Oh my word! They’re hearing aids, folks.

Sitting here sipping coffee, while watching a scenario similar to one I experienced two years ago, it was a case of de’ja vu. Let me explain with my facebook rant from April 2014:

Oh my word!
The devices in both of my ears are HEARING AIDS.
Obviously, I have an impairment. However, wearing hearing aids does not mean, I cannot understand language and I must be simple-minded.

So, imagine my surprise when a complete stranger approached gesturing, moving her mouth in exaggerated efforts and blasting loud enough to burst my eardrums. Oh the irony, cue eye roll and elevated eye brow….allow me to share the moment.

You, “Ms. Speaker” felt the need to phonetically enunciate each syllable loudly and illustrate with hand gestures. Personally, I enjoyed the show of grand gestures to “reach me” in front of your coffee group. I heard that by the way. 😉 I am hearing impaired not deaf and mute.
I am, ALSO highly intelligent, well read and educated. I can honestly say, No, that wasn’t the American sign language for coffee, cream or thank you.

It was arrogance and stupidity. Your arrogance. Your idiocy.
Or quite possibly, an undiagnosed seizure condition which causes you to gesture wildly, to which, if this is the case, I apologize. I wouldn’t want to make unqualified assumptions based on my vast television show medical knowledge, which would make a donkey out of you and me.

But, I digress, forgive me.

I, SO appreciated the “socially responsible empathy” you granted to me in front of your group by demonstrating patience with “my unfortunate accent”. My accented speech is truly a speech impediment due to hearing loss. A by-product cultured through years of speech and hearing therapy blended with residencies in Pennsylvania/Indiana/Tennessee/Southern Louisiana/North Texas and here, in Southern Arkansas.

“Ms. Speaker” as you stated clearly to anyone listening, you are “truly astute in your knowledge of special needs people”.
Allow me to commend your intelligence by awarding you my commentary about hearing aids and hearing impaired people.

Hearing aids are small electronic devices that amplify sound. It can help restore many of the sounds that hearing impaired people are lacking.

Hearing aid correction, means you, as the listener are relieved of the need to shout, yell or project a voice worthy of an opera performer. It also means, you the speaker will not need to channel your inner Italian grandmother with grandiose hand gestures, and this is the same for the listener. It does not mean I am feeble-minded in need of exaggerated illustration to engage and exist.

In my case, I do not need you to read a coffee menu….they’re hearing aids not eyeglasses.
In your rush to aid me, talking over my interjections, showcasing your humanity to your friends, my resigned tolerant silence must have seemed like assent.

Although, I’m at a lost as to why you saw me as visually impaired. I can only surmise, it must have been those highly visible Ray Orbison style contacts?!
It must be my age, yep, I’m 48 and squinting at small print.

Thank you, “Ms. Speaker” for educating your friends of your “ability to bridge the barrier, it really is all based on keen perceptions and intelligence.”

I recognized that you are sorely lacking in both, as well as understanding and character. Presumptuous, narcissistic and arrogant, all thoughts running through my head. “Silence is golden and a useful tool”, said my Mum. “Think before you speak”, she said. So, I cannot yell, shout or gesture the idiocy of it any louder than you already did!

Lord have mercy, be grateful, I didn’t unleash my 28 years + of Northern Yankee upbringing tempered with 20+ years of Southern living on your tolerant ASSumptions.

Allow me to buy you a coffee, because down here we don’t hide our crazy friends, we dress them up in Sunday finest, set them on the porch with a drink. All the while Blessing their hearts and turning a deaf ear.


(Rant over)

Two years later, this still nettles me, the willful ignorance of people.

I am nearly 50 years old. In every aspect of life, I’ve experienced school bullies, impatient employers, careless public assumptions and the disinterested passerby.

On average, I am not singled out as different or special because my hearing aids caught attention, mostly, I am the everyday face in a crowd.

Hearing aids, no longer carry the stigmas associated with people because they must wear a corrective device….it is now common place. I have observed most people carry on with hearing aids, eye glasses or corrective devices as normal in the make up of daily attire.

The out-of-place prosthetics will garner attention, good and bad. Most people will exercise a passing glance and the unsaid, “oh my!” will filter in their mind as they continue onward. Some will stop, stare and point out in a hushed conversation, the missing hand, arm, leg or bulky wheelchair. Some view these as denoting illness, injury or birth defects all which are perceived as grave impairments not only of the limb but surely, the mind. This lack of understanding leads to broad misconceptions.

We are uncomfortable with something not easy to ignore. It draws wonder as to their suffering. Raising questions in ourselves, we rather not address as to why?

In crossing paths with people, if, we take opportunity to observe others, assessing the need of each individual, we may alter a rush to assumption, a habit born from ignorance. We are becoming complacent. We should halt our self-centered rush through this world, we are too busy, too arrogant to be bothered to practice humility by exercising awareness and understanding.

Personally, I practice a wait and see approach to aid, purely and simply, because manners dictate civilized behavior. If, at anytime, my efforts are ill received or I have made an error in judgment, I will sincerely apologize and move on.

Unfortunately, I find the new problematic person is simply more egocentric in nature. These people garner accolades through a pattern of narcissistic behaviors. It’s a no win situation.

Occasionally, I come across a “Ms. Speaker” who wears a mask of caring and compassion. In truth, she seeks the light of approval gathered from friends as they observe her selfless benevolence towards lesser able-bodied people. Condescending and lacking in sincerity, “Ms. Speaker” types hoard garnered pats on the back from good deeds. They wallow in the commiseration offered by friends, if rebuffed for their attention to poor souls.

We have created this environment of narcissism. When we should be raising grounded, decently centered, self-assured children, who practice understanding and acceptance of others without constant “attaboys”. Society has rushed to praise each other for practicing basic and decent behaviors as extraordinary. When in fact these behaviors are fundamentals of common decency not heroics.

Sure, we should step up when called upon to assist. I am not promoting callous disregard, I am advocating compassionate empathy and consideration, with the caveat, we should exercise respectful boundaries; wait and observe, access and react, by practicing these principles, we will respond with dignity to them and ourselves.

We should not seek to gain attention and approval for ourselves as like: “look at her, she helped that crippled man, isn’t she just so helpful and good” or “Oh my, isn’t he wonderful for allowing that woman in a wheelchair to use the bigger table!” When in fact the bigger table was set aside to accommodate the arms of a wheelchair. There is nothing grand in surrendering a table meant for the minority with accessiblity concerns.

This is not altruistic, this is careless disregard for decency.
I have to wonder why, on lookers and companions, will heap praise on “the helper” by making a spectacle of their benevolence, when it was laziness, compounding further insult on the other person as inconveniencing “us” by accommodating their needs. Ridiculous.

A combination of dictionary explanations defines altruism and generosity as qualities of being kind, understanding and not self centered, the willingness to give to others without benefitting yourself.

I believe narcissistic personalities are more challenged than physically handicapped bodies.

In hindsight, there simply wasn’t a way to bridge the divide between me and “Ms. Speaker.” I don’t mean my hearing impairment but “Ms. Speaker’s” personality impairment. Ingrained poor habits like, “Ms. Speaker’s” personality flaws are rooted deep in her upbringing, no amount of effort on my part will change that core framework.

Narcissistic behaviors don’t respond to criticisms, they feed off attention. After all, any attention is the same to them, all about them, one way or the other, good or bad. Although, I wanted to educate her, hopeful to shed light on her poor habits and assumptions. I wasn’t a permanent influence for change, I was a moment’s entertainment.

Some battles will never win the war and it wasn’t really my war, I got caught in the squirmishes of patterns. I’ll be the change I want to see in this world. My influence starts at home in how I rear my children towards adulthood and how I carry myself at large.

So, I’ll continue to sip my coffee, while quietly watching people and ponder the woes of life, contemplating the next ordinary event worthy of change. Or I’ll go run errands, as if, there’s nothing to see here folks, just the everyday occurrence in my life just like yours, the opportunity to change, one small lesson at a time. 

~Joanne Roth Marino