“Stop shouting at our customers!” the bank manager said.
“Sorry.” I hadn’t realized I’d been yelling.
It was 1977 and I’d only been out of teller school a few months. This was my first week working in a real bank.
The manager came up to my window several minutes later and said, “Our customers are complaining about your yelling. You need to get your ears checked.”
I took the next day off and went to the doctor. He told me I had an inner ear infection. The infection would work its way through both ears and eventually I’d be totally deaf—for a week. I wouldn’t be able to work at the bank, and took the week off. Sue, my wife of three years, also took it off to keep me company.
We were living in San Francisco and this was like a second honeymoon, at first. We’d explore Chinatown and Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Park, and at some point during our wanderings I’d turn toward Sue and see an angry face. She’d been talking to me, forgetting I was stone deaf and couldn’t hear a word she was saying. Then she’d get angry with herself for treating me and my affliction so callously. Back in our little apartment on Union Street, Sue stopped asking me to do chores because it was too complicated writing down what needed to be done.
I don’t want to make light of those afflicted with deafness—a permanent loss of
hearing would undoubtedly be devastating—but my experience in a world without sound was…glorious. Of course I had the benefit of knowing my hearing would return completely. But while it was gone I never felt more relaxed, more invigorated and in sync with my other senses. I touched things as if for the first time. Food never tasted so good. San Francisco couldn’t have looked more beautiful. Neither could Sue. When my hearing finally returned it felt like I’d lost something precious. This had been my best vacation ever!
I tried to keep the fact that I could again hear a secret, but Sue wasn’t easily fooled. She snuck behind the chair where I was reading and whispered, “Why don’t we go into the bedroom and you can enjoy my new see-through nightie?”
When I whipped around she was grinning at me. She was dressed in street clothes.
“Nice try,” she said. “Now take out the garbage.”