My hearing sucks. My long slide into a muffled world started decades ago. Early on, my propensity to turn up the TV volume annoyed my family. My endless stream of misheard words and missed statements frustrated my coworkers. “WHAT?” Hearing loss isn’t linear. Some frequencies fade faster than others. Like most people, I first lost the high range.
For a period, a prank circled the office. A tiny digital clock’s alarm could be programmed to sound daily for a few minutes. When shoved deep into someone’s file cabinet drawer, they would hear the alarm but couldn’t find the clock. What fun watching people go nuts tearing their office apart looking for the curs’ed clock. One day, my coworker Sue came into my office. “Haven’t you found it yet?” I shook my head, unsure what she was talking about. The clock had been in my office for a week. I couldn’t hear the beeping. Joke’s on them. It could have stayed there forever without bothering me. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for about six years. Things are better now, but nowhere near perfect.
When did this start? Why did this start? It’s hard to say. My father has significant hearing loss, but he says it isn’t hereditary. He references some youthful damage to set his hearing loss in motion. Injury? Illness? Loud noises? If he told me, I forget. My two older brothers hear fine. So acquired, not genetic.
Right out of college, I bought a car for one thousand bucks. This was 1984, money was different then. I installed a $250 stereo system that could rattle your teeth. And for years, I drove that car all over the east coast with the volume all the way up—cranked to eleven as they used to say. Hearing loss? No doubt. In 1995, I was hit by a car while riding my bike. Joint damage, internal bleeding and a head injury that rebooted my brain. I wouldn’t be the first person to lose their hearing after a brain injury. So I don’t know what caused it. Something or nothing. Or maybe it goes all the way back to birth.
One of the first shows I remember watching is the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. Some of the others are Star Trek, Bewitched and the FBI starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. That’s what they always said: starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. “The FBI starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr will return after these brief messages.” I don’t know what was such a big freaking deal about Efrem Zimbalist, Jr, but the network seemed to think they garnered much credibility by repeating his name over and over. Fifty years later, I still remember it.
Like many children’s TV shows of the era, Looney Tunes’ Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour assumed a certain level of sophistication from the viewers. The jokes more likely aimed at adults than children.
“…and who might you be?”
“I might be Teddy Roosevelt, but I aint.”
More evidence is in the theme song “This is It.” Clearly not written for six-year-old me.
Bugs and Daffy Duck strut onto an open stage, straw hat and cane, a scene that now brings to mind Dick Van Dyke’s Me Ol’ Bamboo dance in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
This is It
Overture, curtain, lights
This is it, the night of nights
No more rehearsing and nursing a part
We know every part by heart
Overture, curtain, lights
This is it, we’ll hit the heights
And oh what heights we’ll hit
On with the show this is it.
Tonight what heights we’ll hit.
On with the show, this is it.
Clever lyrics, thoughtful. A lot is said in those two stanzas, but with sentiment and subtlety lost on a child—too mature. And in my case, even the words were lost on me. After the word “Overture” I never had any idea what they said. I just couldn’t discern the lyrics. This problem has been with me my entire life. In Elton John’s Benny and the Jets, Benny had electric boobs and a motor scooter.* Deep Purple’s woman is a T.K.O, she makes me sick.** And AC/DC sang about dirty deeds and the Dunder Chief.***
I often wonder if my inability to hear contributed to my abysmal performance in school. If true, when coupled with my well–documented low-scoring reading comprehension, it’s sort of remarkable I ever graduated high school. Fast-forward to today. Eli, at sixteen, listens to many of the same songs that were popular when I was in high school. He seems to have no trouble at all with the lyrics. In fact, not only does he hear them correctly, he commits them to memory after just one listen.
Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday music prompts for September 5th are Carnival, Festival, Gala, Jamboree or Party. Bugs and Daffy strutting onto a curtained stage reminds me of something I might see during a gala. That prompt set this whole thing in motion. Yes, I recognize that September 5th is still six days away, but today’s the day I have off work, so today’s the day I write.
Midway through writing this post, singing This is It in my head, I came up with the title. What a great song lyric: Tonight wild heights we’ll hit. Later it occurred to me that I should double check the written lyrics. Yup, I got it wrong again. Tonight *what* heights we’ll hit… It never ends.
Song Lyric Sunday: I think misheard lyrics are almost as important as the correct ones.
* Electric boots and a mohair suit
** My woman from Tokyo, she makes me see
*** Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap