Did I Say That? Sounds like a problem
Arguments often erupt in our home over four simple words, and they’re not “You’re no darn good!” or “I need my space!” or “Did you see this bill?!?” (Sorry, that’s five.)
The inflammatory words are “I can’t HEAR you!”
While I’m brushing my teeth with the electric toothbrush and have the water running, I hear faint mumbling and realize that my wife Sandy is trying to tell me something. I promptly respond, “I can’t hear you” as toothpaste spills from my mouth and dribbles down my chin and neck.
But she keeps talking ... at which point I yell, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” as saliva spews out of my mouth like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii. Finally, in frustration I drop my toothbrush in the sink, wipe my face and repeat, “I can’t hear you while I’m brushing my teeth!”
To which she promptly delivers one of three possible responses: a) “Clean your ears” b) “Are you deaf?” or c) “You better have your hearing checked!”
I’m convinced that as soon as she sees me brushing, she says to herself, “OK, it’s time for me to tell him this urgent news.”
What could be so important that it can’t wait? The latest escapade of Donald Trump or Ned Lamont or the Kardashians or our daughters or the neighbor’s dog that poops near my mailbox right before the mailman arrives?
I try to avoid quarreling and tell her for the umpteenth time, “Please don’t talk to me while I’m brushing my teeth, shaving, showering, cutting the lawn, sleeping, or listening to Lady Gaga because I can’t hear you.” Do you see a pattern here? My kids do the same thing. So do I! (Sometimes, I’ll try to tell her something while she has the blender on, but it doesn’t work.)
There’s nothing more frustrating than constantly telling your spouse, “I can’t hear you” and have them keep talking as if THEY can’t hear YOU.
You may think this peculiar behavior is limited to a couple that has been married too long; however, it isn’t unique to us. Back in the 1960s, there was a Broadway production about a problem afflicting married couples nationwide titled, “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running.”
To tell the truth, I probably suffer hearing loss from too much rock ‘n’ roll in the olden days. Now, I only listen to Brahms and nature recordings of babbling brooks and croaking frogs. I used to love easy-listening music until some profit-obsessed media company replaced Henry Mancini and the Ray Conniff Singers with talk radio.
My problem, I suspect, can be traced to Jimi Hendrix or that Buddy Miles concert, when I was in the front row and the music was so loud I had to tear my handkerchief into pieces, which I stuffed in my ears so my head wouldn’t explode. It didn’t work. Besides, it’s not cool to be sitting at a rock concert with shreds of a dirty handkerchief sticking out of your ears on your first date. There was no second date.
I recently had a sinus infection that made me so congested my head felt like a NASA space capsule decompressing after a lunar landing. My wife was trying to tell me something, but all I could hear was ringing. “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” I said. “WHAT DID YOU SAY? TEXT-MESSAGE ME!”
Sandy, on the other hand, has better hearing than anyone I know, including our dog. I’ll be two rooms away and whisper to my daughter, “Don’t tell your mother, but ...” And before I can finish the sentence, she is yelling, “I CAN HEAR YOU!” She’s like one of those X-Men characters who has supersonic ears and can hear conversations through concrete walls.
It recently occurred to me that what she wants to tell me usually involves a Visa bill, deer eating our garden plants, a household repair, yard work, a family crisis or a car problem. So maybe it’s better if I can’t hear her. Give me that toothbrush.
Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.