Are You Getting This?

Every Friday the boys meet at a bar near downtown for sandwiches and pitchers of beer. My boyfriend invites me every time but usually I stay home to get things done but last week I was hungry and I went.

Music and the bartender greeted us as we walked in. We found the guys and they put two tables together instead of the usual booth because a few of us extras showed up making eight instead of the typical four.

I took my seat and started talking to the person in front of me. I answered a few questions from someone at the other end of the table and then talked to the person next to me. So far so good.

A few beers further down the road, a few of the boys started talking at the same time to different people and they talked louder over each other and the music. It gets too hard to figure out where one voice ends and the other begins. It becomes noise instead of speech. I fade out and watch the TV screen for a few minutes.

Ken nudges me with his elbow. “Are you getting any of this?” He worries about me feeling left out.

“Not right this minute, no, but I was.”

Yes, I understand if I focus on each person talking. No, I’m not getting it if two or more are talking at once. I was thankful for the extra light coming from a window near the table making it easier to lip read. I’m glad I picked a seat with a TV in front of me.

I didn’t feel resentful or left out. I gave myself permission to fade out when conversations overlapped. It’s a break a brain break, a moment of rest before having to concentrate on conversation again. If I focus all the time, trying to hear every word, I’d be worn out by the end of lunch.

They start talking one at a time again and I follow, I laugh and add my comments. Then they started talking over each other again so I took another time out. They guy next to me sees me staring at the TV and asks me a question.

“Do you know where I can et om eh EEE?”  He wasn’t looking right at me but close enough.

I’m not getting this.  “What was that?”

Now he looks directly at me and it still sounds the same.  “Do you know where I can et om eh EEE?”

My mind raced to come up with clues. Does he need to know where the bathroom is? No, I’ve seen him go twice already. Does he want more beer? No his glass is half full. What the heck does he want?

“I’m sorry,” I apologized, “One more time.” Would I get it this time?   If I didn’t, I’d ask for Ken’s help. Three tries only is my hard and fast rule.

He repositioned himself in the chair, looked away briefly making me wonder if he was sorry he started talking to me.  Then he looked right at me and said it slower, “Do you know where I can get some red tea?”

Relief washed over me. I got it!

Then a sort of disbelief settled in. Red tea? He’s asking me about red tea in a bar? No wonder it took three times to understand. That not the kind of question I expected in this place. However, I am the only girl at the table so maybe he figures I know tea…and it just so happens I do. I’m a tea drinker, which makes me wonder if I like tea is written on me somewhere.

“That stuff is hard to find,” I tell him “I had some in Vegas a few months ago and when I got home, I couldn’t find it at first. Then Smiths had one brand finally. Are you going home to drink tea?”

“Oh no it’s not for me. I have this Indian friend who comes to visit and he drinks red tea instead of beer. I haven’t had any to offer him.” Whew. Mystery solved for both of us.

We leave. I’m happy I went to lunch and socialized.

Am I getting this?

I’m getting enough.

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4 responses to “Are You Getting This?

  1. I felt like I was at the table with you, in the midst of the chaotic communication. So true about fading out at times as needed. When you mentioned lip reading Chelle, it reminded me of an essay I read. You might enjoy it… http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=59977

  2. I read the essay before but it’s been a long time so it was nice to read it again. Yes, lip reading isn’t easy. The harder I try, the worse I get. I have to stay relaxed to lip read and even then I’m not getting it all and hope to get at least the important words to make sense.
    And like the author, I sometimes wonder why I try so hard to fit into the hearing world when so little people try to fit into my world. It’s a confusing world and it took me years to understand my world too. I can hear but I can’t understand what I hear. I hear their voice but I can’t understand their words. It’s crazy and hard to explain.
    If I didn’t fit in the hearing world, where would I fit? I don’t belong in the Deaf world either. I can’t sign fluently (working on that though) and there’s a line drawn in the culture that I haven’t been able to cross yet. It’s like your world in shades of gray only apply that to hearing.

  3. What a relief to find this exchange! I was just at a book review held in an overstuffed living room, and the presenter was on the other side of the room. In the beginning she talked loudly enough for me to follow – and the book was one I was familiar with, so I could guess at the bits and pieces that were missing. However as she began reading passages, looking down at the book, it all became mush.

    I decided to politely sit and try to piece together what I could, but it’s hard not to be disappointed. I’m a teacher (now via Internet) and really miss being able to interact and to share as I did previously. Thank goodness for technology! I can ‘talk’ and keep up with my family via Facebook, I can continue to enjoy interacting with bright college students, I can use texting instead of telephones, movies have closed captioning glasses, and I can find blogs like this one!

    I wIll re-read the book – Frankl’s “Search for Meaning” – which has special meaning for me now that my hearing world is shrinking. I can continue to find ways to reach out and communicate even as my own world becomes silent.

    Ann

    • I just started reading that book myself last week. So far it’s a grim picture he’s painting but I’m that far into the book yet.
      Thank you stopping to make a comment, it’s nice to know others relate. Listening in workshops/lectures is tricky. I never know if I will hear enough and even if I know my limitations, it depresses me when I can’t hear. I’ve cut back on events like that.

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