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My Best Vacation Ever!

March 18, 2016

Last week my mother called in tears because she couldn’t hear. We’d gone to the doctor the day before for her annual check-up and she hadn’t complained of hearing issues, although she doesn’t hear anything in her left ear which was damaged after working many years in a winery bottling plant. The doctor examined her and concluded the problem was a blockage from ear wax, which my mother packed tightly with a Q-tip, even though she’s been cautioned many times not to use them in her ears.


After her ear had been irrigated and her hearing restored, I was driving her home when she asked if anything similar had ever happened to me. Indeed, it had. This reworked post from 2011 is about a true incident that took place in 1977 when I was working as a bank teller in San Francisco.




“Stop shouting at our customers!” the bank manager said.


“Sorry.” I hadn’t realized I’d been yelling. 


It was 1977 and I’d only been out of teller school a few months. This was my first week working in a real bank.

The manager came up to my window several minutes later and said, “Our customers are complaining about your yelling. You need to get your ears checked.”

I took the next day off and went to the doctor, where I learned I had an inner ear infection. The infection would work its way through both ears and eventually I’d be totally deaf—for a week. I wouldn’t be able to work and took the week off. Mrs. Chatterbox (we’d only been married three years at the time) also took it off to

keep me company.

We were living in San Francisco and this was like a second honeymoon—at first. We’d explore Chinatown and Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Park, and at some point during our wanderings I’d turn toward Mrs. C. and see an angry face. She’d been talking to me, forgetting I was stone deaf and couldn’t hear a word she was saying.  Then she’d get angry with herself for treating me and my affliction so callously. Back in our little apartment on Union Street, Mrs. C. stopped asking me to do chores because it was too complicated writing down what needed to be done. 

I don’t want to make light of those afflicted with deafness—a permanent loss of hearing would be devastating—but my experience in a world without sound was…glorious. Of course I had the benefit of knowing my hearing would return. But while it was gone I never felt more relaxed, more invigorated and in sync with my other senses. I touched things as if for the first time. Food never tasted so good. San Francisco couldn’t have looked more beautiful. Neither could Mrs. C. When my hearing finally returned it felt like I’d lost something precious. This had been my best vacation ever!

I tried to keep the fact that I could again hear a secret, but Mrs. C. wasn’t easily fooled. She snuck behind the chair where I was reading and whispered, “Why don’t we go into the bedroom and you can enjoy my new see-through nightie?”

When I whipped around she was dressed in street clothes and grinning at me.         


“Nice try,” she said. “Now take out the garbage.”


Have you ever lost one of your senses? How did you cope with the loss? 




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You milked it for as long as you could. As a musician, not hearing would be terrible for me. I used to suffer from sinus infections and one time I almost blacked out and it was ten minutes before my vision completely returned. It was rather terrifying.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on March 18, 2016
I gather your mother didn't consider her temporary hearing loss as the idyllic vacation of your experience. Funny story. I find it sweet that Mrs. Chatterbox took the week off to keep you company. In the early days of our marriage it would of taken broken bones and bed rest for me to miss work on my husbands behalf. It would be years into our marriage before the need of a paycheck would of trumped my wanting to keep him company. As far as loss of senses...not counting loosing my mind....I have had two eye surgeries in the past year. The inability to see was limited to just a couple of days with each surgery but no driving, no sunlight and other restrictions went into months. Not being able to see is a total pain in the ass. My mother was blind and I have an awareness of what blindness entails but until you time you can't see, it's hard to appreciate how limiting it is.
By: Cheryl P. on March 18, 2016
I had the ear wax problem at about 20. My dad slapped the back of my head at dinner because I wouldn't answer him. What I remember is when the wax was blown out hearing everyday stuff I had forgotten about as my hearing had slowly dissipated. I love how you ended your post...sounds to me like creative embellishment, because I might do the same from time to time... either way, well done my friend, well done.
By: cranky on March 18, 2016
Your post inspired me to write about my ear/eye issues, but a little research and I found I had already done so...I need some new material.
By: cranky on March 18, 2016
Beyond losing my ability to taste and smell because of an occasional cold, i have not had to live extended times without any of my five senses. Mrs. Chatterbox is a smart lady!
By: messymimi on March 18, 2016
I like Mrs C's style. I am prone to bouts of deaffness - it depends what's on TV. My father once commented that the trouble with being hard of hearing is that some people treat you as though you're stupid.
By: Mike @ A Bit About Britain on March 18, 2016
i can imagine it was a nice break - as you said, knowing it would return. :)
By: TexWisGirl on March 18, 2016
Ha ha, she had the prefect cure for fake deafness as you tried to milk a good thing.
By: Arkansas Patti on March 18, 2016
I'm suffering some loss of hearing due to being a dj playing loud music at all my gigs. Pardon?
By: LL Cool Joe on March 18, 2016
I lost feeling in the right half of my bottom lip and jaw when the dentist cut through a nerve doing a root canal. How did I cope? I drooled a lot, and went to work with toothpaste on my lip, and ate quite a bit of cheek flesh during feeding frenzies. The dentist said the nerve would grow back together in 6 weeks to 2 YEARS! Lucky for me, right at 6 weeks, I started to get that tingly feeling, and a week or so later my feeling had returned.
By: Val on March 18, 2016
It's inspirational that you took the hearing loss with such a great attitude, however the infection sounds horrible. I went through a windshield, came back into the front seat and was thrown out of a car as I rode with my roommate in college. When I regained consciousness a couple of days later I learned of a compound skull fracture as well as broken jaws. I was "wired shut" for several weeks and could not chew. So all of my nutrition had to come through a straw or had to be pureed so as to slip through a hole that had been my lower front teeth. What I can remember is how absolutely wonderful Gerbers baby food tasted. That and my mothers spaghetti and meat sauce blended into an orange puree. My eyes were swolen, the tip of my nose had almost been cut off but boy did those sense buds on the tongue work! It was not much of a vacation but the most effective weight loss program ever.
By: Tom Cochrun on March 18, 2016
I'm not sure how I'd react to permanently lose one of my senses, but I can understand that you would appreciate something much more after a temporary loss. LOL at Mrs. Chatterbox!
By: Pixel Peeper on March 18, 2016
I can't imagine not hearing, but I'm sure it would be a whole lot better than not seeing. I don't know how blind people cope. But it sure is fascinating how your other senses came alive!
By: Lexa Cain on March 18, 2016
Well, I've lost all my senses at times...all of them together, particularly when I did something very foolish! At 76 my hearing is fading out. I should take a visit to the hearing aid store.
By: Red Kline on March 18, 2016
the only problem I've ever had was when I woke one day to realize the hearing in my right ear wasn't quite right- went to the ENT doc and found out I had permanently lost some hearing in my right ear. Just some decibles but I cannot use my right ear for phone calls- which make me a bit concerned about the care of my left ear. Glad your hearing was easily fixed! and Mrs C is a keeper isn't she!
By: Kathe W. on March 18, 2016
I had cataract surgery in both eyes (a week apart) about five years ago and a retinal detachment and repair two years ago. It made me appreciate my vision even more than I already did - which is to say - hugely. Both times I had to go without corrective lenses for about two months, couldn't drive, couldn't watch tv, couldn't read except on the computer - which was a wonderful surprise, the computer bit I mean. And that's how I coped. Massive amounts of computer time :)
By: jenny_o on March 18, 2016
My sight and hearing are poor, but I've never lost either one completely. A couple of doctors have told me that I seem to produce more earwax than most people (I'm so ashamed). I use the ear drops that soften wax. Maybe your mom uses the swabs because her inner ears are itchy. Mine are sometimes. The drops also help with that. problem. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on March 18, 2016
Sorry, I am having a hard time swallowing this one.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on March 18, 2016
Well you know all about my story, Stephen. I am looking forward to saying goodbye to single-sided deafness and hearing everything.
By: Mr. Shife on March 18, 2016
To date, I've lost 50% feeling in my feet. Yup, you likely guessed correctly... diabetes. I've fallen a number of times.
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 19, 2016
I simply love Mrs. C. Gotcha! I had paralysis of my entire face for a few weeks (from Lyme Disease). My eyes didn't close. My lips didn't move. But everything sagged. At first scary. Then comical. I suppose I should blog about that!
By: Mitchell Is Moving on March 19, 2016
Been there myself a couple of times. It is awful to lose your. Amazingly, I feel bare. So used I am to my senses working well that if one falls short of expectations I feel exposed. Great post. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on March 19, 2016
nope unless you count common sense or ignoring intuition. but my aunt was nearly deaf. she lived out in the country in east Texasand lived alone after my uncle died. one night someone broke into her house. I don't recall how she understood what was happening but she hid in a closet and was terrified because she couldn't hear who or if he was gone. she sold the house out in the country and moved into a small apt in the small town as soon as she could.
By: ellen abbott on March 19, 2016
Now that I have hearing aids, I can just take them out when the din becomes too obstreperous for me.
By: Catalyst on March 19, 2016
I had a back-to-back-to-back detached retina in my left eye about 13 years ago. After they finally got it all lasered back together my left eye was pretty much toast....tunnel vision, with no peripheral vision to my left. As my right eye was fine, and actually got stronger to compensate of my weak left eye, I just learned to live with it. I did add one of those convex(?) mirrors to my outside rearview mirrors when I drove to eliminate blind spots, and have done well ever since. It could have been worse. :)
By: Scott Park on March 19, 2016
I'm glad it was a short-term loss for you. And that you got something positive out of it. It speak loudly ;) of your outlook. The closest I've had to losing a sense is overwhelmingly large blind spots for the twenty minutes preceding a migraine.
By: Hilary on March 20, 2016
I had a urinary tract infection once. That kind of sets you back, too!
By: Tom Sightings on March 20, 2016
Happy first day of spring, Stephen.
By: Mr. Shife on March 20, 2016

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