16 January 2009

Can You Hear Me?

I am a little hard of hearing. I'm not afraid to admit it. It's somewhat sad that someone my age can't hear everything a friend or colleague is saying from a few feet away in a noisy room.

"Your dog bought a motor home in Fiji? How much did he pay?"

Do you remember those ads on TV that showed two older people in a fake restaurant having a fake conversation and the one guy is straining his ears to hear his fake wife over the clearly fake background noise? Suddenly a silver-haired man in a white doctors coat would walk onto the set holding a tiny skin-toned piec
e of tortellini that promised to filter out those noises and magically select the person or persons you were supposed to be hearing and pump up their volume. I don't know how old I was when I started noticing these ads, but I remember thinking as I played with my dinosaurs, "I need to get me one of those."

Sometimes I have heard that people who don't hear well tend to talk very loudly, but that's not something I've ever had a problem with (well except for when I'm in a smallish room with my mother's family; then we all just tend to get louder and louder). But maybe it's not that they can't hear, maybe just like how I was born without the ability to hear well,

"The doctor is going to rent a clown to ease the trepidation where!?"


some people were born without the ability to control the volume of their voices,

"the DOCTOR IS going TO BEND DOWN to see THE INFLAMATION?"

This seems like a very reasonable answer. It also seems that just as my hearing problem only arises in certain circumstances, like a busy room, perhaps the same applies to the voice-volume-control-impaired (VVCI).

For example, my former roommate only seemed to be VVCI when talking on the phone. We can be in a quiet room talking, and as soon as he answers the phone, it's like he's shouting to someone across the street. "YEAH CHRIS IS HERE TOO. YOU WANNA TALK TO HIM?" The benefit, of course, is that I never have to guess at what he's talking about.

This evening I stopped at a new barber shop to try it out. I was very happy with my surroundings as I awaited a stylist, and then suddenly, I realized that I knew a lot about the guy getting his hair cut across the way.

"AND SO THEN I JUST REALIZED THAT MY SISTER-IN-LAW LOOKED TOO MUCH LIKE MY WIFE, SO WHILE I WAS STAYING WITH THEM ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS MY WIFE. SO NOW I AM LIVING BACK HERE EVEN THOUGH IT'S TOUGH TO MAKE THE MONEY I WAS MAKING THERE. BUT AT LEAST I KNOW NOW WHAT MY PURPOSE IN LIFE IS . . ."

And you get the picture.

At that moment a stylist called me up right next to him. Over the next five minutes I continued to hear all about his life. To make matters worse, because of the "background noise" next to me, mixed with the buzz of the trimmer, the TV and passing traffic, I couldn't hear anything my stylist was asking me in her awkward attempt to spark conversation with a hearing-impaired 26-year-old.

"Am I going out with a winner to the fight?
No, I didn't know there was a boxing match this evening."

"No, I've never seen bald eagles sing the National Anthem, but it sounds like you had a great time at the Olympics with Kim Jong-il. Did he look well?"

While I doubt my hair stylist actually hung out with such a comrade, I felt compelled to give her a nice tip for trying to amuse me. She did have to listen to that guy's story and frankly she didn't get anything that made coherent conversational flow out of me.

13 January 2009

When the Small Take on the Large . . .

Imagine with me, if you will, the nation of Estonia. You probably know what continent it's a part of (probably), but could you point it out on a map? Visualize for just a moment, what countries is it nestled between? It is land-locked or coastal? Deserts, forests, beaches or glaciers?

No go? I didn't think so.

For those few of you pursuing International Relations or some other "worldly" study and who do know a thing or two about Estonia, shut up. This is only my object lesson, and I will get to the point in a momen
t.

Now imagine if Estonia, using its vast $28.7 billion GDP and bottomless population of approximately 1.3 million people, decided to wage war on the United States (with a GDP of $13.8 trillion and population of just over 303 million). Now we aren't talking guerrilla warfare here, this would be a full-out, head-to-head siege over the Atlantic (yes, Estonia is to the east of us). This would be like Estonian President Toomas Ilves
(yes, that's pronounced Two-mas) getting onto every major television station and calling A
mericans a bunch of pansies who couldn't hit Estonia with a bomb if we tried (incidentally most of us couldn't--find it to hit it that is). It would be like their version of Chuck Norris making a movie about how he kicked the American Chuck Norris' trash. It would be like the Estonians trying to make a car that rivals our own--well--the Japanese cars we call our own. It would be like the Estonians claiming they invented basketball, football or any of the other sports our now-obese society has dreamed up. It would be like them claiming that Barack Obama's birth certificate was actually from a little hospital in Tallinn (that's the capital).

Now I don't mean to be a cultural chauvinist, but basically it would be an outrage--nay--a blaspheme. A country whose size is a fraction of ours, egging us into a fight and believing that they could win? The concept gnaws at my very sense of right and wrong. Even more sinister, once we did kick their trash, they would probably believe that as the dust settled they would have the European Union, the UN and NATO (incidentally pretty much all the same people) on their side, because after all, they were smaller and they were just "going along minding their own business." I hope you are as heated about this little tiff as I am, but frankly, it isn't my point. Suffice to say, idiocy would have reached is climax if such a thing were to happen, and clearly, despite any international cries of foul toward our actions, after the mini-war was over (in like three seconds once we actually found Estonia), the former-Republic would be little more than a whole in the Earth in which half the Baltic Sea would be draining (yes, it boarders the Baltic Sea).

Before anyone gets huffy or ups
et about my genocidal object lesson, let me get to my real point:

Pedestrians, most of you weigh about 150 pounds. My car (or any car) and I (or any average p
erson) weigh about 5200 pounds together (mostly car). That means you are a fraction my size (with the car--please no jokes). If you try to take us on with that daring "I've got the right of way in this crosswalk, so just try and hit me because I have the right of way and will sue you until your grandchildren are paying for my grandchildren's college" glare as you confidently stride into the street, you will die.

No matter what the law says, no matter how many so called "right of ways" you had, no matter who feels it was my job to stop (or even if the UN itself comes in to defend you), if I'm five yards out and coming fast, you are going to end up like Estonia, a whole in the ground.

So next time you are out walking or driving, be courteous to drivers and pedestrians alike. Break when you can and remember, frankly, the U.S. doesn't want to kick Estonia's trash, but a few less Estonians wouldn't really make anyone too sad now would it?


(Disclaimer: I have nothing against Estonia nor any Estonian. I do not condone genocide in any form. Estonians are a lovely people and I adore their country for what Lonely Planet dubs as its "lush woodlands and resplendent coastlines" (yes they have woodlands, lush ones actually).


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