Didn’t post anything in Dec. or Jan. So here are two for February.
I first heard the word“tinkle” used in Boston for passing water with both children and by nurses with patients and always thought it was a cute term referencing the way it sounds.
The song came while sitting on the pot feeling, as is said, ‘bound up,’ when the Otis Redding song came to mind. Played with the words and it came to pass. And yes, I do live overlooking a different Bay, just not in California.
“You have to do something about your hearing, Dad. We’re all tired of repeating ourselves and I think you’re missing out on a lot that goes on around you.”
The same conversation or variants of it had been going on for the past six or more months. The man had been stubbornly resistant to the advice, but at last had to admit that he was indeed having trouble with his hearing when he found himself asking strangers like waitresses and sales clerks to repeat themselves and still had trouble understanding them.
“I guess you’re right, Charlie,” he sighed.
Charlie restrained himself from saying, ‘It’s about time.’ Instead he asked, “Do you want me to help make an appointment for you with an audiologist?”
“Thanks, no. I can do that. And besides I’d like to do a little research first on what’s available in the way of hearing aids.”
“Okay Dad, but please don’t procrastinate.”
“No, I promise I won’t.”
He went on-line and found a confusing array of hearing devices. Ever since the law requiring hearing aids to be professionally prescribed by licensed audiologists and doctors, had been changed to one that allowed the public to buy directly from manufacturers or retailers, the number of devices offered on-line had exploded and prices had plummeted, but there was little guidance to the public about types, appropriateness to their needs, and quality. As a baseline, he had taken a hearing test with his health care provider and, armed with the information that his degree of deafness was “moderate,” he began his search. He found the descriptions somewhat helpful since he could exclude all those that stated they were for persons with “mild to moderate hearing loss” as he felt that his hearing would only worsen over time. This shrank the pool of devices to consider.
The one that really intrigued him stated that although it was a newcomer to the field it had extensive experience in AI. It offered a vast array of possible adjustments: programs for everyday situations to quiet nature walks to noisy restaurants and bars to music—with selections for pop, rock and classical. And each choice could be further fine-tuned to individual taste.
Best of all, it purported to be suitable for persons with mild to severe hearing loss with a price in the middle of the range. And it was made in Canada, which is close to being made in America, he thought. This sounds too good to be true, but with a six month return policy, what do I have to lose?
His family was delighted that he was finally acting, but worried that he was buying from an unknown startup company.
“It’s just got way more ways than any other hearing aid to adjust them to fit me, and anyway I can return them anytime within six months,” he said.
“Yeah, if the company is still there in six months,” worried Charlie.
He placed his order and now that he had acted, waited impatiently. A week later he saw a Fedex truck pull up (he barely heard it) and when he opened the door, was handed a white delivery envelop with a small box within. The only instructions that came with the hearing aids was to go to the company web site for complete operational details, which he immediately did, avidly absorbing the video demo.
Now to try them out, he thought. First I’ll go to the trails at the Reservoir and use the nature setting. And then I’ll see if Charlie’s family wants to have dinner tomorrow at a really noisy restaurant—the “Choy Sum” should fill the bill.
He found that the devices performed in both situations admirably, in fact better than he had hoped. On the trail, hearing bird calls clearly was a revelation that he had not realized he had been missing. And the next night at the restaurant, he could actually hear what his family was saying despite the clatter and chatter all around them.
“Dad,” Charlie said, “It’s like a new world for you. Aren’t you glad you finally got help?”
“Gotta admit you’re right,” he replied.
Over the next week he had fun trying out most of the special settings. Finally deciding that for most situations, leaving it on automatic worked just fine. He became more conscious of the world of sound around him. The sound that a falling pencil makes, the squeak of his desk chair, the rustle of the leaves of the tree just outside his bedroom window, the tinkling sound of the sink faucet running.
And when I use the toilet, the falling ‘water’ sounds almost musical, he thought, it almost sounds like words sometimes. And he did use the toilet frequently since he had the usual bladder problems of senior men. He unconsciously began to pay more attention to those sounds since he noted that the flowing faucet or the shower did not have the same quality.
Why that almost sounded like ‘military industrial,’ he thought one day. Strange. He followed up an hour later. Nothing. He had almost forgotten about it until the following week when, because of a deteriorating Near Eastern political situation, the price of major military aerospace stocks shot up. Odd coincidence, he thought.
‘Apple,’ the toilet seemed to gurgle one day. The next week Apple announce a new introduction at a reduced price, and Apple’s price price leaped up, before settling back the following month. But before that happened, he thought he heard ‘flush Apple.’
Am I going nuts, he worried. Still, he listened carefully each time he peed, feeling a bit batty that he would actually do that. Finally he heard, amidst the water sounds, ‘St Claire.’ St. Claire? What’s that? Feeling foolish, he researched it and found that it was a small biotech company with one product. And it was cheap on the Nasdaq, almost a penny stock. He had a modest sum of cash, outside of his retirement accounts, that he had sometimes played the market with. At that price, what’s a hundred shares if I lose it, he thought. And he placed an order. The following week, a large pharma company announced that they were buying St. Claire at a considerable premium, for its one product and its research pipeline. Wow! Too bad I only got a hundred shares.
Still, that’s just four times, he thought. But every week or so, another name come through to him. He continued to place small orders at first, but when the “advice” continued to prove true, he began to increase the size of his orders. And so his pot of ‘play money’ became more than modest. He decided that as a father he should share his information with Charlie, but not, of course, reveal his source. When both he and Charlie shared in this string of success, Charlie began to press him about where he was getting this seemingly infallible advice from. Of course I can’t tell Charlie, he thought, he’ll think I’m nuts—and maybe I am. So he said that no, it wasn’t insider information for that would be illegal, but that he had been sworn to secrecy.
“Okay,” said Charlie. “But this person has some crystal ball.”
More like a porcelain throne, he thought to himself.
Six months after this began, he received an e-notice from the hearing aid company that his devices would be shortly receiving a software upgrade because of some complaints that the aids at times seemed to interject odd sounds. This would all be done automatically and he did not have to do anything, send it back, or pay anything. The company compared what it was doing to what car companies had done with their software updates.
Oh no, he thought, what will that do to the ‘advice’ I’ve been getting. He frantically contacted the company help number and of course received a recording to leave a phone number and a message and that a representative would contact him shortly. He wanted to tell them that he was very happy, in fact delighted, at the performance of his hearing aids, and that he did not require or wish to have the upgrade. Two days later, he was contacted by someone who spoke impeccable English but with a foreign accent. He repeated his request to be left alone.
“Oh no sir, why would you not want an upgrade? It will make your devices work so much better. Please check our web site to see the additional features that have been added.”
“But I don’t want any of them. I’m very happy with what I have. Please leave my aids the way they are.”
“I’m afraid that is impossible, sir. The upgrade was sent out automatically yesterday. Please visit our web site to see all the improvements that have been made.”
“But I didn’t want any of them,” he said almost plaintively.
“I think that you will be happy with the changes. Now is there anything more I can do for you? If not, good day, sir. Thank you for using our product.”
Though he continued to listen carefully afterwards, he could never again make out any words.
“Dad, what happen to your advisor?” asked Charlie, after several months.
“I’m afraid he had a bad accident and can no longer speak.”
“Oh, sorry to hear that. I hope he wasn’t a close friend and I hope he’ll recover.”
Alte Kaker Time
(thanks and apologies to Otis Redding)
I’m sittin’ on a pot by the Bay,
Waitin’ for some move-a-ment today.
Sittin’ on a pot by the Bay,
While the day just rolls away.
Just countin’ time.
Used to have eggs for breakfast,
Now it’s likely just a mess of prunes.
Hopin’ for some action,
This mornin’ not this afternoon.
Oh it used to be so easy,
Now it’s fiber and more mineral oil.
What used to come so natural,
Is becomin’ just a lot of toil.
I’m waitin’ here beside the Bay,
As the time just slips away.
What I used to take for granted,
Is a lot more like adobe clay.
So I’m sittin’ on a pot by the Bay,
Hopin’ to pass something more than time.
This is all I have to say,
Unless I get help with another rhyme.
Sittin’ on a pot by the Bay,
Jus’ countin’ time.