Ever since I got married, my wife has pointed out that I have a hearing problem. There have been plenty of times I have asked her to repeat herself. Many times, I respond to her with a “Huh?”
I certainly am interested in what she has to say. However, I’ve pointed out several times to her that I am not always ready to listen. Sometimes, if I am focused on something, listening to something else, or occupied, I will surely ask her to repeat something.
Plenty of my buddies agree that their wives are annoyed by their alleged hearing problem. They hear my rationale and support my stance with the loyalty of fraternity brothers. We are, after all, in a sort of fraternity. I guess we could call it HUH?
One of my worst flaws is that I jump on the defensive and try to blame others for my behavior. Most of time, I have scolded Michelle for talking softly. I’ve also gotten irritated at her when she tries to carry on a conversation from the other room. Usually, in order to avoid problems, I will get up and go to the room she’s in so I can give her my full attention.
Maybe I’m doing it so I can have the benefit of lip-reading as well. Who knows?
I’ve also accused others of mumbling. The other night, I went into a restaurant to pick up some take-out food. I had to ask the cashier girl to repeat herself about four times. When I got in the car, I complained to Michelle about young people today. “They don’t make eye contact. They mumble, they shuffle along.”
Gee, you’d think I was older than I really am.
But I AM right, aren’t I? Have you noticed how poorly people communicate? They don’t articulate. They don’t look you in the eye. They speak in low tones. They mumble.
I’m hard on my own children and my students, as well. It doesn’t take much for me to launch into a big lecture about the importance of being able to communicate effectively.
“How are you going to get the best in life if you can’t make yourself heard?” I raise my finger in the air for dramatic effect.
This morning, we were sloshing along the streets to school. The roads were a little slick but not enough for us to have our 200th snow day this year. My oldest son was sitting next to me. “Moebill wano hoffa skon am noka um,” he said. I thought for a moment he was speaking a foreign language. He is always walking around the house impressing us with his ability to speak German. But I didn’t think this was German.
After asking him to repeat himself about three times and getting annoyed, I said “Son! Articulate please. I can’t understand a word you are saying.”
Very politely and deliberately, he repeated what he had said, “Maybe we have a snow day and no one called us.”
We laughed for a little while. I assured him we were headed in the right direction. But then I stopped for a minute and pondered. Maybe we would arrive at school and find the parking lot empty. Maybe I DID receive a call that school was canceled.
Maybe I just didn’t hear the message.