My Turn: Do You Hear What I Hear?
My Turn: Do You Hear What I Hear?

When a sound can confound. 

By Marion Amberg


It’s not that I don’t hear. I do. But sometimes I have trouble distinguishing what’s being said. When that happens, my brain tries to decipher the syllables I’ve just heard. Sometimes it works. When it doesn’t, anything can happen – especially if I get my m’s and n’s mixed up. I’m learning how not to slide from a little slip-up to a big, fat blunder, But sometimes the learning process is painfully slow.

What began as a innocent visit by a friend’s parents almost ended up in a nudist camp. “My parents are coming this weekend,” Cheryl said one day. “It’s the only time they can come naked.”

“But it’s winter,” I replied.

“What does that have to do with it?” she asked, giving me that peculiar look I’ve grown accustomed to when I’ve heard something wrong.

Suddenly, my ears understood. “Oh,” I said, “you mean that’s when they can make it.”

You know the saying, “Hear no evil.” That’s especially true in church. An announcement by the pastor one Sunday had me seriously questioning his life’s calling. “The Annual Nude Women’s Camp will be held this weekend,” he said a little too brightly.

Say what?!

I flipped open my bulletin, my inquiring eyes scanning the column of upcoming events. When they stopped on some bold letters, I read “Annual Youth Winter Camp.”

I once had a boss who said I heard only what I wanted to hear. I guess she didn’t like my quizzical look when she announced that she was bringing a gelatin salad with imaginary oranges to the Christmas party.

“Imaginary oranges?” I asked. “Wouldn’t real ones taste better?”

She must have been all ears, because I found bits of mandarin orange in her Christmas salad that year.

Another boss asked me, when I returned to work after a bout with the flu, if I was feeling a litter better. “I don’t have a dog,” I replied, “but that virus sure had me in the doghouse.”

My biggest hearing bloopers occur when I’m extremely tired. Sometimes a few hours go by before I can decode a “what-did-you-say-ism.”

That’s exactly what happened when a radio broadcaster reported that 34 overweight ducks were being ordered off Minnesota highways. Even though it sounded like fowl play, I knew better than to quack about it. Good thing, too, because several hours later my tired brain delivered the correct answer: “34 overweight trucks.”

When I want more than hearsay, I talk to kids. Because they’re still learning to enunciate, slip-ups are bound to happen. My niece Vanessa found that out one day when she asked for a “girl” cheese sandwich.

I told her she was much too young to be a feminist and offered her a “boy” cheese sandwich instead. But she wouldn’t hear of it.

When someone offers me a can of “Choke,” I try to disarm them with “Spite.” I’ve discovered that decapitated coffee doesn’t taste nearly as good as decaffeinated, and when my back goes out, choir practice is no substitute for the chiropractor. I’ve confused “groan” with “grown” and “plasma” with “plaza.”

I no longer gasp when an editor asks about my writing “fleas.” And when a loved one tells me they “loathe” me, I just love ‘em back. It’s the leash I can do.

For more truth in hearing, I confess that a pathetic minister once turned out to be quite prophetic. I never look at a businessman’s feet if he’s talking about “his shoes.” I’ve learned that he may have other “issues” on his mind.

So the next time you miss an earful, do what I do – play it by ear. It’s the only way to shave the day! 


Marion Amberg
is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.

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