Four Acts of a Play on Ears

Saturday, January 12, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

When i was in grade school, elementary and middle school in particular, i went skiing at the small local mountain quite a bit every winter.   While i don't get to the mountain hardly as much any more (i'm lucky to get 2 or 3 days out a year now), i imagine that it still is the worst thing in the world when the chairlift stops while you're still on it.  Particularly on a bitterly cold windy night;  The licks and bites of the ice finding any bit of exposed flesh.

In those moments of quiet desperation, swinging like a upside-down metronome, i would gather all of my concentration, tense all of the muscles in my head and neck until it vibrated, and i would will the chair to start moving again.  As you can image, the odds of this working were . . . against me.  But, in those moments when my ultimate concentration aligned with the renewed churning of the wheels driving the metal cord of the chair-lift forward, i was super-human.  I had a secret that included my ability to move giant machinery, and all of these people were skiing around me like i was just another normal person.    I don't think it got to the point where i was all 'Pleebs! You should be grateful for my protection!!!," but the illusion of control (or what you all believe is an illusion) lasted a good number of years.  To this day every time i get my bell rung, the vibration of my head harkens me back to those nights on the chair-lift.

Ironically all that head muscle clenching may have actually been the origin story of my one true special power.   i can . . . . wait for it . . . flex a muscle in my inner ear.  Pretty incredible stuff.  It's fairly unheard of actually.  And i wasn't born with it, which is why all that "deep concentration" in my early years may have jarred something loose.  i remember distinctly that, i want to say in college, i began to hear a clicking in my ears.  But, i could control it.  The problem was, i couldn't stop doing it.  Like the girl with hiccups that won't ever end, this clicking became persistent and incredibly annoying.

I went to the ear doctor.  I described the situation.  I'm all, "i can flex a muscle in my ear, and its making a clicking noise and it won't stop."  The looks i received in return were a mixture of quizzical and skeptical.  I know this look fairly well.  I returned their offering with a persistent look of confidence meant to convey, "this is happening folks, get on board."  And so, they hooked me up to a machine to see if, in the words of My Cousin Vinny, "my story holds water."

Sensors in ears, they started up a machine that most resembled a Richter scale, with a needle hovering over a moving piece of paper -- jumping up and down as it detected muscle fluctuation.  They turned it on and asked me to "do my thing."  I did it.  The needle went up and down and up and down and up and down.   They next asked, eyes a bit wider, how much i could control this flexing.  I said completely.  I proceeded to make the needle jump to "schooooooools out for summer." (i choose it for its distinct beat).

It is now clear they believe me.  The diagnosis, however, is underwhelming.  Essentially i either "learn to deal with it" or they have to do a surgery that has more negatives associated with it than positives.  No brainer.  Time to live with a secret again . . .  They did let me know that the reason it was so bothersome at that time was because i had a cold and was congested.  When I'm sick, this particular super-power is particularly super-sucky.  It's like having a click track added to the mucus ball that envelops your head.

It seems that all that ear muscle flexing may have beefed up my hearing.  At the bar, i regularly overhear sentiments expressed about me or one of the servers or the restaurant in general.  Most normal people, when facing this situation, would simply snicker knowingly to themselves and continue on.  I respond every time.  I just can't help it.  I look them straight in the eye and i make sure everyone can hear my response.  Only seems fair.  Two days ago i caught one kid "jokingly" whistling for my attention down the bar.  That prompted a 5 minute shaming about why, even meant as a joke, when done in a bar, that is not what would technically be called "ha-ha" funny.  More "ha-douchebag-ha" funny.  He readily admitted his mistake, got his socks knocked off by the old fashion i made him, and tipped generously.  I must admit i kind of enjoyed it.

That kid also claimed that his new years resolution (get ready for white people problems folks) was to "make the best old fashioned in the world".  Besides the hilariousness of using the phrasing of a 7-year-old -- he then asked what gave the drink its reddish hue.  I told him that it was the particular bitters I had used.  He remarked, "BITTERS!, that's what it is . . . I haven't tried them with bitters yet . . ."  I told him that he hadn't yet made an old fashioned yet, as bitters really are one of the quintessential ingredients.  He didn't really want to hear that, so i wished him well on his "resolution," worrying that i was sending a man westward in search of the edge of the world.

Lest I sound too self-righteous, I feel compelled to add that i am particularly guilty of saying outrageously inappropriate and absurd commentary just softly enough for only my friends to hear and giggle at.  Incredibly childish i know.  I'm childish.  It endearing . . . eventually.  

My favorite instance of being caught mouth-handed was on a return visit to the USA while i was living in Japan.  In the hills of Japan, you need not ever lower your voice to speak in English.  Think about Chinese people in your coffee shop.  Do you think they are worried about people overhearing their Mandarin?  No.  They are safe in the knowledge that the language barrier itself works as a muffler.

When i returned from my mountain village to the land they call Westchester, NY, I was deeply entrenched in this "no one can hear me cause they can't speak English" mentality.  So much so that there wasn't even a moment's hesitation as i remarked to my friend, "that guy's hat is SUPER ugly!"  The problem, in this case, was that said man was approximately 5 feet in front of me.

He turned around to face me head on.  I don't think he expected to see a fairly well-put together 25 year-old.   I certainly wasn't expecting the guy to be able to understand me, and was put unfamiliarly on my heals.  And there we stood.  Looking at each other.  Him with an unmistakable look of "what-the-fuck", me with a surprised version of "um . . . sorry? *shrug*".  And we did that for probably 5 seconds.  I may have said sorry.  And then we both started walking again.   Five feet apart.  In the same direction.

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