Bang the (Droopy Ear) Drum Slowly

It’s rare, in my limited experience, to fail a hearing test and to insult a rockstar in the space of a single day. But I achieved both of these ignoble feats just yesterday.

Ignoble Feat #1: My right ear cannot detect low rumblings. This would be a good thing, if by “low rumblings” I meant the kind uttered by my 13 year-old son when he spies the dreaded–but healthy, damnit, so healthy–purple mashed cauliflower on his dinner plate. I really wish I were deaf to those complaints. Alas, my aural shortcoming is of the decibel- and frequency-detecting variety. Despite my best attempts, dizzy from holding my breath in that vaguely claustrophobic, carpeted room that felt like something in a life-sized in a doll house, I could not for the life of me pick up a series of beeps in the lower register. At least not with my right ear. At least that is what I was told afterwards. I couldn’t actually hear the beeps, so how do I really know the beeps existed? I mean, if a beep beeps but nobody hears it….

Turns out I have something called a “droopy eardrum.” I blushed a little when the ear doctor spoke these words. As if I had failed to do something. Let myself go. Ignored some age-old advice about life from an elderly relative somewhere down the line. “Laddy, whatever you do, keep up them firm eardrums, don’t let ’em droop.” I’m still a bit confused about the condition. Whether it is here to stay for as long as I am here to stay. Or maybe I should try acupuncture. Maybe, but I don’t like the sound of, “Hi, I’m here to see the acupuncturist about my droopy eardrum.” And I also don’t like the words “puncture” and “eardrum” to sit in such close proximity. God I love this getting older thing.

Ignoble Feat #2: I cursed a bonafide rockstar last night. I don’t know if he heard me, but I definitely swore at him. The drummer for Metallica. He made the mistake of double-parking his SUV just behind my little Prius at the bus stop in such a way that his headlights shone brightly in my eyes. With my hearing now apparently shot, this behavior eliminated my sight, effectively leaving me with only a couple senses remaining. And I didn’t think I could rely on my sense of smell to ascertain whether the school bus had pulled up a block behind me. “Diesel fuel. Is that diesel fuel?” Nor did I fancy the prospect of crawling on my hands and knees along the darkened side street, searching with my outstretched fingers for a bus wheel or for my 13 year-old’s Nikes as he hopped onto the sidewalk along with his schoolmates who are probably also wearing Nikes.

So I was piqued. A little irritated, when I stepped out of my Prius and muttered (another low rumbling?), “Thanks for the high beams, jackass” in the direction of the SUV’s silhouetted and therefore anonymous driver. Making no attempt to hide my agitation.

When I returned to my car with my son and his Nikes in-tow, I glanced up to see Lars Ullrich, Metallica’s drummer, engaged in a genuinely charming display of domesticity, piling a couple mussed-haired kiddos into his SUV. I think he was even doing someone a favor, picking up another family’s child at the late bus stop. We made eye contact. I froze a little as Lars looked up and he said, pleasant as pleasant can be, “Hey,” before closing his hatchback like an outstanding dad and upstanding citizen.

Fortunately, he used his upper register with this casual greeting. Had he spoken in a lower voice, the remaining strain of adrenaline coursing through my veins would have combined with my newfound inability to hear what he actually said. I would likely have assumed that Lars lobbed a proportionately responsive invective in my direction. Met fire with fire. Jackass with jackass. God knows what would have happened, but for sure we both would have ended up in the newspapers. “Droopy-Eared Dad Pounded by Drummer in School Bus Stop Altercation.” That type-thing.

Fortunately, I heard Lars right, and I responded appropriately, with a quick “Hey, how you doin’?” Shuffling toward my Prius, I really really really hoped he hadn’t heard me call him a jackass 30 seconds ago. I briefly considered walking right past my parked Prius, to eliminate any supposition that I was its driver. Jackass? Who said anything about a jackass?

Or maybe I could fall back on my deafness, blame the whole thing on some sort of misunderstanding brought on by foolishly letting myself go in regards to the shape of my right eardrum. Probably Lars would have said something about how you should always wear earplugs. Maybe he would vouch for the acupuncture or tell me to steer clear of it altogether. I guess I’ll never know.

Regardless, Lars, please accept my humble apologies. The only jackass in our situation was the guy with the droopy eardrum. And he’d had quite a day.

Thanks for reading.


      1. Kier, so sorry to hear about that flaccid eardrum… there’s a lot of spam email that can help with that I think

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