Testing - Can you hear me now?

Friday, September 24, 2004

An elderly friend occasionally gives me this advice when we compare notes on our latest aches and pains: "Don't get old if you can help it."

I use the word "elderly" advisedly. In some quarters I'm sure I am lumped into that category.

Take, for example, that I am the oldest person in the Southeast Missourian's news department. I am surrounded by young, energetic, smart, ambitious, creative, talented folks who could shoot out the middle of a bull's-eye before I could figure out how to load my gun.

It's great to have all that enthusiasm and verve nearby. They make me look so good.

But I do get sort of wistful sometimes because no one around me knows any of the plots to the old "Sgt. Bilko" sitcom or the name of the Cisco Kid's sidekick. ("Ceeeesco! It's me, Pancho!")

My wife, who believes you're only as old as you want to be and works every day with hundreds of conscientious volunteers who would put the Energizer bunny to shame, is careful about saying anything to me that might be construed as implying I'm no longer just age-advantaged, but on the verge of elderly.

I keep asking her to repeat things she already has said twice. I turn up the TV volume so the neighbors can save on electricity. I complain about faulty telephones that seem to seethe with static. I miss the point of most good jokes.

The other night my dear wife asked, "Do you think you need a hearing aid?"

I'd like for someone to explain to me why I heard that clear as a bell.

No, I shouted, just to make sure no one missed my point. But I would like anyone who has anything to say to me to use a bullhorn.

My considerate wife said she'd look into some bullhorns.

Maybe I do need a hearing aid. I have so many ringing sounds inside my head that I am constantly answering the phone and talking to a dial tone. Or opening the door to see which neighborhood kid is selling candy bars and wrapping paper so our schools won't close.

This week wasn't all gloom and doom in the elderly department. I did hear a cute joke about hearing loss. I thought it was funny.

I'd heard the joke before, but my memory is about as good as my hearing, so I laughed just as hard when the punchline rolled around.

Maybe you'll get a kick out of it too. Besides, when you read a joke, you don't have to have your hearing aid on.

Here goes:

A man goes to the doctor and says he's worried that his wife is losing her hearing.

How bad is it? the doctor wants to know.

Well, I'm not sure, the man says, but it's pretty bad. I say things to her and get no response.

The doctor suggests the man should go home and stand in the living room while his wife is fixing dinner in the kitchen. Say "Can you hear me?" the docter advises. If she doesn't answer, move a little closer and try again. Keep asking until you get a response. Then you'll know how bad her hearing loss is.

So the man goes home. He stands in the living room, asks his wife if she can hear him and gets no answer. He moves into the dining room and gets the same result. He goes to the door of the kitchen, and still no answer. Finally, he stands right behind his wife and shouts, "Can you hear me?"

His wife patiently turns to the man and says, "For the fourth time, yes. I can hear you just fine."

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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