Mischief Mayhem Pardon?
Words and thinkings by Hilary Bennett
THE FIRST RULE OF DEAF CLUB IS that one must indeed talk about it. The Second Rule is to talk about till until one is purple. This is because people cannot see it or touch it and therefore forget. It is worse with people I love the most….because I make a huge effort to listen and understand them, as I wish to understand and they then don’t realise and forget a little more. Although people who I don’t like so much can be just as pickle brained.
Let us start the complaining…er…explaining deafness in the workplace. One has spent nearly 13 years in an office environment and at first wished to engage without ‘making a scene’ as I was only a 19 year old babe in arms. As I grew older and moved about offices and teams I learned it was best to address one’s deafness as colleagues would treat me as an idiot if I did not. The laying it on thick approach was eventually the only way I could deal with working, but even this failed a lot of the time. My request on the first day of working within a new team was that I had to see a person’s face if I were to understand them. It always started off so well. Especially when I would say it was perfectly reasonable to touch my arm or shoulder gently to gain my attention. Alas, as time went on, the team would forget, along with management. I mean, how difficult is it to remember to write important things down for me? This should be done anyway.
So, eventually and for about two years before I left the office entirely, I gave up trying and reminding people and tried to view it as ‘their’ problem if they forgot. Therefore the last two years were most funny, to me at least. I was working with a bunch of crazy folk who all started a sentence midway through and I got to say that I really really did not understand them if they did that. I got to swear myself blue if someone were to standnext to my desk without alerting me to their presence. The most challenging events were completely silent team meetings, in which I fell asleep a lot.
The next group of folk I wish to speak about is family. I love my Dad and he has been extraordinarily helpful over the months that my mobility has been challenged but he will insist on vacuuming in another room and deciding that’s the best time to impart some important information. Then we will fight about it later that I am the forgetful one in the family. The rest of my beloved family are much like colleagues in forgetfulness but as I usually see them one on one, it is easier for me to concentrate, as my lip reading skills are pretty ace. In fact….don’t gossip in my eyeshot. I have learned many things…..some I wish to know…some I really don’t….by lipreading eavesdropping. The best people to talk to when deaf are children. Up until the teenage years, children tend to demand your attention and what to see your face and know you are listening to them. They also are far more exaggerated in their mannerisms, which are awesome for someone who has to read faces. Group family events are a struggle. The Christmas Dinner table is most impossible to keep up with, but as long as I say nice things and wear my hat, I have managed to wing 35 of them.
The most varied of people and experiences in deafness are friends. My close friends are aware of my deafness but put much more of my behaviour down to my eccentricity. Being eccentric has actually been a gift through life when deaf, as people shrug my confused responses off and think no more of it. I do meet friends one on one a lot and make sure they sit directly in front of me. It is walking side by side that is the most difficult, along with getting drunk. The drink makes people forget even more so but then you can shout at them and no one cares. I have endeavoured recently to meet up with more online friends. I usually explain the deafness straight away and most folk are really good. One experience recently actually rather tickled me. I had gone to Edinburgh on holiday and met up with three Glaswegian friends. We first met in a rather dark restaurant and I struggled and had to explain why I was a little quiet. We then went to a pub which was brightly lit, but as the time ticktocked and the drink dropped, the accent got thicker and thicker. I had to give up and just laugh along. When they are smiling I smile along too.
I am telling you all this in case we meet again. I do not mind if you forget though, as it’s part of my charm.
Hilary…she loves to knit, play with words and love things. Proficient in domestic sluttery and is slightly feral. A tiny bit deaf…so throw stuff if she does not respond. ”The greatest gift you’ll ever learn, is to love and be loved in return.” Nat King Cole.
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