Monday, January 31, 2005


I called the pharmacy today and asked about whether I had a refill left on a prescription medication. They said yes, I did, so I arranged to pick it up later this morning.

Then I called my doctor's office and made an appointment to see him.

Big deal, huh?

You bet. Because instead of asking Husband or Sis to make these calls, I did it myself, using my TTY and a Relay Operator.

The TTY is initially a hell of a lot more intimidating than you'd imagine. Using it reminds me a lot of the very first times I went online, nearly 20 years ago. Eventually, I realized that I could relax - as Husband put it, it turned out "you can't break the internet"- but for the first few times you connected, you were terrified that you'd somehow screw everything up.

If you don't believe me, try using a TTY the next time you're in an airport, where they're federally mandated, both in the US and Canada. Go ahead :) Call the hotel to confirm your reservation, or your spouse to let them know you arrived safely, using a Relay Operator. I guarantee, your hands will sweat, your fingers will shake, and you'll be convinced you're about to reveal yourself as a complete ass.

If you're curious, here's a transcript of how a sample TTY call works. It's different than I imagined and kind of cool.

First, I pick up the phone handset and set it in the TTY cradle. Then, I dial the number for the Relay Operator (711) into the phone keypad. I can see by a flickering red light on the TTY that there's a signal getting to the TTY (a dial tone, then ringing). Then after a few seconds, this scrolls across my TTY screen:

Relay Operator: HELLO LL.COM RELAY SERVICE [This is the telecommunications company which provides our local relay service.] GA [this means "Go Ahead", or "it's your turn to type now".]


RO: THANK YOU... DIALING... RINGING 1... 2... 3... 4... HELLO DR. SMITH'S OFFICE NORA SPEAKING GA (Now the Relay Op is typing to me what the person on the other end is saying.)

Me: GOOD MORNING NORA THIS IS RONNIE CALLING I WAS WONDERING IF I COULD MAKE AN APPT TO SEE DR SMITH THIS WEEK GA (Now the Relay Op identifies herself as a Relay Op and then verbally tells the person on the other end what I type, literally, in the first person.)



RO: OK SEE YOU THEN BYE SK [This means "Stop Keying", or, "I am ready to hang up/have hung up now".]



Then I hang up the phone and press a button to turn the TTY off.

Neat, eh? The Relay Ops are so fast it's incredible. (And Lord, thank goodness I took typing and still have a speed of about 60 wpm!)

So, two little calls. Two simple little tasks completed by myself.

A good day.


Friday, January 28, 2005

Perds ton audition, apprends une langue.

An unexpected outcome of going deaf is that I have begun learning a third language and dramatically increased my ability to read and write my second.

This occurred to me today as I reviewed a French document sent to me by one of our member organizations. Part of my role is to be here as an advisor to staff and volunteers in our member organizations, to review things like requests for funding and make suggestions for changes that might help them get the cash.

When I lost my hearing some of my roles at work shrank or disappeared (participation in public meetings and conferences) while others expanded. The advisory role to members expanded. And since New Brunswick is an officially bilingual province and since it has a large and healthy Francophone population, some of those organizations speak French as their first lanaguage, and their documents are in French.

So for the last five months or so I have been working part-time on French documents. I am easily able to read in French (particularly in this situation where the context and vocabularly are familiar to me) with a dictionary at my elbow but am not yet able to submit my recommendations in French. (The goal, after all, is to help them.) Fortunately for me, my French colleages are fine with this (as well as being fluently bilingual, the case of 98% of Francophone New Brunswickers) and can use the recommendation en anglais, and the system works fine.

And then of course there is ASL, an entirely new language, which I am learning.

Lose your hearing, pick up a language or two.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

"Mom's Cancer" continues to build the audience it deserves.

Check out this great online interview with Brian, artist and author of Mom's Cancer.

It's an amazing story I've recommended several times before, and I'm not alone. Deserved praise for this really remarkable story is spreading like wildfire word-of-mouth.

Read it and see why. Then recommend it to a few dozen of your closest friends. If you are in the medical profession, recommend it to a few hundred.

And if you are not concerned about having how "Mom's Cancer" turns out 'spoiled', read my comment at the end of this post. The story takes another remarkable turn.


Sunday, January 23, 2005


Storm on top of storm on top of storm last week, and yet another forecast for tomorrow (Monday). Last Thursday's was particularly wickedy, even by Atlantic Canadian standards. Heavy, heavy snowfall, blowing snow, whiteouts, traffic accidents, etc. Damned hard to even walk the few blocks between home and the office.

I am responsible for supervising a number of employees at work. That means that I am responsible for approving their overtime, keeping track of their sick leave, approving time off, and, in a snowstorm, giving them the ok to leave work. They live hither and yon and get to work by various means. Should a blizzard blow up during a workday, I need to know if the city buses are being pulled off the roads (to send bus-riding employees home on the last few runs); if schools are being closed and employees who are parents need to take care of their kids; road conditions (so I can send driving employees home before they get dangerous); if and when the provincial government closes its offices (rule of thumb is, when they close, so do we - whoever's left at that point, anyway).

So, in 2005, where do we get that kind of information on a minute-by-minute basis in a storm?

The same place your great-granddad got it. On the radio.

I can't speak for larger media outlets in larger cities, but I can tell you that the local tv and newspaper websites don't have the resources to have a live webpage with minute-by-minute storm reports. The city transit page doesn't update live.

If you don't have access to local radio, you're in the dark about up-to-date info on cancellations and traffic issues.

I spent most of the day bugging coworkers for updates by IM or email. At 2:00 pm I said the hell with it and sent everybody home.

The obvious remedy for this is a newscrawl or a constantly-updated stormwatch website. You could even conceivably try to convince the local papers or tv stations that it would be a boon to all working people, not just deaf people, with no access to a radio.

But with radios for sale in Dollar Stores and being given away free with alco-pop drinks, good luck getting anywhere with that.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

"loneliness during adulthood"

I was poking around the stats for this blog today. In the last month, we've had visitors from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Korea, the Netherlands, and India.

"Keyword analysis", which shows me what people typed into search engines to end up here, is always interesting. Recently people got here from searching for information on "vicious poodles", "superbowl 2004 worst ads", and, poignantly, "loneliness during adulthood".

If, by any chance, the person who reached the blog by looking for the latter happens to still be around, email me. I'd like to hear from you.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

People unclear on the concept

I get by, at work as at home, with a little help from my friends. A lot of that help comes from a few key people who have to intercept most of my communication.

One of them is our Office Coordinator, the brilliant and gracious "Adelina". A native of the former Yugoslavia, she is one of the most competent and patient people I have ever know. She handles the phones in our office and once I was no longer able to use them, she adapted quickly. (She had to. You must remember, this happened in a matter of days. There are still colleagues of mine who don't know I've gone deaf six months later who call asking for me. In the weeks immediately following, she'd be taking six, seven, eight calls a day for me.)

We conferred and agreed that she would stick to a pretty basic script so she wouldn't have to treat every call as a new problem. "ronnie", she would explain, "has had a sudden, profound" (that word tends to convey the seriousness of it - most people understand 'profoundly deaf') "hearing loss. She isn't able to use the telephone anymore. If you like, I can give you her email address and you can email her any message. Or I can take your email address and have her contact you. If that isn't convenient, please give me the message and I will give it to her and we will have someone call you back with what you need."

And that's worked quite well so far. Until today, when she got a call from a particularly flighty academic who I work with occasionally and usually correspond with via email. I like academics, I do. I had hoped to be one, once upon a time. But I don't think they operate in the real world. Case in point:

(Telephone rings)

Adelina: [Standard office greeting]

Academic: This is [name] calling from [university]. I need to talk to "ronnie" right away. It's very important.

Adelina: "ronnie" has had sudden, profound hearing loss. She isn't able to use the telephone anymore. If you like, I can give you her email address and you can email her a message. Or I can take your email address and have her contact you. If that isn't convenient, please give me the message and I will give it to her and we will have someone call you back with what you need.

Academic: You don't understand. I need to talk to her now! Is she there?

Adelina: M'am, she can't use the phone anymore. She had a total hearing loss in June.

Academic: [Heavy, exasperated sigh which Adelina mimed beautifully for me.] YOU DON'T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND. IT'S IMPORTANT!

Adelina: You don't seem to understand, M'am. She's deaf. I mean, deaf like... door or... rock, or, you know, like brick.

(I love Adelina's European accent. And sense of humour.)

I also had another colleague record a new message for my extension voicemail. It says, roughly:

"Hello, you have reached [number], the telephone of "ronnie", [my title] at [my workplace]. "ronnie" had a sudden, profound hearing loss in June of 2004. She isn't able to use the telephone anymore at all. If you would like to email her, please do so at That's r-o-n-n-i-e-at-w-o-r-k-a-d-d-r-e-s-s-dot-c-a. If you would rather leave a message at the main desk, please call [main desk number]. She will respond to your call as soon as she can. Thank you."

I get approximately four messages a week which blithely ignore this entire spiel.

Thank goodness I have coworkers who will do things like sit down with me once a week and go through my phone messages so I can accommodate those who have been rendered numb to phone messages... or are ordering deli sandwiches while they're playing... or something.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

"Hi, I'm a Defective Person!"; and, some good news

Finally, finally got an email today about the consult with the surgeons. It will be the third week of February. AUGH! I am trying to be patient, I really am. Now the surgeons must also concur that I am a good candidate for implant, this time from a physiological/neurological perspective. I keep worrying that there is one of these hoops which I am not going to make it all the way through.

Was thinking to myself this morning... you know what I hate about being deaf? Having to start almost every single conversation by giving out very personal information about myself, labeling myself. "Hi, I'm handicapped." "Hi, I'm broken." "Hi, I'm a potential problem."

Of course, what I say is "Hi, I'm deaf, and..." but I also know what they hear and what it feels like I'm saying. "Hi, I'm defective" must be the first or second thing out of my mouth to everyone from the doctor's receptionist, to the guy I'm ordering from at McDonald's, to the man whose doggie ran up and sniffed me in the park. Most people don't need to formally announce their disability as the very first words they say upon meeting someone because it's either a) obvious or b) irrelevant. Going deaf is in many ways an incredibly personal and painful thing, yet I blurt it out to strangers four, five, six times a day. I am really growing to hate it, not to mention longing for the days when I didn't have to plan every interaction with a new person like it was a low-level military op which I performed naked.

I am not even going to tell you how it feels when they say, "Oh! What happened?" and smile at you expectantly. Sorry, lady, my life's painful blows are not fodder for your salacious interest or even idle curiosity, and, besides, I left the dog and pony in the car.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Brave New World

The ASL signs which combine to make the expression "Oh, my GOD!" are particularly expressive and I wish I was able to show them to you here...

...because I have just finished "Half Life 2" and I am simply floored.

I haven't had a gaming experience that heart-poundingly immersive since I went deaf and frankly, didn't expect to ever again. (Plus, damn, that Alyx is cute. And kick-ass.)

Oh, my GOD.

No wonder the people at Valve won so many awards for this game.

You know, the cochlear implant I have selected is unique for its inclusion of a particularly funky feature. You can actually plug electronics (personal CD players, keyboards, telephones) directly into the implant. Literally, "feed your head! feed your head!".

When I played Half Life and its spin-offs Counter Strike and Blue Shift as a hearing person, I enjoyed turning off the lights, putting on headphones and becoming totally immersed in the virtual world of Black Mesa.

I foresee that I may in the near future be able to plug video game audio directly into my implant for much the same effect.

Not only that, but hopefully, I will be able to hear Husband's music again - direct from source, without distortion or interference, as best the CI can interpret it.

"O! brave new world, that has such people in it..."


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Half-Life 2: "So, it's 100% deaf gamer friendly..."

I've been a gamer since Pong which happily debuted around the same time I was developing physical dexterity and learning to work my opposable thumbs. My youth was wasted on Asteroids and Space Invaders, Frogger and Ms. Pac-Man, and I certainly didn't stop gaming just because I grew up and got a job. I moved on to PC games and have devoured them voraciously ever since. Well, that is, until I went deaf, when my favoured genre (adventure/strategy) was made near-impossible by the absence of necessary audio cues. I'd wander, whistling, into territory crackling with enemy radio chatter, rumbling with ominous growling or positively whiffling with aliens.

Imagine my delight when my gamer Sis told me that the new addition to my favourite game franchise, Half-Life 2, had been specifically designed to include features to allow deaf gamers to play! It went to the top of my Christmas list and sure enough, dear Husband made sure Santa put it under the tree. I've spent every precious free minute of time between then and now playing it, and I'm floored. I'm not the only one. In expressing my opinion I could not improve upon this review at Deaf Gamers website (yes, there is one - surprised? I was):

"...Half-Life 2 is a glowing example of how games can be made deaf gamer friendly and I would be hard pushed to recall a game where the developers had obviously gone out of their way to accommodate the deaf community. You have the option of enabling subtitles and the subtitles are extensive... Valve have also taken it a step further and included captions which will show text descriptions of all the important noises. Valve deserve all the praise they can get for making Half-Life 2 as deaf gamer friendly as possible...this is a superb effort by Valve...I hope that other developers take note of this aspect of Half-Life 2 as well as its graphics and technical qualities."

From your mouth to God's ears. If anyone needs to safely blow off a little steam once in a while, it's we the "different".


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

They heard it coming?

Here's an interesting article speculating on why so few animals perished in the Asian tsunami - this bioacoustician thinks they may have heard it coming.

Researcher says animals heard tsunami coming

I like how she manages to present a perfectly plausible explanation for the animals' survival and then inserts the word "duh!" into her little segue about the importance of not appearing to be a flake.


Monday, January 03, 2005

Happy New Year

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, Christmas. One of the happiest Christmases ever.

The embarrassment of material bounty and food and drink is too much to list here, and I hadn't been able to bring myself to update you all about it, given what we are seeing on TV from Asia. Now that a little time has passed and we are seeing relief reach those poor people, it seems a bit less unseemly to thank people for the embarrassingly huge and lovingly-chosen haul I've gotten this year.

Yes, I cooked Christmas dinner and it came out splendidly if I do say so myself! I genuinely surprised myself and had a wonderful time trying my hand at being Martha. "L'il Gobbler", as the bird was dubbed, despite being only about eight pounds, lasted long enough to ensure our eyes glazed over at leftovers.

Got a lifetime-special gift... when I graduated from University, I was not only dirt-broke, I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt from student loans. I watched as my friends snapped up formal grad photographs, yearbooks, class rings, graduation dinners, and so on. Most of that stuff didn't really matter to me, though, although it "twinged" - except that I always regretted not being able to own my class ring, that token of the achievement, that badge that you have made it through the ritual of a degree. I would look at my friend A's - we did several years of Uni together and lived together for a couple of them - and feel a tinge of regret.

This year, I opened a small box, my last Christmas present, and found my class ring.

It has my degree on one shoulder and my year - 89 - on the other (I didn't even know you could get retroactive class rings!!) It has the crest of Memorial University in gorgeous burgundy against the gold. And inside it is engraved, "[Ronniecat], with love, [Husband]".

Now how's that for a Christmas present?

I burst into tears when I opened it up, which I think was most appropriate and, I hope, gratifying for him :)

Dear Husband also got me "Half Life 2" which alone would've made my Christmas. And in a perfect synchronicity, on Christmas Eve my new laptop computer, the one designed to help facilitate communication for me, arrived. It's a monster - a 17" Toshiba - but it can pretty well run the space shuttle.

Very Very Cool deaf-related gifts included a portable whiteboard with attached marker (no more piles of paper on my desk from ten notes written on ten scraps of paper!) and excellent ASL software, again both from Husband.

Funniest gift? The book "Bad Cats" from a close friend. Published by the good folks who run, it had me and Sis in hysterics for an hour last night.

Blessed with abundance in all things, I am. I hope your holidays were as happy.


Saturday, January 01, 2005

There are no words

I just don't have any words to describe how I feel about what we are seeing unfold on our television and computer screens and in our newspapers.

I look around at the mountain of material bounty, all of it given lovingly, that is piled around my living room in the wake of Christmas and all I know is that we must give something back.

Please, give. If it means returning one present, please. Give.

The Canadian Red Cross

The American Red Cross

International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies


Google's collected links to relief organizations working to help tsunami victims in Asia.