I interact with the public at my place of employment, and must announce my hearing loss to soft-spoken people on a daily basis. Most people readily accommodate me by speaking louder, but I’ve run into a handful of people that adamantly refuse to speak beyond an imperceptible whisper. These inaudible speakers are a strange breed, painfully shy, and barely able to move their lips.

Just the other day, I was blessed with an especially memorable encounter involving one of these afflicted beings. She blended in with the general population, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving. As she stood in front of my desk, she looked at me and moved her lips without making a sound. I needed a few more decibels for comprehension, and innocently spoke the magic words that ultimately unveiled her true identity:

“I’m hard of hearing. Please repeat that a little louder.”

Instantly, the metamorphosis began. Fascinated, I sat transfixed as her eyes bugged out, color drained from her face, and she white-knuckled the desk. After hesitating for a few seconds, she opened her mouth, and without any discernible difference in volume, made the same small lip movements as before.

Despite feeling a bit guilty for subjecting her to obvious torture, I stood up and leaned closer. With my most genteel voice, I pleaded, “Just a little louder, please?”

It was too much for her to bear. A look of horror filled her face, then her eyes darted from side to side. Her bosom heaved. Ever so silently, she moved her mouth again, in different movements this time, and scuttled away sideways, disappearing into the bowels of the Local Government Building, never to be seen again.

Have you ever encountered one of these?

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