Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One Ear at a Time

I can only hear things with one ear at a time.

I’ve been trying to explain this to my family for years. It has mainly to do with talking on the phone. Actually, with listening on the phone. I’ve never been a big telephone talker. I only call people if I need to tell them something. I tell them and then hang up. If I feel like chatting with someone, I’d rather do it in person. Probably because I talk with my hands. Okay – with my whole body. (I remember being with a group of friends once and one of them saying “Hey, I know! Let’s tie Melinda up and see if she can tell us a story!”) When I’m on the phone with someone, I guess I don’t feel like I can wholly express myself. So I mostly listen.

When I’m holding a phone up to my left ear (I’m left-eared when it comes to phones), and somebody starts yakking into my right ear, I can’t make out what either party is saying. Maybe I’m aurally challenged. Maybe I’m just a little slow. None of the people I live with seem to have this problem. My kids can have loud music playing in one ear and carry on a conversation with the person in the other ear with no problem. If the phone is for my husband and he’s watching a game on TV, he doesn’t even turn it down. Of course I suspect he wants whomever called him to realize he’s in the middle of a game and hang up, but he seems to hear it all just fine.

Maybe because I’m usually listening on the phone, my kids think I’m just holding it there, pretending. Because invariably, when I’m on the phone, my children will start talking to me. I immediately start waving my free hand around as if I’m swatting away a swarm of gnats. I give the kill gesture, the blade of my hand passing against my throat. I make the shush sign. I glare as hard as I can. None of these deter them. They keep talking at me. I have no idea what they’re saying and I have no idea what the person in my left ear is saying. I hurriedly walk to another area of the house, begging the pardon of the person in my left ear. My children follow me. They’re still talking.

Today I was on the phone when Joel got home from school.

“I’M HOME!” he hollered at me in a deep theatrical voice, even though he was only ten feet away from me and could see that the phone was up to my left ear. He gets this from his father. Kent always hollers a greeting of some kind in his loudest voice (and almost always in a foreign language – see January 2010 post “The Foreign Language House”) when he gets home from work.

Kill gesture. Swatting at gnats. Glare. I managed them all at once.

“Oh, Gee. Nice way to greet your son after a long day at school,” Joel chided me.  His feelings were hurt.

I think he thought I was just holding the phone up to my ear, pretending again.

After I hung up, I once again tried to explain how I can only hear things with one ear at a time.

“Joel, I just spent twenty minutes E-NUN-CI-AT-ING to a computer, trying to reach a live person who could answer my prescription benefits question. I finally got a living human being on the line just as you burst through the door, all big and loud. What did you want me to do?”

He looked up at me from the chair at the computer desk.

“I wanted you to hang up and give me a hug.”


He held out his open arms.

I gave him a hug.

(Big sigh)

Maybe I could add another motion to my repertoire. Gnat swatting. Kill gesture. Shush sign.

And a hug.


  1. This just became the first item of business on my mother's "to-read" list. : )
    I love your blog.