Reaching the inner ear
LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION
My gentleman friend Lust is perfect if you overlook a couple things. Like he has gotten deaf as a post. (I tell him this and he says, “What’s that about the Gulf Coast?”)
I used to ask, in a loud voice, why he didn’t get some decent hearing aids. He said it’s so he don’t have to listen to people who ain’t intelligent enough to talk to him.
He owns the Sloth Lounge, and I guess he runs into a lot of people like that.
A couple weeks ago, I met him at the Sloth. “Have a good day?” I yell.
He says “Busy. Very busy.”
“He went to the track,” says Larry the bartender, in a normal voice, without looking up from wiping glasses.
“Nothing but work, work, work,” Lust says.
“Lost his shirt,” Larry says.
Lust frowns at Larry. “You say something?”
“If he ever gets new hearing aids, my ass is grass,” says Larry.
“Speak up!” says Lust. But Larry don’t.
Lust knows something was up, and he don’t like it. The next day he reads in the paper about these new ultra high-tech hearing aids that work with your smartphone. You still wear them in your ears, but the idea is you can control exactly how much you hear, or don’t hear, with your phone.
“Discretely raise or lower the volume without having to touch your ears. Boss yelling? Kids fighting? Turn down their volume. Somebody whispering across the room? Turn it up and listen in.” Sounds perfect.
But Lust don’t trust high tech. He says they take regular words, like “apple” and “mouse” and “tweet,” that already mean apple and mouse and tweet, and use them to mean something technical. He says they are too lazy to make up their own words.
Also, he don’t own a smartphone. He likes his dumb phone just fine. But he just loves the idea of controlling people’s volume.
Then he gets a brilliant idea. He can connect the hearing aids with my smartphone. If it works, he’ll bite the bullet and get his own smartphone.
I say OK, and we go to Ernie’s Ear Emporium, where his friend Ernie sells nearly new hearing aids. But what Lust wants is so high tech even Ernie don’t have it, and we got to go to a real hearing aid center and talk to a professional ear expert who tests Lust’s hearing in a audio booth, instead of standing across the room and yelling.
This expert says with these hearing aids, Lust will hear better than a bat. And he’ll personally install the volume-control app in my phone. So Lust buys them.
Suddenly, he can hear. “It’s like I had my head in a fish bowl for years,” he tells me.
Then he says the words I been waiting for: “That TV is too loud.”
He tests the phone app by politely lowering the volume on my sister-in-law Gloriosa, when she storms into the Sloth yelling about a parking ticket. It works.
I am so excited, I grab my phone and call my friend Awlette to tell her about it. I am waiting for the phone to ring on her end when Lust clutches his head. “I got ringing in my ears!”
Then his eyes bug out. “I hear voices in my head,” he says. Uh-oh.
“Wait,” he says, “It’s your friend Awlette. She’s saying ‘Hello? Hello?’”
I say “Awlette?” into my phone. Lust says, “She says she’ll call you right back.” The phone goes dead.
“What just happened?” I say. Then Lust clutches his head again. “Ringing!”
I say “Hello?” into the phone. Lust says, “Ms. Larda wants to know if we want some shrimp stew. Say yes.”
It must be that new app. It is channeling every sound from my phone into his hearing aids.
I turn the app off. That should fix it. But Lust clutches his head again. “Ringing! Make it stop,” he says.
My phone is possessed.
And naturally, the hearing aid place is closed. They are undergoing remodeling, and thank us for our patience.
Then my 17-year-old daughter Gladiola strolls in. She takes my phone, taps it a couple times, and – a miracle – no more voices in Lust’s head.
“I turned off Bluetooth,” she says. We stare at her. “It’s your communications protocol,” she says. Like that means something.
Technology is wasted on the old..