I am afflicted by a condition that gives me the hardest time making out what people say if there’s a little background noise or if I can’t see their lips when they speak. I’ve only ever been able to make out the lyrics to a few songs on my own. Most of the time, I need to pull out the printed lyrics to understand what’s going on, or have someone tell me. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the music. Indeed, voices become a rich instrument that I appreciate the same way as a violin, guitar, flute, piano, or drums. I just don’t understand the information carried by those words.
If I am at a crowded function, or at a restaurant, following a conversation can be quite an adventure. I usually make it out okay by playing the angles and lip reading a bit to ensure that I can really make out what is being said. Since such functions are infrequent, the most impacted person by this is my wife. You see, it’s not that I don’t hear the words. It’s that my mind interprets them as sounds, or as entirely different words. It can be frustrating for both of us when she asks for a bag of sugar as I’m heading out the door to the grocery store, only to return with flour. Close enough, right? They both end in a “ower” sound. Yeah. Not really.
There are all kinds of strategies I put into play to mitigate the dirty tricks my ears play on me daily. However, I also keep a notebook handy. Often, the words my mind hears are novel or contain some morsel of information that can spark a new idea for a picture, a story, or a solution for a problem at work. As soon as I mishear the words, I scramble to jot it down lest it evaporates from my ephemeral memory.
Just the other day, I was sitting at the dinner table having dinner with my wife and son when she asked me: “Dwarf cut banana sandwich?”
I looked at her in puzzlement. What on earth did she mean by that? Was she suggesting a dessert for our boy? What is a dwarf cut banana? Is it some kind of cutting technique? Or maybe it’s a dwarf banana that’s chopped up? I really don’t remember buying any small bananas, though. Uh, oh. Did I get that wrong?
It turns out I did. She hadn’t said a single word I had heard the first time. In fact, it was about as far as you can get from Dwarves, cuts, bananas, or sandwiches. “Do you want it in a cup, or in a dish?” she had asked as she contemplated the potential storage vessel for our leftovers.
We both had a good laugh. Me for coming up with such an outrageous concept. She at me, for being a goofball.
It’s not all bad. It gave me something to sketch.
The lesson here is that when life gives you lemons, you make banana sandwiches. Err… Lemonade.