I’ve not tried to really sit and meditate on the “reason” prior to this; however, I find it very difficult to advocate in a positive way when I am alone.

Yesterday, with my husband in Denver, my daughter at work, and my son at a debate tournament, I found myself traveling to Wal-Mart alone. We have a new “super” Wal-Mart, although it is not exactly new. An “old” Wal-Mart was converted and enlarged, now selling groceries, clothing, hardware, lawn and garden supplies and electronics. My family teases me often and calls me the “Wal-Mart Queen”; however, I normally shop at a smaller one closer to my home. I went to this “super” Wal-Mart, because I was closer to this particular GIANT store after dropping my daughter off at work.

I shopped for about an hour and a half, purchasing different things that we needed at home, along with a few things that weren’t on my list. I changed shopping carts twice while in the store. My CI can easily pick out “squeaky” shopping cart wheels within seconds. The squeaks got the best of me and I changed carts the first time within minutes of arriving. The 2nd cart had a “clunkity-clunk” sound along with a rattling vibration that could be felt clear through the cart and into my sensitive fingertips. Approximately 15 minutes later, I abandoned that cart as well, to a cart I thankfully could not hear at all. I was a little bit in awe of the fact that I could even hear these sounds to the point that they bothered me. On past shopping trips, my kids would have to give me “heads up” about noisy carts, as I never paid much mind to people passing by and wincing at the sound emanating from the wheels of the cart I happily pushed around!

At the checkout, a scrooge of a cashier scanned my items and began a conversation. Now I picked out “Mr. Scrooge” because the other cash registers in the vicinity had people that appeared to have accents working at them. I have an accent myself, and I’m told it can be rather pronounced when angry, tired or even excited. I had to force myself to stop feeling guilty about picking out people who looked like they could speak clear English a long time ago. I don’t consider myself even in the least bit racist. Experience, however, has taught me that people prefer not to have to repeat something once, let alone 4 or 5 times when I’m trying to hear and understand through a heavy accent. As cashiers are busy and have other customers to wait on as well, I try to make everyone’s lives a little easier by looking for someone I will have an easier time understanding.

Mr. Scrooge began a conversation almost right away. It seems he hasn’t had a break and he’s two hours overdue. I responded sympathetically, but it only served as an impetus to lower his voice and whisper something about the managers to me. I reached up and quickly switched my CI program to WHISPER, and I still only picked up snatches of angry words. I finally held up my hand and with the other pointed to my CI.

“I’m sorry, but I have a hearing loss and I can’t hear you when you whisper with all of this background noise”.

His response was to tighten his Mr. Scrooge mouth while zipping it shut. At least his hands could still move as he quickly finished scanning my items. Praise God for technology and the capability of seeing the price yourself, scanning your Am Ex card, punching in your zip code when the security box asks for it, and signing your signature when prompted. I could do all right in some types of check out lines even if the cashier decided conversation was at an end!

I wheeled my cart out of the line and towards the door. I saw a VERY young man in a security guard uniform at the door. I caught his eye for a second and thought, “this boy could be my KID!”

He began to say something, but he was looking beyond me and quite a bit to one side. I didn’t catch what he said, but was certain he wasn’t talking to me. I pushed my cart past and continued through the doors. If only I had thought that he was extremely young and insecure enough not to make eye contact when talking to a stranger.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of movement right before a hand forced my cart to stop. There’s a good ol’ saying from the South that adequately explains how that affected me. I was scared spitless. I literally mean that too – I had NO SPIT.

The security guard’s face was red, and he said something to me. Now I’ve discovered something quite by accident. The first time it happened, I was driving with my newly licensed teenager. Fear keeps me from hearing with my CI. I get a sort of “roaring” in my ears as the negative adrenaline surges over me, and I even see stars! I’m certain part of the reason may be vertigo. Irregardless, I stood there with my ears roaring, my eyes desperately trying to read lips on a mouth with a wad of SOMETHING in it, with NO SPIT in my own!

“Excuse me? I can’t understand what you’re saying!” I intoned carefully. I was trying hard not to shout, as I still could not hear due to the slowly subsiding roar in my ears.

Again he said something after moving the “wad of something” to the other cheek, his hand still on my cart and an angry red face. Me? Well I was still without spit!

I finally dug in my purse and pulled out my receipt and handed it to him while saying, “Is this what you need?”

The roar was gone, and he ground out, “YES, for the third time!”

“I’m sorry but I have a hearing loss and I didn’t hear you”, spoken with quite a bit more ease due to the fact that I now had more spit.

“You aren’t Deaf cuz you’re talking!” he blazed out. Later, I was calm enough to pray for him knowing he has to have a hard job looking so young and covered in acne and insecurities. But my first reaction while standing there was shock.

Perhaps it came so easily because I had been without spit immediately prior; but I think it’s because I was alone. When my kids are with me, I tend to be keenly aware of the fact that their ears work just fine as do their eyes. Every way I react is a lesson to them about choices I make when treated unfairly. Life isn’t fair, and they will have plenty of their own lessons one day even with normal hearing.

However, standing there alone, my only reaction was SHOCK. The next thing I knew I was standing behind my van. I don’t remember walking there at all. I mechanically put things into the back and slipped into the driver’s seat. I sat there for a few moments just feeling and digesting how stunned and spitless don’t go together well.

I happened to notice the scrunched receipt in my hand, and noticed that “27 inch Christmas wreath” was now highlighted in bright yellow. My mind raced to put the pieces together as I desperately tried to make sense of what just happened. I can only assume that as the wreath wasn’t in a bag, he had to check it off my receipt.

As I regained my – well my SPIT – my now normal reaction set in. I began to cry, and I allowed the tears to fall silently down my cheeks for several moments, heedless of the fact that my make-up was washing away. Trying to “get a grip”, I searched around for the box of Kleenex.

Why is it so hard to advocate in a positive way when alone? If my children are with me, I am able to advocate effectively. Still feeling rather devastated I thought of all the times I said nothing when something SHOULD have been said.

I couldn’t just sit there and feel sorry for myself as I still had to brave COSTCO. Besides, the cold was starting to seep into the van. As I turned the key and felt the van come to life under me, I noticed my CI was hearing just fine now. I also seemed to have some spit. To unnerved to even pray, I began to hum a favorite song of mine, eventually singing it out loud as I headed towards highway 355.

“…every blessing You pour out, I’ll turn back to praise! When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say –
Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your name! Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your glorious name”

I may be late-deafened, and can’t carry a tune anymore, but God does not care. All the way to COSTCO I joyfully chose to sing praise to God. I eventually found myself praying for the security guard as well. Funny how that tends to happen when you choose to see the world the way HE sees it.

I had no one to come home to in order to bemoan the unfairness of it all. Terry is living 2 hours behind me right now in Colorado. But I know I’m not alone, nor do I advocate alone. When I’m too tongue-tied to NOT… advocate I am still not alone. I know this because God loves me and reveals this love to me in ways that at times astonishes me.

As I write this, it is Sunday. We just returned from services at Summit Trace Church. This morning we were in a different theatre, and as the kids and I walked into the theatre we were using this particular morn, I noticed right away that all the aisle seats on the left were taken. These seats are ideal for me, as the speakers are on my left and closest to my CI. Pausing only a second or two, I slipped to the middle of a row with the kids.

As the services started, I eagerly worshiped in sign as the congregation sang, “The First Noel”. It should not have surprised me what Jill Craig said. Evidently she and a friend were talking just this week about choosing “joy”. I smiled as I thought about my Wal-Mart experience just the day before. However, in the next moment, I felt the hair on my arms tingle and a warmth of God’s everlasting love flow over me as I heard the opening chords of the next song. “Blessed be the name of the Lord”. I was almost … spitless.

I am reminded of His love in extraordinary ways!

Denise Portis
©2006 Hearing Loss Diary

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