With the Fourth of July coming up, I thought about freedom and independence and how important both are. Not just to a country, but to individuals in a much less thought of way. In case you’re getting nervous, this is NOT a political post in any way, so please don’t worry about that.
What I’m talking about is the independence and freedom to do things on my own. Things hearing people don’t think about like safely going out by myself. You wouldn’t think it’s a big deal, but it can be very challenging.
For instance, I can’t hear cars coming and I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been grazed a few times while walking in a crosswalk and cars wanted to turn behind me and thought I’d speed up. I can’t hear the stops read out on a train, the safety announcements on a plane, I can’t even hear the cab or UBER driver ask me where I want to go or tell me if there’s a problem. I can’t hear people coming up behind me if I’m walking, and my fabulous dogs (over the years) have pulled me off the sidewalk to save me from skateboarders, roller bladers, and bicyclists. When I don’t have the dogs with me, I’m often startled by someone suddenly being so close to me and I never heard them coming up behind me. I usually don’t ask people for directions because I can’t hear them and most strangers don’t hang around long enough to help me read their lips. I can drive, but I can’t hear the sirens of police and emergency vehicles until they’re very close.
So getting around for me is obviously much easier if I have someone with me and DHH likes to be that person unless I’m going out with my kids or my friends. He gets nervous if I go out alone, and to tell you the truth, I get a little scared myself sometimes. Once I realized I was starting to make excuses to myself to wait for him (or someone else to go with me), I very firmly said to myself, “NO!!! You are capable of going about your business like the adult you are and you will stop this nonsense.” (Actually I didn’t use the word nonsense but I don’t want to disillusion you by saying the word ‘crap’.) I forced the scared part of myself back and I started planning to go out more alone, even if it was just to walk one of my beautiful pups, who are learning to look out for me.
Getting around in Toronto and New York are very different. Toronto has a very small subway system and it’s very limited as to where you can go. So in Toronto, I drive almost everywhere. In addition to having lost my hearing, I’ve also lost my sense of direction, so you can imagine how many times I’ve gotten los… I mean spontaneously explored unplanned neighborhoods.
But driving is really an easy thing to handle. I constantly scan the road and make sure to specifically watch for emergency vehicles so I will have time to get out of their way. I check maps before I go somewhere and also set the GPS so I won’t have to ask for directions. An aside – thank you to Street Google because I can literally make the trip and pick out landmarks to watch for before I even get into the car. I carefully watch other cars and have learned that drivers give their cars a body language and I can usually predict what they’re going to do.
In New York, I walk, use the subway, cabs, or UBER. If I’m leaving the CITY for Long Island, I take the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).
Yesterday I was meeting a friend for lunch and DHH wanted to come down with me and call and UBER to take me there. I just smiled at him and said, “No thank you, I’m taking the subway.” And I did. I chose to stand so I could better see out the windows and check the stops. I got there easily in 10 minutes and was 20 minutes early.
The last time I took the LIRR, there was a sudden schedule change and a lot of confusion. No one was sure where our train was going but I ended up making a few train friends who were looking out for me. I got back to the City on time and took the subway back home from Penn Station.
Each time I go somewhere, and the farther I go, the more confidence I get in getting around by myself. I don’t mean to give you the impression I never went anywhere. Of course I did. But as I get older and as I see my hearing aids able to do less for me, I might be getting a little less confident and maybe even lazy about having to try harder. But no more of that nonsense! I’ve declared my own Independence Day and it is every day. And Happy Birthday America! Happy Independence Day to everyone!