Being hearing impaired but not wearing a hearing aid (or a sign that says “I’m deaf on the left”) makes for some interesting life experiences. I’ve unintentionally offended people when I’ve seemingly ignored them, when really, I had no idea they were talking to me or talking at all. There have been plenty of times that I have not heard someone clearly and thought they said something totally different than what they really meant. I’ve also had scary moments of driving in my car and hearing a siren and not knowing which direction a fire truck or ambulance is going to approach from. Luckily so far none of the moments have been life-altering. At least not that I know of… perhaps I just misheard.
The other day I was in my boss’s office for a meeting. Both of my co-workers were out of the office, so it was just me and my boss. She has a small conference table in front of her desk, where my co-workers and I usually sit. Out of habit, I sat so that my boss’s desk was to my right, which meant that my back was to the door.
We were expecting someone to call in during the meeting, and right on cue, the phone rang. I saw my boss reach out and push a button. Then she said “Hey, how’s it going?” A voice I was not expecting to hear began to talk. I noticed that he sounded incredibly clear, and lacking that tinny, echoing quality that people usually have when they’re on speakerphone. It was another colleague, and he and my boss chatted amicably for a few minutes. I fiddled with my notebook, and flipped through a stack of papers I’d brought in for the meeting.
Then a weird thing happened. My boss’s phone rang again. The clear voice said “Oh, do you need to get that?”
Wait a second… I thought to myself. How does he know she’s getting another call?
My boss pushed a button on the phone to divert the call. I looked at her and noticed that she kept looking at something above my head. We have a calendar on the door, so at first I thought she was just looking at that. It finally occurred to me that there might be another reason she kept looking my way. Slowly I turned my head to the left and out of the corner of my eye I saw that there was someone standing behind me.
I’m not sure I can describe the feeling I had at that moment. As hilarious as it would have been for me to react as Lucy in the photo above, I did not. I had to spend a few seconds composing myself because I was pretty horrified that I hadn’t been able to tell that there’d been someone standing behind me and talking for what must have been a solid five minutes. I was also worried that I’d appeared rude for not acknowledging him the whole time. I decided to play it cool and not let on that I had just realized he was there. The next time he made a joke, I turned and looked him in the eye as I chuckled at his wittiness. I think I saved face there, but barely. I’m sure my boss was wondering why I hadn’t turned to look at him before that, and why I kept looking at her and at the phone.
Note to self: Avoid sitting with your back to the door. Or, start wearing glasses with side mirrors.