Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hard of Hearing

I want to take a little break from talking about Bil and talk, instead, about an incident that occured on the bus I take to work.

There are a number of disabled individuals on that bus.  Here in upstate NY, a lot of people who take mass transit are either elderly, too young to drive, have suspended licenses for one reason or another, can't afford a car for whatever reason, or have a disability that makes driving impossible or difficult.

It is a fact of life on mass transit that people will shut themselves off from others in one way or another.  Bus riding, for many people, is not a social occasion. (On the other hand, there are those who love to chat with the driver, and if the driver chats back, one can find out a lot of very interesting things!)  Rather, they bury themselves in their cell phones or in their MP3 players or Walkmans. (yes, some still use Walkman CD players.)

The rule is that if you play music, it isn't supposed to leak out of your headphones.  Well, today, a young woman was playing music and it was LOUD.  Sometimes you can hear the base line, but this was so loud (and I wasn't even sitting next to her) you could hear the entire song.  As a veteran of mass transit, I buried myself in my magazine.  But one woman across from this young lady took exception.

"Turn it down!" she said.  No response.

"Turn it down!" she yelled, loudly.  No response.

"She's playing it too loud to hear you" another passenger offered helpfully.

The woman appealed to the bus driver.  Now, this particular driver doesn't hesitate to discipline his passengers. (some won't).  He stopped the bus, got out of his seat and walked over to the passenger. She was still oblivious!  He just about got into her face.  Now she paid attention.

"I'm hard of hearing!" she protested.  "How am I supposed to play my music?"  (If you've ever heard people with hearing impairments talk, they sometimes have a certain quality to their voice - and I heard it in her voice.  I don't think she was lying).

I don't think she should have been blasting her music.  I don't care that that was the only way for her to hear it.  Not in public.

I may not be too popular with some, but people with disabilities deserve (and are legally entitled to, in some situations) a "level playing field".  What they are not entitled to is special privileges.  Like disturbing an entire bus with their music.

I find it hard to listen to music on the bus.  There is a lot of noise.  As it happens, it is not enough to be a disability for me, but I do have a degree of hearing impairment. (I think it may have come from an antibiotic I was given, years ago, to treat - ironically, an ear infection.) Guess what?  I don't play my MP3 player on the bus.  I don't have the right to impose myself on others.

I don't think this hearing disabled person had that right, either.

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