Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hard of hearing

Can you hear me now?

    I got an e-mail today from somebody who is concerned about whether or not I’m experiencing hearing loss. I like it when someone seems to care about me. It’s like when a friend says, “Boy, you’re putting on a few pounds aren’t you?” I always appreciate a well intentioned heads-up. 

    The hearing loss e-mail was particularly well received, because I needed something to share with both Kay and Virginia. I don’t need to share it with Freeman because he knows he can’t hear. Freeman has even given up pretending he can. I respect that.

    Kay and Virginia are a long way from accepting their hearing problems. Last week we had our usual eating-out experience. The conversation was joke book filler. In answer to a question concerning a friend of ours, Kay told Virginia that the person in question was home sick.

Virginia said, “I believe the more acceptable term is ‘gay.’” The guy was at home sick, and Virginia heard at homosexual.

In another incident, the word “cancel” sounded like “cancer” to Virginia, and she about went ballistic. I happen to know her well enough to realize the “homosexual” comment was meant as a joke, but the “cancer” mix-up was for real.

Kay’s hearing is only bad when it comes to MY voice. My voice apparently sounds too much like grass growing to her. A couple of times during our gathering with the Plilers, Kay interrupted me when I was in mid-sentence. I can only assume that she mistook my conversation for the sound of a lull in the conversation. I was a little bit surprised that I was the only one who noticed.

Anyway, I’m going to forward the hearing-loss e-mail to both girls. I’ll also share a few of the e-mail sender’s hints that may be dangerously close to being a person with only four senses. If words sound muffled, or people sound as if they’re mumbling, you may have a hearing problem. I’m sure it took a lot of grant money to figure that one out.

    I disagree with that statement. I’m always hearing mumbling and muffledness coming out of people’s mouths. Reason being, there’s a lot of mumbling going on. And, when asked to repeat themselves, these mumblers give me the same mumble. They’re part of the reason I haven’t sought a gun permit.

If you have to close caption practically every TV program you watch, you may have a hearing problem. Either that or the actors on the programs are mumbling. Evidence of that can be found in the fact that the person typing out the closed captioning can’t make sense of the line any more than I can.

I was on the set of one of the movie’s Al was in, and Armand Assante was delivering some lines. I defy anyone to know what he was saying. “Sheah polta goorum tao baka?” The director never asked him to speak up, and the scene ended up in the movie. I couldn’t understand him anymore than I did when I heard him in each of the nine takes.” It takes a super cool person to get away with stuff like that.

Do you have any idea how many words are being invented each day in this country? Lots. Texting and Facebooking and Tweeting are transforming the English language into a language of texting face-tweeters. If you add that to the onslaught of mumbling that’s going on, we’ve got a major communication problem in this country.

If after locating the Golden Record that was attached to the Voyager satellite, extraterrestrials are going to think they landed on the wrong planet. They’ll realize that our language doesn’t read a thing like what we put on the Golden Disc.

They’ll be looking for an English language Rosetta stone. – “Admiral Marzot, it appears that ‘14AA41’ translates ‘One for all, and all for one.’ Yep, they’ve way over-condensed their language. We’re going to need to exterminate.’” 

Incidentally, if by chance you are in the same boat as Kay and Virginia – specimens experiencing hearing loss – you may wish to learn how you got that way. The e-mail explains that it could be medication, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, mumps, measles, dementia, depression, irritability, fatigue, stress, diabetes and kinfolk. By kinfolk, I mean, it may be hereditary. Nowhere does it say it has anything to do with aging.

And, no mention of constipation. Interesting. The only possible causes I’ve experienced are irritability and stress. In fact I sometimes feel as if I’m married to stress. It’s a metaphor. I’m in no way associating Kay with stress. Other than the fact that I do get a little irritable when she leaves the room while I’m in mid-sentence.

It’s good to know that she doesn’t do that on purpose. I’ve accepted that Kay suffers from hearing loss. More to the point, I’m suffering from HER hearing loss. She appears to be doing just fine with it.

In fact, she thinks I’m the one with the problem. That’s not what she said, but it’s what she meant when she said, “Hey, you’re the one who’s got the goblin.” – yes, she mistook problem for goblin. Evidence of the dementia part of her problem.

End and

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Libraries less scary now

“Flash! Library ladies are nice!"

Mark, Devery Johnson and Cindy Cochran 
From the Mark and Cindy Show
    Libraries are pretty much unrecognizable by those of us who are, shall we say, less young. I was raised at a time when libraries were to feared. Librarians considered kids to be little more than walking noise machines.

    No more… at least not in Montgomery County, home of seven county libraries. Seven? Did you know that? Well, did you know that kids can talk and make noise on the first floor of the Central Branch Library in Conroe? No telling what they can do in the other six. I was born in the wrong decade.

I learned about the evolution of The Library from Montgomery County’s own Devery Johnson. Don’t you just love that name? Devery. She is one of the directors for the whole library system in Montgomery County… maybe even the world. I was so impressed with the girl’s knowledge that I awarded her the “world” title right there on Tuesday morning’s Mark and Cindy Show at

    Oh, the stuff I learned. Did you know that the first “r” in the word “library” is not silent? I picked up on that the third time I was corrected. The most important piece of stuff I learned from Devery was the fact that my library card had expired. You’re supposed to renew them annully. That’s almost once a year.

    For more than a few years, I’ve been carrying a superfluous piece of thick plastic in my wallet. That’s what you call dead wallet weight. I hate carrying wallet weight. I’m not crazy about carrying around the word “superfluous.”

    Devery was unflustered and less than sympathetic about the knowledge of my expired card. She told me to go the nearest library and re-up. Won’t cost me anything. I meant to ask if the new cards are any thinner than the old ones. You could pry a spike off a railroad tie with my old one.

    Devery wasn’t as interested in the tool-like applications of the library card as she was with the many services available to the bearer of one. Did you know you can check out 30 items with a library card? Not 30 books, but 30 of a combination of things. E-books, CDs, DVDs, audio books… even real books. I’m not making this up.

Do you have any idea what the late fee would be on 30 library items? For the first week it’d probably be something like a buck fifty.

    I couldn’t process all of what Devery was telling me. After awhile I quit taking notes and just started sipping my coffee and nodding. I’ve got a most intellectual-looking nod. Everybody says so.

At one point I nodded at the mention of “Hip 2 Stitch.” The library has knitting and crocheting classes and sessions. They even have yarn bombings. I’d tell you more about that if I had a clue. My nod was working wonders.

    They also do Geo Caching. It’s an outdoor treasure hunt where you use GPS to find a treasure box. I quit listening to the explanation after Devery said “caching” for the second time. I thought I misheard her the first time.

    The Library system also has a bunch of programs for the “undersevered.” Up until last Tuesday, I thought underserved is what you get when you select the fried, rectangular fish on a Luann platter. Come to find out, it’s got other meanings. It’s somehow related to an Outreach program that Devery is deeply involved with.

     The library delivers reading materials to assisted living facilities and nursing homes. I’m assuming that if you’re old enough, they’ll even keep your library card updated for you. I apparently have yet to reach that age.  

    Devery also mentioned a program called Library LITE. The LITE is a multi-worded acronym involving losing weight. If you scratch this thing you’re gonna find “exercise” in it somewhere. Not a big fan of forced movement.

Even in my stupor, Devery was impressing the daylights out of me. If you ever need a computer, the library will let you use one of theirs. You can even take computer lessons in the library. I’m pretty sure I’d need a lesson to find a book with the computer, ‘cause the one time I tried, I had to give up.

The nine-year-old sitting next to me would key something in and then jump up and go pick something off the shelf. I’d write something down and then wander. Finally, a library lady told me that I couldn’t find what I was looking for because the only available copy was at a different library. She pointed to the place on the computer screen where it said that. It was weird looking, or else I would’ve caught on to it. I’m not a complete idiot, you know?

I eventually asked Devery when it was that library ladies were instructed to not be so mean. She acted as if she never knew a time when library ladies were mean. Talk about a sheltered existence.

Had we had great libraries and kind librarians back when I was a kid, there’s no telling what I might have become. Less cynical? Maybe. More well read? Definitely. An avid participant in geo caching? -- Get real.

End and

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Back to school shopping

“A parental moment”

    Although Kay and I have no kids, I don’t mind recommending how others should raise theirs. My recommendations are never appreciated.

I can only assume it’s because of my lack of parental experience. Some people actually think you must be a parent before you can judge. To that I say, you don’t need a parachute to skydive. You need a parachute to skydive twice. I don’t know why I say that, but it just comes to mind.

Regardless, after my experience last week, I am now an expert in parenting. At least, as close to an expert as I care to be. You see, the place we attend church has a yearly program whereby 100 or more youngsters from the inner city of Houston are bused to our church building, and volunteers greet them and take ‘em on a back-to-school shopping spree followed by a meal out.

The program has been going on for a good while, and each time I’ve been blessed in my attempt to avoid being hassled into volunteering. That all changed this year. John, the coordinator, would not leave me alone. He had the weird notion that I should be thankful for the opportunity to take kids shopping, and that by the end of the day I might just have a Hallmark Moment.

After he finished his spiel, I reached for my wallet and said, “Okay, John, what’s it gonna take to make this whole thing go away?” He thought I was a joking.

I’ve got to tell you that my reluctance was due to the fear of failure. I’d never bought shoes, pants, shirts, underwear for a kid?  What do they wear nowadays? What’s in? What’s out? What’s their size? When I was through with him, the poor kid would start his first day of school looking like he’d spent his summer following the circus.

Well, I eventually caved, and Kay and I were assigned two nine-year-olds, Carlos and Gilbert. Cousins, they were. Before we headed out, they were each warned about me. They thought people were joking.

As a way of getting our two kids to remember our names, I asked ‘em to think of K-Mart. I told ‘em that our names are Kay and Mark. It sounds like K-Mart. They had never heard of K-Mart, so figured it’d be just as easy to memorize “Kay” and “Mark” as K-Mart. Sharp kids.

During the shopping spree, I learned so much. Did you know that kids don’t like to try on things? Not even shoes. I had to get Carlos in a chokehold before he’d agree to try on his size 5 tennis shoes. At that, he’d only try on one. I told him that one of his feet might be smaller than the other. He got a good laugh out of that. -- No one takes me serious. 

Speaking of underwear, kids prefer boxers to briefs. When I was their age, I didn’t even know there were underwear options. We didn’t even call briefs, “briefs.” We called ‘em “underwear.” The word “briefs” was not invented until someone came up with boxers. You ask me, briefs should’ve been called “wrestlers.” 

We shopped for belts and backpacks and socks. They both wanted black athletic socks. The ones that go midway up your calf. The kind that used to be considered dweeb-wear. Now, they’re fashionable. Who comes up with this stuff?

Kay and I went a bit over budget with Carlos and Gilbert, but neither of us had the heart to tell ‘em to put something back. After loading up, we went over to Chuck e Cheese. Kay and I had never been, and will never go again. I thought the place would have a buffet like Incredible Pizza. The only thing Chuck has that could in anyway be considered incredible is the price of their pizzas.

Fortunately, Carlos and Gilbert really enjoyed themselves. We bought ‘em each 15 game tokens and they went through them in, oh, about 20 minutes. They each won a couple of gag gifts. I could’ve bought a bag of 10 of ‘em at a dollar store. You would’ve thought those two kids had won the lottery.

Before they got back on the bus, I asked Carlos and Gilbert if they remembered our names. Gilbert didn’t have a clue. Carlos thought for a few seconds and then said, “Uh, Mark and Kelly.” I thanked him for remembering.

When the smoke cleared, Kay and I could say that we enjoyed our time with those two knot-heads. More importantly, I know they enjoyed themselves. I pick up on stuff like that.

A Hallmark Moment? Not really. But it was a good moment. I believe it was Jesus who said that we shouldn’t do good deeds for the sake of experiencing a Hallmark Moment. I may be paraphrasing here, From everything I’ve read it’s apparent to me that motive for doing a good deed is quite important to God.

That being said, I definitely owe John an apology. And, I would give him one, except I’m pretty sure he thought I was joking when I reached for my wallet asked how much it would take to make the whole thing go away. -- I already apologize to God. He took it well. He always does.