Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Deafish, Served with a Pinot Gris.

Last night, in disguise as mild mannered cub reporter, I got to attend a cooking class for free. It was high up in a 30th floor penthouse apartment on the West Side. The view was spectacular, as was the food. The teacher, Karen Lee, was a mellow but energetic grandma who marinated and pan-roasted Pompano fish, instructing ten novices chefs on every detail of the process, while giving a side lecture on her five year search for the perfect organic plum tomato.


She had one rule: “wash your hands.” Good to know. I should try it more often. I was put in charge of pouring the white wine, which is a little like having Otis guard a plate of steaks.

But here’s the thing: I was reporting. A reporter has to listen, follow conversation, pick out phrases to remember, gather names and their spelling, and keep an ear out for the snappy quote. With hearing aids: forget it. For me to follow a fast paced conversation between a dozen people with aids…might as well ask Stevie Wonder for a ride to the airport.


With hearing aids, I imagine the article would come out like this:

7:20: wash hands.
7:25: pour wine, drink.
7:30: cut piece of bread, eat it. Someone flips a fish. Why is my apron yellow while everyone else’s is white? Someone's talking to me -- nod.
7:35: drink.
7:40: look at skyline from window. Try to figure out which route Spiderman could take to get to a baby trapped on a fire escape on 86th street.
7:45: is this fish for me? Thank you. Wow, delicious. Drink.
7:50: what’s everyone talking about? I’ll laugh now in a friendly manner.
7:55: that knife has to cost $70 bucks easy. How come they don’t have those ginsu commercials on TV anymore?
8:00: drink.

…and so on. Interesting in its way, but I don’t think my editor would accept it.

Reporting wasn’t all that easy with the implant either. One thing about hearing in only one ear – it’s hard to locate sounds, to figure out who’s talking. Once I’m locked in to the speaker and can read his or her lips, I can get just about everything, until then I'm swivelling around trying to figure out who it is. I think the article ended up good enough though -- which reminds me of something my mother once said: “When I was younger, perfect wasn’t good enough. Now I’m older, good enough is simply perfect.”

Wise woman, my mother. Would have liked the white wine.

AJ and I have noticed that my hearing isn’t as sharp as it was a couple months ago. I think Mapper Lady and I didn’t quite nail the map this time. I went back three times in two weeks to try and get it right, but something is just so slightly off. It may have been the cold I had earlier, or it may be that, without four weekly classes and an office job, I’m not exercising the implant as much and getting as comfortable with the program. But hell, complaining about the fine points of the map is like complaining about the free wine at a free cooking class. It’s good enough.

“I don’t even think of you as deaf anymore” AJ said when I told her about the class and how much I heard.
“What did you say?” I responded.
“Deafish, maybe, would be a better description.”
“No it was Pompano. Very hard to get. From Florida.”


I kid. I heard her fine. We’re upstate now, having been forced to flee our broiling city apartment. Otis aka the crapping machine is outside playing with the big dogs. I want to thank all the people who have written about the Washington Post essay. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Your comments mean so much. Hopefully the essay will lead to more pieces, though at the moment I should be focused on the memoir. Which explains why first thing tomorrow, I will be barrelling around a racetrack at high speeds for a report on a racecar driving school. It’s a hard life.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Karen said...

Hello -
I just finished Michael Chorost's book, Rebuilt, and then found his website, with a link to your blog. I am an itinerant teacher of the hearing impaired who works with students with varying degrees of hearing loss, ages 3-21 who attend their neighborhood schools. This can include students who use CIs. I read your blog and Michael's book with great interest! Thanks to you both for giving me a bit more insight into life with a CI. So many times, I've thought to myself when working with a student one-on-one, "Exactly what did he just hear?" or "Hmmm. He misunderstood. I wonder why?" inspite of my title and experience. The implications of loss of hearing are, at times, mind-boggling and a stuggle to easily explain to others. Thanks for sharing a bit of what's going on in your life so I can better understand it and, in turn, better explain it to the staff who work with my CI students at their home schools. As you know, others mistakenly assume cochlear implants restore hearing to normal. My job is to not only support my students with their academic work, but also educate the educators, a job that's not always easy, particularly at the high school level.

Also, I LOVED reading about your new experience with viewing (or should I say "listening to"?) Season 5 of American Idol, as a slightly obsessed fan of the show myself! So now I must ask this question: With your new found vocal critiquing abilities, who did you think should win?

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Hello -
I just finished Michael Chorost's book, Rebuilt, and then found his website, with a link to your blog. I am an itinerant teacher of the hearing impaired who works with students with varying degrees of hearing loss, ages 3-21 who attend their neighborhood schools. This can include students who use CIs. I read your blog and Michael's book with great interest! Thanks to you both for giving me a bit more insight into life with a CI. So many times, I've thought to myself when working with a student one-on-one, "Exactly what did he just hear?" or "Hmmm. He misunderstood. I wonder why?" inspite of my title and experience. The implications of loss of hearing are, at times, mind-boggling and a stuggle to easily explain to others. Thanks for sharing a bit of what's going on in your life so I can better understand it and, in turn, better explain it to the staff who work with my CI students at their home schools. As you know, others mistakenly assume cochlear implants restore hearing to normal. My job is to not only support my students with their academics work, but also educate the educators, a job that's not always easy, particularly at the high school level.

Also, I LOVED reading about your new experience with viewing (or should I say "listening to"?) Season 5 of American Idol, as a slightly obsessed fan of the show myself! So now I must ask this question: With your new found vocal critiquing abilities, who did you hope would win?

12:31 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

Hi Karen

Thanks for the feedback. Michael's a great great resource and wonderful guy.

Can't say I really was blown away by any of the finalists. But I do think Taylor would give the most fun concert, so more power to him.

10:26 AM  

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