I felt it was significant that I heard the news first from Myrna—Myron’s long suffering wife. You’ve all met Myron before—idiot savant, math whizz, accounting superstar and wealthy beyond all reason, thanks to his ability to pick the winning ponies. Myrna told me what all of us had known for quite a while. Myron had been to see an audiologist and found out he couldn’t hear. I figured Myron, who hadn’t called, was suffering with the news that he needed a hearing aid. I met him down at his bridge club in Canarsie. He just started playing bridge and has already amassed some 5 or 6 hundred Masters points, or whatever they call it when you win. The other players are talking about taking up chess.
I asked if he was okay about needing hearing aids.
“Of course, I am you wuss” he said with his usual charm. “The hearing aids are going to make things better—or so I thought.” “It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even enjoy the latest gang gang dance album—Eye Contact.
“Since it leaked at the club that I needed them, I’ve gotten unsolicited advice from each of our four hundred members, many of whom need hearing aids” he continued. “The only thing they agree on is that they stink.” “Forty-one percent are sure that no one they know actually wears them—preferring to keep them in a draw, thirty-nine percent have them, occasionally wear them and swear they can no longer stand to hear themselves speak, and twenty-seven percent won’t wear them because they make them look goofy—as if they needed help. One poor guy couldn’t figure out how to change his batteries.”
“That’s more than 100%,” I pointed out kindly.
“Some are in more than one category,” he snarled. “I can’t hear.” “My ability to add is not a problem.”
“Yesterday, I was on the subway reading the hearing aid literature when a woman I had never met sat next to me and spent the next 45 minutes telling me—in great detail—how hearing aids ruined her husband’s life,” he said. “It started with him hearing everyone— even those blocks away—breathing, and ended with him hearing conversations among alien beings on Saturn.” “He’s in a funny farm now, upstate, and all because of his hearing aids.
“What did you say,” I asked.
“What could I say,” he mused. “I thanked her and reminded myself that I have enough money to spring for a cab into the city.”
Myron called last week and I met him for lunch at our not-to-be-named deli somewhere in Queens that specializes in lean corned beef. Sure enough he was wearing hearing aids. I was surprised to see he had a large ones that completed blocked the ear canal.
“How are they,” I asked.
“Great,” Myron said. “I can actually understand the waiter.
“Why the large and obvious ones” I had the nerve to ask.
“They have this amazing feature,” he replied. “I press this switch and I can’t hear anything at all,” he said with a smile. “Now, I’m safe on the subway, at the bridge club, and sometimes even at home.”
With that, Myron pressed the switch and got down to the serious business of lunch.