The organ-burst that was the Modern Drunkard magazine convention is over. Now I'm sitting at the gate of the Las Vegas airport waiting for my America West Flight 184 to San Diego to begin boarding. Airport-wise, this trip has not gone well. I've already had one flight cancel and this one is delayed. I'm hungover and spent and dying to get home to take an eight-day nap.
Finally, mercifully, gratefully, the gate agent picks up the small, square black microphone hanging on the wall and says, “Attention, passengers, Flight 184 to San Diego is now ready to board. Please have your boarding pass ready-we will not need to see your I.D.” Then she hangs it up and walks over to the podium in front of the gate.
Problem is, I'm just not sure what it was she said. See, I'm half-deaf. Thanks to a freak softball accident in 1999, my right ear doesn't work anymore.
It sounded like she said, “We do not need to see your I.D.,” but that doesn't make sense to me. This is the age of terrorism. Surely they're gonna want to see my identification. Besides, why would she bother to negate a negative? It's like saying, “Have your boarding pass ready, but we will not be needing to see photos of your nephews today.” Anyway, I figure I must have heard her wrong, so I pull out my driver's license and boarding pass, and get in line to board the plane.
At the podium is the same gate agent. She's collecting tickets while two female gate agents stand behind and observe. When it is my turn, I give her the boarding pass and motion to hand her my license-and wouldn't you know it, the gate agent decides to get all nasty with me in front of the other passengers: “What part of, ‘We do not need to see your I.D.' did you not understand, sir?” she snorts, while her two fellow America West agents-The Witches of Westwick-cackle with glee.
At this point I'd like to interrupt the story by saying: You know what? Sometimes it really just sucks being half-deaf. People think you're stupid. Your girlfriend thinks you don't listen. Your friends grow impatient. And it's all because you're a “what” guy.
How are you doing?-What?
Where you going?-What?
Why did you do that?-What? And so on.
You're driving everyone around you nutty, what with all your whats, so you come up with different ways to say it like, Huh? Eh? Pardon? 'Scuse? Come again? Say what? What's that you say? How's that? But it's all in vain, because all the synonyms in the world aren't going to change this one brutal fact: Everybody hates the what guy.
Hell, I even hated the what guy before I became a what guy. Ah, the good old days. Oh, what a glorious non-whatting time it was before the what days began, before the softball thing. One day I was fine, and the next, I was what-what-whatting in circles like flat tires on the Indy 500.
Here is the main dilemma of the what guy: When somebody says something you can't hear, you have to choose between the lesser of two evils.
You can either: 1) Say, “What?”-in which case you receive an irritated harrumph and a scowl, as though you just asked them to bask in a pool of raw sewage; or, 2) Pretend that you heard what was said and respond with a nod of agreement, which is inadvisable as you might be agreeing to a question like, “May I please insert a rake into your anus?”
Such are the trials of the half-deaf.
There are all kinds of issues with which those of us who hear out of one ear must grapple. For instance, at dinner parties you have to consider ear-positioning when selecting a seat at the table. Another problem is, you can't switch ears when talking on the phone for a long time, which doesn't seem so bad at first-until you try talking to your mom on the phone for an hour or so without switching ears. And bartending in a live music club can be difficult, although over the years I've learned to read lips, which usually works well except sometimes when a customer orders a “cup of coffee,” I accidentally pour them a “kami-kaze,” in which case they look at me like I just fell off the back of the moron truck.
But hell, you get used to all that. If you're smart, you keep a sense of humor and laugh out loud when friends and family poke-fun, just as they laugh out loud when you poke at their various handicaps, and it's all fine and dandy except every now and then you run into some cranky witch at a boarding gate who humiliates people in public because it makes her feel better about herself, and, well, that's the sort of person I have no tolerance for.
So when the gate agent says, “What part of ‘We do not need to see your identification' did you not understand?” I say, “The part I don't understand, the part that is utterly incomprehensible to me, is how America West could ever hire a shrew such as you to work with the public.” Then I put the license in my pocket and board the plane in a huff.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org? and editor@ SDcitybeat.com. Visit www.edwindecker.huh?