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The Farthermost View

Essays and Stories




 In recent years I've noticed that restaurants were getting noisier. At the same time, my back yard seemed to be getting quieter: the birds were still there, fluttering around my feeders, but the nuthatches no longer muttered as they trotted up and down the tree trunks, and the jays no longer screamed Thief! at each other as they swooped in to gobble up more than their share of seeds.


As for the quality of the sound on television, it had disintegrated to the point that not only Chief Detective Inspectors and kitchen maids but even Gwen Ifil had begun to mumble unintelligibly.


My Companion and I had begun to speak more and more in Mondegreens. You know, like those three old ladies? One of them looks out the window and says "Windy, isn't it?"

Another says, "No, it's Thursday."

The third one says, "Me, too. Let's have a beer."


That's what it was like at my house. It would have been fine if we'd been able to solve all our problems with beer, but there are times that just doesn't work. So My Companion and I decided to get hearing aids.


The hearing aid salesperson was thrilled to see us coming, since a sale of four hearing aids would probably keep her in Prosecco for weeks. But she was polite, cheerful, and highly organized, and we went through our hearing assessment with flying colors. On the word recognition test, My Companion got fewer than 50% of the words right. And for years I'd thought he was just ignoring me! We were both judged excellent candidates for hearing aids. Fortunately, My Companion had brought his checkbook.


When our hearing aids arrived, we had a lengthy lesson in putting them in, changing batteries, and pushing the little buttons to turn them up, or turn them down, or turn down the background noise in crowds. We were each given a special storage case and a little brush for cleaning them, and sent out into the world.


We decided to try them out by going to Land Ho for supper. Land Ho is always full of happy, noisy people, and walking through the door is like walking smack into a wall of sound. We figured if our hearing aids worked there, they'd work anywhere.


We were seated at a table for two right in the middle of everything. I pushed the little button that was supposed to make hearing in restaurants easier, but I couldn't even hear the little beep that was supposed to signal the change.


"Can you hear me?" I screamed at My Companion. He raised his eyebrows and cupped a hand behind his ear, in the age-old gesture that indicates "Huh?"


Suddenly, a string band in the corner began to play something bluegrassy, and a nearby table of differently abled people celebrating a birthday began to clap and stomp along in time to the music. A waitress appeared and shouted "What'll it be, hon?" At least we assumed she did.


"Fish and chips," we cried, mouthing the words exaggeratedly. "And a couple of very large beers!"


"Coming up," we think she said, and she disappeared.


My Companion and I usually have deeply intellectual conversations as we eat our meals, but that night we opted out of that custom. Instead, using sign language, we congratulated each other on how attractive we looked wearing our new hearing devices. Then we pushed the little buttons that turn down the level of decibels reaching our eardrums, and sat back to solve the rest of the evening's problems with beer.




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