeded past my room and descended in a frenzy upon the boss’ office. Maybe you’ve seen that Discovery Channel show When Sharks Attack. It’s kind of like that. Twelve otherwise lovely and polite women will rip into cake or brownies or bagels like sharks on a puppy. Once my co-workers scent bakery goods, it’s just too late.

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By the time I found out about the treats in the office, the mad horde had departed. The only evidence of the recent carnage was a few crumbs on the floor, a few dabs of cream cheese on the wall, and one twisty, misshapen bagel half hidden behind a basket.

Which of course I ripped into like a shark on a puppy.

“But I told everyone,” my boss repeated. “I shouted it down the hallway.”

Yeah, well I didn’t hear it. When you’re hearing impaired, one of the side-effects is that you don’t hear so well. Sometimes you miss things. Sometimes you don’t hear the phone. Sometimes you don’t hear the doorbell. Sometimes you go to see a new widely praised movie about our 16th president and you miss maybe 70% of the dialogue. And sometimes you end up with the weird looking bagel.

Being hard of hearing sucks. I got my hearing aids at the ripe old age of twenty and I’ve been annoyed ever since. For anyone doing the math, that’s a long time ago. There are much worse problems in life, I know. But try watching real-time news with the sound down and the closed-captioning on.

I remember Obama had just become president for the first time, and the talking heads were discussing the news of the day. As the pundits excitedly debated the impact of this momentous inauguration, I watched in silence as tiny letters, white on a black band, scrolled across the bottom of the screen. Like many people, I rely on closed captioning when watching TV. For deaf, hearing impaired, and people trying to improve their English, closed captioning can be incredibly helpful. When it’s done well.

A picture of Obama taking the oath of office flashed up on the screen. His right hand was held aloft, and his mouth began opening and closing as he repeated the famous words. “I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR,” began the captioning, “THAT I WILL FAITHFULLY EGGS A CUTE THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT…” Uh, oh, I thought. It’s happening again. “…PROTECT AND DEAF END THE CON STITCH CHEW SHUN OF THE UNITED STATES.”

The camera cut back to the slick and smiling commentators, who were chatting away, blissfully unaware that beneath them, their pithy sound bites were being mangled into mush. One of the fellows looked sincerely into the camera lens, took a deep breath, and according to the captioning, offered these portentous words.

NoMalignedShirtThis bizarre nonsense, this utter drivel, could mean only one thing– the monkeys had taken over the keyboards again.

You may have seen, while watching TV, a little credit at the end of a show, which reads Closed Captioning by Katie, or Closed Captioning by Brian. That’s Brian as in, “Hi I’m Brian, I’m an Aquarius. I like working with the deaf, eating bananas whole, and throwing my feces at people.” The infinite number of monkeys who worked an infinite number of years typing out the Complete Works of William Shakespeare have evidently finished their monumental task and are now working in the Department of Closed Captioning. In other words, Bobo and his friends are loose and they are messing with our minds.

I can see it clearly, like a scene out of Planet of the Apes: the crazed monkeys breaking into the steno room, wreaking monkey mayhem. Then one of them spots a stenography keyboard. He claps his hands and shrieks with glee. Soon all the monkeys have settled down at little desks and are busily typing closed captions with their toes while picking the nits out of their co-workers’ fur. There is no other excuse for the insane ramblings that unfurl across the bottom of my television, the bizarre strings of words that have no correspondence to what is actually happening on the screen. It has to be monkeys because surely the FCC wouldn’t intentionally allow such low standards of information broadcasting to go out to the deaf community, some of whom can still be seen wandering around tram stations searching for maligned shirts to rescue.

I’m thinking about contacting the FCC to complain. Perhaps they aren’t aware of the extent of the problem. But part of me is afraid that any written complaint will be followed up by strange midnight phone calls. The sounds on the other end of the line will be high-pitched and staccato, ooh-ooh, aah-ahh, ee-ee-ee! I’ll find half-eaten bananas in my mailbox, or worse, and long black monkey hairs in my teacups. No, I think I’m better off staying silent on this one. There are bigger problems in the world. My words would probably fall on deaf ears anyway.

Now you’ve probably never thought about the very real possibility that you might wear hearing aids some day. That’s why I thought I’d just slip all this in your ear now, as a kind of early warning, free of charge.

And maybe you will never experience a decline in your hearing. (Lucky person!) But someday, if you’re 70 or 80 and you answer the question, “Do you want fries with that?” with, “Yes, it’s a quarter after two,” then either you will have gotten a bit daffy OR you are becoming hearing impaired. (You could be both, I suppose, but that’s even sadder. Let’s not go there.)

Anyway, in the future, when you’re sitting in the audiologist’s waiting room, waiting for the receptionist to call your name (which you won’t hear,) you’ll reach back into the dingy recesses of your mind. You’ll vaguely recall reading a post by some woman- didn’t she write something about hearing loss? And bagels? And monkeys? And sharks?

Then you’ll get distracted by the pretty fishies in the fish tank and all other thoughts will be gone. Bloop!

Speaking of fish, here’s a pole-

Thanks for reading!

-happyzinny

(Happy because I can turn the sound down when the idiots are talking!)

 

 

 

Clowndog

Where’s my piss-off cake?
Happy Birthday to Le Clown

Sad lil poem

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One is the day that he met her,

 Ten is the day that he died.

Just time to count each little finger,

And rock her to sleep once or twice.

Perhaps she could feel his heart beating

Through the thin cotton cloth of his hospital gown.

We try to hold on to what’s precious,

But the world never stops spinning ’round.

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ENGLISH SOCKS!

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“Why do all Americans talking about socks?”

My friend Halina peered at me over the edge of her ever-present coffee cup, her green eyes almost obscured by the rising steam.

“Oh. Um…do we?” I asked, thinking hard and stalling for time.

“Yes. My husband and I, we hearing this everywhere.”

The English language torments my friend Halina on a daily basis with its bizarre spellings and irregular tenses. Richard Lederer, who has written about the pummeling English receives from native and non-native speakers alike, reminds us that English is the language in which your nose can run and your feet can smell. It is also the language in which one can say, with a perfectly straight face, that something is a little big or pretty ugly or really fake.

Our idioms, our common turns of phrase, are Halina’s toughest adversaries. If something is not at all difficult, we say it’s ‘as easy as pie.’ But why pie? Why not easy as a jelly doughnut? Or easy as a piece of bread? Or paper? Or fish? We also say that something simple is ‘a piece of cake,’ although there were a few weeks when Halina mistakenly called it ‘a pizza cake’ and I couldn’t bear to correct her. But idioms almost never make sense when you think about them. Just ask anyone who’s been outside when it’s raining cats and dogs.

When her real estate agent told her he was going to stop by one evening, Halina almost went through the roof. “Why he is going to stop buy?” she demanded, tearfully. “We want to sell!” There followed a string of rapid, high-pitched Polish involving a coalition of consonants that the English language has never dared to combine.

Though I’m not the most skilled or knowledgeable defender of our Mother Tongue, I like giving it a go. I explained what “stop by” means. “He just wants to pay you a short visit.”

“Pay me a…” My friend clamped her head tightly between her hands, as if to relieve a severe migraine. “English make me nervous,” she moaned.

Polish is a sensible language, Halina says. The Polish consonants are dependable, and the vowels behave themselves. There is only one word for each object. In Polish you say what you mean. You can sit with your friends and speak Polish and never, ever get a headache.

Our informal Conversational English class began a few years ago, the day Halina asked, “Please, can you explain ‘Piss off’ to me?” She pronounced it ‘peese.’

We were in a hallway teeming with children at the time. “Well, it’s colloquial slang,” I whispered. “Piss can actually be used several different ways…”

“Oh, English!” she muttered, turning it into another swear word.

Once she had the basic definition down, she practiced her tenses. “Yesterday my husband, he peesed me off,” she whispered. “Today, he peeses me off. And tomorrow,” she pointed to the future, which seemed to be located further down the hall, “tomorrow, he will peese me off.”

(I’ve heard her on the phone with him. He probably will peese her off.)

Anyway, at the end of the week Halina skipped out of work armed with English a little more colorful than usual. I pitied those who might find themselves on the receiving end of her new linguistic ammunition- the lady at Starbucks who habitually refuses to understand Halina’s simple request for coffee, perhaps? The guy at the bakery who runs out of kolatchkes? Might any random pedestrian or clothes shopper get hit by the Peese bomb? In two days there could be any number of casualties!

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But on Monday morning, she trudged in like the walking wounded. As if cats and dogs had rained all over her parade.

Dzien dobry!” I said cheerfully, using up about half my Polish and mispronouncing it badly in the process.

Halina swatted my greeting aside like the insect it was. She leaned against the doorframe, and ran a perfectly manicured hand through her short blond hair. “You remember on Friday, we were talking Peese?” she whispered.

“Yes…”

“Like Peese, Peesing, Peesed?”

Like most people I am drawn toward tales of carnage with an equal mix of curiosity and dread. “What happened?”

It seems that Halina and her husband went to a party over the weekend. The American hosts seemed very friendly until suddenly, without any provocation, the woman walked up and asked Halina if she wanted a Piss-Off Cake. Halina was shocked and offended, wondering if she had unknowingly overstepped some cultural boundary, broken some American taboo. She and her husband left the party, wrapping themselves in their coats and secure in the knowledge that, as Europeans, they would never do that sort of thing to guests at a party.

And now she wanted me to explain the Piss-Off Cake. This was my chance to heal the rift between our two countries.

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“I think,” I said, trying to sound diplomatically neutral, “I think, from all you’ve said, I think the woman was maybe trying to offer you a pieceofcake. A piece. Like a slice.”

“A peese like a slice?”

“Yeah, we don’t have Piss-Off Cakes,” I assured her.

“Peese of cake, not peese off cake. It sound same to me!” she wailed. She stumbled down the hall in search of coffee, mumbling about cake and parties and ruined opportunities.

That’s the other thing that Halina finds difficult- vowel sounds that are not found in Polish are almost impossible for her to differentiate between. “Piss-off” and “piece of” sound alike to her just as two Polish words she speaks aloud may sound alike to me. Which brings us back to the socks.

Why do all Americans always talking about socks?

“Sex?” I asked. “Maybe Americans are always talking about sex?”

No, Halina was quite sure the word was socks, not sex. She offered some examples. You know, the baseball player socks, and the football team socks, the weather socks…

(Ohhh! Yes it does. Especially when it’s coming down in bockets!)

I called down the hall to where my friend was still muttering about cakes and parties. “Hey, Halina! English socks, huh?”

She turned with a battle-weary laugh. “Yes! English definitely socks!”

Well, maybe sometimes it does.

But it’s sure better than a Piss-Off Cake.

-happyzinny

P.S. Check out Twindaddy’s look at the idiom ‘the bee’s knees’ here. His post is the cat’s pajamas!

A Blot on My Blog

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Hello there! Happy 2013!

When I was doing some art journaling, one of the books I read contained some savvy advice: When you are staring at the pristine pages of your blank book, completely intimidated, sure you will never be able to create anything as pretty/whimsical/funky as the artists whose work you admire, here’s what you should do.

Set your coffee cup down, right on the book.

That’s right, plant a big drippy circle on that clean white page.

(Go ahead, let that drip run sideways! Now flick some of your kid’s grape soda on there. Wipe their sticky little face right on the page. Now press those pages together. Okay, open them up. Ooh look, you made a pretty butterfly!)

I put off starting a blog for a long, long time. I’ve been staring at the blank screen, completely cowed. There are a lot of great bloggers out there- people whose sites crackle with personality. People whose writing makes readers like me laugh out loud or wipe away tears. People who know how to locate and insert a copyright-free photo of a coffee-ring butterfly when they need to.

But I can’t let that stop me. My blog might not be as clever or polished as I want, and it might not have clever witticisms or pertinent topical news, and it may in fact read like the sort of mess created by someone whose only supplies are hot and cold beverages. But I must make my mark. And unless I make it now, unless I put my virtual coffee-cup down on this blank book called happyzinny right now, I may never start. ‘Cause that’s the kind of inhibited, artsy-fartsy coward I am!

So here’s my first post.

And here’s my first misspelling- BLOTT

Here’s my first disclaimer- I’m actually drinking tea, not coffee. But it’s Scottish tea, I think it’s got haggis in it.

Here’s my first acknowledgement of bloggy encouragement- A wonderful Nebraskan named The Cheeky Diva http://thecheekydiva gave me a gentle yet cheeky push. Thank you, Diva!

(Jeez Louise, that was my first linky thing. I’m a real blogger!)

My first moment of crushing self-doubt- I bet I didn’t do the linky thing right. It looks wrong. I’m an idiot!

First pep talk- Snap out of it, Zinny! And get that damn Dummies book out again.

First ramble- Do you know how many times I went to the library and checked out books on blogging? I must have carried home every blogging book in the library! That’s how I cleverly I was procrastinating. Oh, I can’t start a blog until I’ve read everything there is to read on the subject of blogging, that’s what I thought. Like I understood even one eighth of it. Okay, I didn’t even read it all, but I had the books setting with their titles outward, mocking me, daring me to venture into the world of widgets and bulk actions, sidebars and taglines, dashboards and friggin’ gravatars….OMG I’m hyperventilating…

Second cup of tea- Mmmm, that’s good. Seriously, it’s got haggis in it. Or something. Maybe malt?

Which leads me to something that all the books recommend: the comment prompt. It’s important, when finishing a blog post, to come up with a prompt that will really inspire intelligent interaction and thoughtful and/or amusing dialogue between the blogger and all the readers, by which I mean one or possibly both of my sisters.

First comment prompt- So, um, what does your favorite coffee/tea mug/cup look like?

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Another New Year’s Resolution blog? Seriously?

Thank you for reading!

happyzinny

(P.S. First theme change- I love this Matala theme!)