Because there are so many things I can’t hear I’m semi-constantly aware that my life is not quite like most other people’s. The big example of course is speech. I’m aware of people around me speaking all the time but I know that I can only understand what they are saying if I tune in, look at the speaker and concentrate.
I know that, and I’m used to it. Life goes on. But sometimes things happen to remind you of things you are missing that you’d forgotten all about. An example happened in the Post Office in the other week. To set the scene, in our household my husband does a weekly online grocery shop but I do the shopping, in our local town, for things I want to see before I buy them (things like meat, fish and fresh veg). I enjoy going round the shops and my husband doesn’t so it’s a very good division of labour. Also, I can do it and scarcely feel deaf at all. Shopping is quite easy for a lip-reader, I find, because the script is so limited. At the supermarket checkout the operator might say “would you like help with your packing?” or “do you need any bags?” or “do you have a club card?” I’m expecting all of those and just have to lip read (or guess) correctly which one they have said and bob’s your uncle. In a confident mood I might even start a short chat about the weather – again, you know where the conversation is going so it’s easy to keep up. In the butcher if you state what you want clearly enough – “lean lamb for a casserole please, about a kilo” – not much else needs to be said until they say the price, and that’s fine because it shows on the till in front of you. No lip reading needed. Perhaps another “would you like a bag?” and you’re done. Success. “Thanks a lot….bye” and you’re off.
But on this day my husband was with me for some reason when I needed to go to the Post Office for some stamps. I said what I wanted, put my letters on the scales, grimaced at the fact that they were slightly heavier than ideal and would cost more than the standard rate….all going well. Now at this point you need to know that it is one of my husband’s most endearing characteristics that he chats easily to complete strangers of all types and on all occasions. If we are out fell walking he doesn’t just say hello or good morning to passing walkers, as most people would. He stops, and, given the slightest encouragement, he’s off. Where we are going, where they are going, by what route, where we live, where they live…..sometimes things progress for so long he gets on to describing our dog’s various medical conditions (she sometimes has to wear a boot on a back paw, so people ask)……..a few jokes added in and we go our separate ways. “What a friendly chap” they think. “His wife was a bit uncommunicative”.
So, back to the post office. I’m being served quite swimmingly and my husband makes some quick quip to the person serving me, which I missed of course. She replies and they start laughing. Then the other person serving (it’s a counter in a corner shop – they aren’t behind screens) says something else, then someone else in the queue joins in and they are all laughing. Funny quips pinging backwards and forwards. It was lovely, but goodness knows what it was about. Experience tells that asking for a lip readable running commentary on a quick joke is the road to madness, it just doesn’t translate.
So, a forgotten thing. How other people shop…….