Last week, when we flew to Chicago I had my boyfriend with me to help with communication on boarding and once in the plane. It was no big deal while I had a helper and he was a helper without me realizing it much.
On the way home, I flew back alone because he was going on to visit other friends in Wisconsin for a few days. At the check-in counter (Ken was with me but I tried doing most of the talking getting in character) I had to have the lady repeat and I let her know I was hard of hearing. She said her daughter (or was it father) was hard of hearing and she knew how difficult it could be. She changed my ticket to a pre-board pass. A part of me feels really guilty for taking a pre-board because I can walk and move about fine. They also have a monitor that shows which numbers are lining up which makes it more visual. Another part of me is grateful because I can’t hear announcements anymore and it puts me on pins and needles having to be hyper aware visually of my surroundings so I can follow the leader. I’m also grateful because I can pick a window seat up near the front.
Next I have to go through the security check-point. It’s almost an hour long line and it moves slow. When I get up to the security point, the nice boy guard rattles something off I don’t hear. I let him know I am about deaf and he needs to look at me. He tells me to split up my items a little more (computer, purse and shoes). Then I get pulled to the side by another guard who also rattles something off. I let her know I can’t hear either. She points me to the body scanner. I get in the scanner and look at the guard on the other side and let him know I can’t hear. He points to the feet placements on the floor and then to a picture at eye level which shows arms raised so I do it and he says something so I swing my head around to see what he says. He repeats, “Don’t move, hold still.” Well, I think, don’t talk and I won’t move. After a few seconds I hear him talk again, should I move? He motions me out. So I clear the security point.
On the plane, I settled into my seat and pulled out my book. Of course, the nice girl next to me wants to talk. She has a soft voice and it’s hard for me to hear over the roar of the engines. I tell her I can’t hear well and she nods her head and repeats. We share a few short comments and both go to reading our books. I was reading “The Help” and I was sucked into the story. My mind was in Mississippi in the early 60’s and a tap on my arm brings me back to the airplane somewhere above Iowa.
The girl points towards the stewardess in the isle. The stewardess says something which I can’t hear but she’s got a pad and pencil in her hand. I assume she wants to know what I’d like to drink so I tell her, “Water please,” because it’s easy and I don’t have to listen to other options. She nods her head and moves on. I went back to Mississippi with its humid summer and segregation issues. I try to stop reading now and then to keep an eye out for the stewardess so I can anticipate my water but again I get sucked into the book. Another tap on my arm and I know the water is there. I tell the stewardess “Thank you” and I am sure to tell the girl the next to me, “Thank you.” People are willing to help out.
We are about to land, so I pull out of my book which is almost done. I watch the layers upon layers of clouds we are flying over, under and through. I realize the girl next to me is talking again so I turn around to face her. I think, maybe the window seat is not the best place for a hard of hearing person to sit. Perhaps I’d be more aware sitting in the isle. I would be further from the wing and engine which I managed to sit over. But it’s so nice to see out the window.
In Denver I get off the plane and have an hour’s wait until my next plane to Salt Lake City. I grab a bite to eat, finish my book and pick a seat right next to the ramp leading to the plane. I look for the ticket taker to let her know I can’t hear announcements but there is none. A lady walks up to the seat next to me with a cane so I ask her if she is pre-boarding. She tells me yes. I ask her if she will let me know when they call for pre-boarding and tell her why and she agrees to let me know. It ends up she doesn’t need to tell me because I am paying attention now that I finished “The Help” and I see her getting up to gather her things so I do the same.
I stand in the short pre-board line and again, I feel a touch of guilt. There is a lady in one of the airport wheel chairs in front of me. She has no help and our line is moving so I ask her if she wants help. She tells me “yes” and “thank you.” (See we all help each other.) I push her up to the ticket lady but the ticket lady is the only one who push her down the ramp into the plane so she motions me ahead. And what do I do once on board? I pick another window seat…. next to the engine again.
Well, I finished my book and it was a satisfying ending so I’m not fuming inside like I do on some books. I take out a magazine I bought and start reading while the rest of the people board. People fill up the seats slowly and this time my neighbor is a 30 something year old man. There’s yadda-yadda-yadda over the PA system in the plane which I barely hear and can’t understand. I continue to read. Soon we’re up in the air and I’m absorbed in my reading again, or maybe I was looking out at the clouds again because the clouds just fascinate me. I wish I could just reach out and touch them. Or I wonder what it would be like to fall through them.
Then I feel a tap on my arm again. I turn and see the stewardess standing there with her pencil and paper waiting for me to answer again. Geeze, I don’t want to deal with this again so I shake my head and tell her “No thank you,” that way I don’t have to worry about paying attention to my surroundings again with anticipation for water. I thank the guy next to me and go back to my clouds or magazine. Luckily, the guy next to me doesn’t want to chat.
I start thinking about how quiet I am on the plane. I seem shy or aloof I’m sure. I’m obedient and decline a drink making myself one of the most pleasant customers they have. All because I’m about deaf.