Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Through a bus, darkly (Write of passage number twenty-eight)

This is a January story, but not of this January. One of the reasons I do NaBloPoMo is to force myself to do posts I always meant to do. Last January, from what I can dimly and reluctantly recall, was a blur of grey slush and pewter-coloured ice. It was a late Wednesday afternoon, and a cold downpour had not quite succeeded in washing the snow from the streets. On Elgin, a water pipe had burst. I took younger daughter to a coffee shop we had loved when we first came to Hades, where the staff was now sullen and unwelcoming. (It has since closed down.)

After dropping her off at her voice lesson, I transferred outside the Rideau Centre with a queue of fellow passengers who barely restrained themselves from shoving each other on to a crowded bus. It was my custom to sit further back, but this evening all seats in the back were already occupied and I reluctantly took one of the "courtesy seats" which face the sideways seats at the front.

I had to step around a young mother in a hijab who, after trying to peer through the mud-caked windows into the gathering darkness, suddenly realized she had to get her stroller off the bus, which meant pushing through crowds of damp and crabby people still trying to board. I caught the eye of a woman sitting across the aisle, smiled and said: "I don't think she knew where she was." The woman seemed to think I was making a criticism, and earnestly explained that it wasn't the mother's fault. Before I could reply that this was what I meant, we were blocked by a wall of standing passengers.

An older lady sitting cater-corner to me in the sideways seat took this as a cue to chat with me. Now, I had caught something from younger daughter just at that Christmas. It was four weeks later and whatever it was had worked its way from my head into my chest, then up into my sinuses and into my ears so that now I was rather hard of hearing. (It would not clear up until mid-February.) I was too cold, wet, and tired to explain this to the lady, and wished I had donned my ear-buds. I smiled and nodded, not being able to make out what she was saying. It didn't take me long to realize that this tactic had been a big mistake. She kept chatting in a low, companionable tone until we turned off Dalhousie on to Murray Street. It was at this point that a formidable lady in an African headdress planted herself between us, and in deep mellifluous tones started to tell us off.

This meant five minutes of my looking in bewilderment between the two women, wondering what on earth I'd missed. Chatty lady chuckled disbelievingly at formidable lady, who then turned to me and seemed to ask what I had to say. I could only manage: "I'm afraid I can't hear you."
"Well, isn't that good for you?" she said, before sailing to the back of the bus, which was now largely empty, flinging back: "I am not your cleaning lady...."

I wondered briefly if we were enacting a scene from the film The Help which was big at that time and which, of course, I hadn't seen. Chatty lady gave me a "Can you believe that?" sort of look, along with a comment that I still couldn't hear, and I staggered off the bus, resolving never to pretend I can hear when I can't and to always try to sit near the back of the bus.

I realize at some point I'll be really old (and undoubtedly deaf as a post) and will have no choice but to sit at the front, but I'll cross that bus when I come to it.


JoeinVegas said...

I too usually ask twice for something to be repeated then just go along as if I could hear. It has proved awkward at times.

Rob said...

I find it tedious when I have to choose between turning my head sideways so I can hear what somebody is saying, and looking at their faces so I can pick up cues from lip movements, expressions etc. I normally only have problems if there's a lot of background noise: not reduced to a hearing aid yet.