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Suddenly, I hear those who don't hear so well

By BARBARA FREDRICKSEN
Published November 19, 2006


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Earl Hickey, the "Earl" in the NBC television comedy My Name Is Earl, would say it was karma, or, in lay terms, "Whatever you do in life comes right back at you."

I think it was just bad luck.

Earl would say it started years ago, when I lodged my first complaint in writing about people who go to the theater (live or filmed) and shout out, "What'd he say?" every other scene.

Over time, my vociferousness over the issue has grown in proportion to the number of people who said that hated phrase during crucial moments of any event.

Then, last week, as I was stretched out on my recliner watching for at least the 10th time what is, arguably, the world's most exciting movie, My Dinner With Andre (exciting ideas, not car chases, explosions or sex), the sound dropped to a whisper.

I grabbed the remote and cranked 'er up, but still, it seemed as though everyone was talking with a mouthful of cotton.

"What'd he say?" I shouted, making the cat jump up.

It seems my left ear (also known as my "good" ear) had sealed over as tight as the lid of an oversized pickle jar, the victim of something too yucky to describe to people who might be eating breakfast.

I squeezed in ear drops and blasted it with warm water, which only made it worse.

By unlucky happenstance, I couldn't get an ear doctor to see me until Friday, the day after I had tickets to see the one musical I hadn't seen before, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

It's filled with hilarious jokes, funny song-patter and a delicious story. Or so I've read.

But there I was, in what are usually perfect seats, center of Row F in the mezzanine, trying to read lips from 200 feet away.

Of course, I yearned to say, "What'd he say?" Not every other scene, but every other line, especially those that got a big laugh.

I didn't. My throat aches from swallowing my shouts. My lips are bruised from biting them.

On Friday, the ear doctor turned his version of the Oreck vacuum on my clogged ears and suddenly I was in a new world, where the sound of my cat's tiny toes pattering across the floor sounds like a herd of home invaders.

Now that I know what it's like to be hard of hearing, I am, like Earl, going to cross the "What'd he say?" crowd off my list of unforgiveable theater offenders.

Latecomers, candy unwrappers and loud nose-blowers are still there, though.

[Last modified November 19, 2006, 01:38:03]


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