Now Hear This!

Hear what? Oh, you mean this loudspeaker at Loblaw’s. Funny, isn’t it, they spent all that money on renovating the place, but you still can’t make out a word the girl on the p.a. system is saying; just a lot of garbled noise that no-one could possibly understand. I always ignore it, but cross my fingers and hope she’s not yelling, “FIRE!” Sometimes I think they make it indistinct just to muddle you. I don’t know how many times I have seen a really good deal on a price sticker only to find out it’s not for this one but for the product on the shelf “above” or the product on the shelf “below” the sticker. I have had so many arguments with the cashiers at checkout that nowadays I take the good deals to the Service Desk first to get a price check. You’d be surprised how many of those price stickers are in the wrong place! I complain, but seldom win.

Speaking of that noisy p.a. system brings to mind all sorts of hassles that come about because of the lack of sound clarity. In the old days, when I was younger, we didn’t have all these problems. Voices came over the speaker system pretty clearly; you knew what they were trying to tell you. (Well maybe not at the big railway stations, but that was only because the sounds reverberated in those great station halls.) It’s the same with radios and television sets. These days, you have to turn them up a lot higher than you did in the old days. I can’t for the life of me figure out what the radio and TV companies gain by doing that! Of course, I could be wrong; it may not be their fault at all. It could be the fault of the equipment manufacturers. Still, it’s very annoying.

There has been some improvement though over the years, as far as noise is concerned. I can remember when I wouldn’t sit near the dish stand at our local barbecued chicken restaurant, the noise and clatter of the dishes was just unbearable. But I’m pleased to report that the situation has since improved tremendously. Now, I can sit right next to the dishes and it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t know how they managed that because they still use regular plates. The manufacturers must have put something in the material that cuts down on that old clattering. Part of the improvement must be due to the fact that people talk more quietly nowadays these days, as well. Oh, sure, there’s still a lot of table chatter, but they keep their voices down more now than they used to.

Mind you, I have to admit that not everyone agrees with my take on all this. Although you other old-timers like me know what I’m talking about, the young-uns are quick to blame it on our hearing rather than changes in the outside world! It’s hard to believe, but it’s obvious the hearing aid companies have brain-washed the younger generations into believing it’s we who have changed. It’s their way of giving us old-timers “an earful”. All too often we are bamboozled into getting one of those hearing aids, or maybe even a pair of them! The government is in on it too, I’m sure! They’ll help you buy one or two with a grant that comes right out of your own tax money! It’s all just sleight of hand, as my father used to say when he showed me a disappearing trick. “Now you see it, now you don’t!” I think their motto should be “Now you hear it, now you don’t!”

And the trickery doesn’t end there. Oh no! Built into every radio and TV set is a “Bouncer”. It’s quite a miraculous invention, I have to admit. Try this, sit in front of the TV set with your new hearing aid in and set the volume just right for comfortable listening. Now, and this is where the modern gadgetry (I call it trickery!) kicks in! Quickly take the hearing aid out of your ear and immediately, and I mean immediately, the radio or TV set drops its volume. You can’t hear! You have to turn up your hearing aid just to get things comfortable again. The split-second change smacks to me of nano-technology! (Can there be any doubt, “Big Brother is Watching You.”?) And if you put the hearing aid back in your ear, they make the set blare out so loud it’s enough to burst your ear drums. “Maybe you need a new hearing aid, sir!”

And have you ever seen what they call a “hearing aid battery”? Well, I’m old enough to know what a battery is. We have one in the car, and smaller ones in the flashlight etc, but who ever heard of a battery that is smaller than a pea! It’s ludicrous, and besides how are you supposed to fit that tiny thing into a tiny hearing aid. I don’t think it’s a battery at all. I think it’s just another gimmick to aggravate your arthritis and get you to use more drugs. Guess what, they even want you to put those things in your blue recycle bin when they’re dead! What a laugh! At our house, we’re lucky if we can find them if they drop on the floor. There must be half a dozen or so around here somewhere. You’d need to be the proverbial princess in “The Princess and the Pea” story, if you ever lost one in your bed!

I mentioned earlier that people in restaurants speak more softly nowadays. Well, that’s a definite plus but, unfortunately, there’s a down side to it. It has become so much a part of today’s culture that everyone whispers nowadays. You’d swear you’re in a library at times. Things are so quiet you could hear a pin drop, although I must confess I have never heard one drop. As a couple, we don’t use those things at home because we both speak loud enough to hear each other speak. It’s true we don’t hear everything that’s said, but when you have been married for a long time you usually know what your partner’s going to say anyway. Plus, there’s always facial gestures and lip-reading that make sure you “get the message”. Sometimes we’re just not that interested in the subject under discussion, and may use a grunt or a “Hmmm” just to show we are listening; but no, we don’t have problems hearing each other. Well, not many anyway.

The problems start when we have visitors! As soon as one gets inside the door they’ll face the opposite way to take their coat off, and start mumbling! Mumble, mumble, mumble until you are forced to beat a retreat and scramble to find your hearing aid. Even then, the world is against you! Those things are so tiny they are more difficult to find than a pair of glasses or your car keys. And even if you are lucky enough to find them, they don’t always help. I’ve been told I’ll only be able to make out three words in ten, even with them in! When asked at the hearing aid company why I wanted a hearing aid, I answered, “I don’t want a hearing aid!” So, why are you here? I told them straight, “It’s not me that wants a hearing aid – it’s everybody else says I need one.” I should have realized then that I had been conned. I believed them. Now, with a hearing aid, I hear things louder – but still only recognize three words in ten. The problem is with “them”, not me!

Anyway, back to the visitor inside the door, who by now has taken his or her coat off! The first greeting is usually, “What’s wrong with your door bell? I kept ringing and ringing, but there was no answer! I had to bang on the door to make you hear!” I always know they are exaggerating, of course, because I have stood right at the front door myself and pressed the bell. I was right there and heard it clearly. You start to wonder if these bell-watchers work for the government and are going to recommend a newer hearing aid! When they do suspect your hearing, they will deliberately turn their head away from you and drop their voice to a whisper. But they can’t fool me! I know what they’re up to – I saw Charles Laughton do that in “Witness for the Prosecution”. They are testing you! Mumble, mumble, mumble – as if we didn’t know. They mumble on purpose.

Sometimes we do have more understanding visitors who don’t complain about the door bell anymore. Mind you, we had to give one late arrival a key to the door after a “door bell episode” one night. We felt guilty because they ended up having to rent a hotel room for the night. It is possible the door bell was not working that night; humidity perhaps, or their finger missed the bell completely in the dark. Those things happen, but we have had the door bell checked by an electrician and he told us there is nothing wrong with it! So, there you are, people get these ideas into their heads and think they’re right. I always try to listen very carefully and to speak very clearly. At least one regular visitor to the house can confirm that. “I know you do! Every time I visit you guys I leave there after a day or so with my head ringing with your words!” I’d say that’s pretty positive proof that I speak as clearly as a bell, wouldn’t you?

So let’s see, where were we? Oh, yes, now I remember. Someone was saying over the p.a. system:

“Now hear this! Personnel who have difficulty hearing my voice over this p.a. system should…” But for some reason I didn’t catch the rest of it. He must have turned his head the other way. They do it all the time!

Gerry Wood, April 06, 2015