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


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.


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!


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





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


8 responses »

  1. Deadly Nightshade,
    Here’s something else we have in common: being hearing impaired… Before you say anything, it is not selective hearing. I’ve been 60% deaf from my left ear since childhood, and I have been noticing a serious decrease in my overall hearing in my two ears for the past four years… It is high time I visit Doctor Undeaf Me, as I am pretty sure I require a hearing aid… My wife would say: “pretty sure? yeah, right”….

    My first answer to every question, or just about, is “what?”…
    But I am not blind, even though my eye sight is also decreasing rapidly… So thank you for that wonderful mastiff with clown make up…
    Le Clown

    • Le Clown, but of course that is a collie, monsieur. Don’t worry, my eyes are bad, too. Without my contacts, my vision is 20/1,500. I wouldn’t kid a clown.

      I thank you sincerely for your reply. I did not expect these words from you. I hope you do see an audiologist and I hope it is just a bit of greasepaint spackling up your ear canals- I’ve heard how you just slap that stuff on when you’re in a hurry.

      But I will always remember wearing my first pair of hearing aids and just listening in surprise as water poured out of a faucet. It sounded so different! Water has high tones as well as low tones, who would’ve thought. And birds were singing outside again. Astonishing! Wait till you hear your music with your bionic ears on.

      Then you get to make up an interesting reason why you need hearing aids. For me, it was because I got slapped in the head by a Bengal tiger when I was little. Knocked my eardrums loose.

  2. Your writing really makes me laugh. I love it. If I could get serious for a moment. You should complain. Yes there are other things far more important in life but your are certainly not alone in the frustration of poor quality captioning. Some of it is down to technology some of it is down to the wrong technology being used for the wrong types of programmes. That is my view.

    • I think your view is spot on! If I had to depend on getting the news of the world solely through closed captioning, I’d be so confused. I’d be laughing, but confused! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. happyzinny,
    OK, now you’re officially one of my favorite bloggers.
    Not just because we both have hearing issues but also because I like the way you write; funny!
    I’ve been subtitling for many years; the news is a joke. I pretty much avoid it. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a pair of glasses that shows subtitles for the mumblers and the people who look away when they talk?
    Great idea for a post; wish I’d a thought of it!

    • They were probably wondering what was so funny. Perhaps tonight you might consider reading the words out loud at the highest possible volume so that they might enjoy it, too. That would be the neighborly thing to do!

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