So much depends on whether you answer the phone. When my then boyfriend (now husband) wandered off for a while to give his prior girlfriend another chance and then decided to return to our little germ of a relationship, he started calling me. I sat at the kitchen table and listened to the phone ring for the better part of an hour. He told me later he just kept pressing speed dial while he was busy putting together the volunteer roster at the neighborhood agency where he worked. I tried to make it seem a lot more meaningful in the desperate somewhat maniacal way I was used to men in my life acting. With no answering machine to give me warning, I imagined that the calls, one right after the other, were about how definitely he wanted to come back to me. But I didn’t know for sure so I didn’t answer the phone. It worked out though because he’s now downstairs as I write this calling the dogs in from the backyard of the house we’ve owned for 28 years.
My dislike of phones is legendary. Given the choice, I would prefer to get in my car and drive an hour to talk to someone rather than talking on the phone. This was before I lost a good share of my hearing. Now the phone is a maddening, risky, mind-fucking experience akin to having one’s head wrapped in a pillow inside an aluminum pail while people throw nuts and bolts and small hammers and run a rasp around the edges. I hate the fucking phone.
So that’s my starting point.
A few months ago, in what may have been one of the wiser decisions of my life, I sought more expert help for my hearing problem from the Center for Communication, Hearing and Deafness. This was an important step in not simply accepting the increasing isolation that hearing loss can impose and the results have been fabulous. My in-person hearing capability is tremendously improved because of a set of technological improvements made by the Center, not the least of which is this.
The streamer is this amazing piece of technology that autoadjusts sound to accommodate different environments, decibel levels, voices. I can also control the volume myself — turning one guy up, another one down. The streamer also streams PHONE CALLS which means when my cell phone rings, it rings in my ears, I press a button and I’m on the phone. Except I hate the phone, I’ve always hated the phone and then I became afraid of the phone and then I became psychologically incapable of answering the phone for fear that I wouldn’t be able to understand the caller and would have to say, “Who the fuck are you?”
So in a neverending story of my hearing situation that becomes interesting in an aggravating way, I am now starting aural rehabilitation which is what people who have cochlear implants do to learn how to discern spoken language. The challenge for me is to relearn how to discern what people are saying without seeing them speak. Today I had a meeting with a guy who started talking with his hands in front of his mouth. I wanted to slap him. Not really, but you get the idea. I have to see it to hear it.
Yesterday someone motioned to my streamer and shrugged “What’s that?”
“It’s a little video camera,” I said. “Watch what you’re saying.”
It’s all so curious. All of it.