Category Archives: Blog

Berts brilliant inner-ear adventure, pt1: How I found out I needed hearing Aids

(These events originally occurred in the Fall of 2016.)

The nice thing about colleagues is they tell you when you’re annoying. After spending most of my career as a freelancer, suddenly having co-workers in an office tell you when you have bad breath, slurp your coffee or have terrible taste in deodorant came as quite a shock to me. After a while, though, I grew accustomed to it – and now, I’m even thankful, because my colleagues did more than point out my bad breath.

But we’ll get to that part of the story later.

Right now: My hearing.

I don’t really hear all that well on my left-hand side. I have no idea why, or how long it’s been going on for, but it has to be longer than a year because I remember this being my first exchange with my boss during my job interview:

Boss: Want a coffee?

Me: Excuse me?

Boss: COFFEE. YOU WANT?!

That was December of 2015, and things were already not quite okay. Looking back now, I can think of a million different situations where my hearing’s been sub-par. I tend to sit left at the table. I turn the right side of my head to people I’m talking to. When on a walk with my wife, I walk on the left. Subtle, tiny things, which have almost made me (and the people surrounding me) forget I have a problem at all.

In my office, though, I sit on the right, with my left ear aimed at the door. People barge in and ask me questions I don’t understand. And there’s nothing I can do about it, because that’s the way my desk is positioned.

So when a director wants to do script edits with me, I turn away from the computer screen and take notes on paper. When someone needs me to consider switching around scenes, I pace around the room like I’m working really hard to come up with a creative solution. And more often than not, I’ve told colleagues to come get a coffee with me – in the kitchen I then proceed to position myself as to better understand the conversation. I hope they then don’t actually grab a coffee, because I won’t hear them over the damn espresso maker.

These are not things I do consciously. It’s just my body adapting. No one noticed – except for my direct colleagues. And they were fed up, so they sent me to an ENT doctor. Which, ever the agreeable co-worker, I did.

My ENT doctor is a nice, young lad that looks like he’s been shoved in lockers of different sizes during his educative career – a bit crooked, with glasses that don’t sit quite straight not matter how often he adjusts them. But he is a good diagnostician and a very empathetic human being. I figured I’d at least humor him. Sure, I had bad hearing, but it couldn’t possibly be that terrible, right?

I sat down in the waiting room. It was September, Flu season was not fully in swing yet, so I was surrounded by nothing but two categories of old people. The coughing ones were called by a shouting nurse at the front desk, the rest was summoned personally by a nurse who waddled over and went to get them because they could not hear the nurse say their name anymore.

You can probably guess what group I belonged to.

Three times the nurse had shouted my name, then re-pre-diagnosed me from the “what is that dude doing here” into the “probably bad hearing” category and came to get me. We did a hearing test, during which I had to repeat words I heard through a microphone. The more words I repeated, the gloomier her attire, and what started out as a joke was soon confirmed by the slightly crooked doc as a honest-to-God diagnosis:

Left-hand ear hearing loss: 51 percent. Synapses had already begun to deteriorate – my brain had started to forget how to hear on one  side. I needed a hearing aid.

That was a lot worse than I had thought it would be. After all, I was 31, relatively fit, I had never heard loud music or otherwise damaged my ears (as far as I knew). The ENT shrugged it off – sometimes, shit just hits the fan. He gave me two transfer sheets, one for a control MRI and one for an audiologist and sent me on my way.

A little dazed and confused, I left the ENT’s office. Called my wife (phone on the right ear exclusively, another one of those coping mechanisms). Then proceeded to make some short-term appointments with various audiologists, called the MRI and got scheduled for Christmas (yep!) and went back to work, where I would carefully google the day away and find out as much as I could about the bionic man I was about to become.

Next time: Audiologists or the people who talk to you like you’re eighty.

elhana

Hey guys!

One of my texts got featured on the elhana project website.

For those not in the know: elhana is a big brother project in the Berlin area, where you help out a kid with problems at school. I sat with Yussuf (not his real name) twice a week, from 2010 to the end of 2015, helped him with math and german and just the general facts of a elementary school kid’s life (Beyblades, Ninjago and divorce, mainly). And, because I’m me, I wrote a text about this experience.

You can read the text on their site or on mine, whatever floats your boat.

Working with Yussuf was a delight and an enrichment of my life. Ober the course of five years, I taught him how to play chess, and now I can’t even come close to beating him. I can wholeheartedly recommend this project. If you’re in the Berlin area and interested in doing something good on a small scale, give elhana a shout, tell them Bert sent you.

Opposites Attract, pt. 6

(The story so far: Alice and her caravan (Jack, Arbuck and Marie) were stranded on a floating rock with a dishonest guy named Brock. After Brock secretly stole their food, Marie turned into a gargantuan monster and Alice saved the day by crashing the rock down. But how did she do that?)

Rocks don’t float

Alice slowly opened her eyes.

Jack towered above her.

“Hey”, Alice said.

“You missed the best part.”

He held out his hand. She snatched it and got up. The rock was lying on top of the unmoving lizard. It had hit it squarely in the stomach. The force of impact had made its guts splatter violently onto the pristine sands, and its ladder tongue lay limply in front of its mouth. It had died the way it had come: Maw open wide.

Arbuck was sitting in the sand. Marie was lying in his lap. She had turned back to normal and was knocked out cold. As Alice climbed down the rock, she opened her eyes.

“Welcome back to the land of the livin’”, Arbuck told her.

“You stink”, Marie said, but didn’t move away from his lap. “What happened? Last thing I remember is being up to my ankles in food.”

The three of them looked at each other and grinned.

“We’re down. That’s what matters”, Jack said. He looked over to Alice. “How did you know it was going to fall?”

Alice dropped down into the sands next to Arbuck and Marie. She dug a piece of debris out of the sand and threw it up in the air. The rock immediately arched towards the rock and clung firmly to it. “It’s magnetized.”

Jack looked at the rock in amazement.

Alice continued. “When Brock made the lizard tear the rock in half, it swallowed half of it and sent the other side into the sky. And because one of the rocks was flipped onto its back, it got repelled by the piece in the monster’s stomach and stayed up there.”

Jack frowned. “So the lizard followed us?”

“It followed its gut.”

“Weird.” Jack reached down and pulled the Parcheesi board out of the sand. “I like it.”

“I told you.” Alice said. “Rocks don’t float.”

He dug through the sand and managed to find some of the pawns. Enough to play with, at least. “They could, though. Here.”

“In your magical desert.”

Jack dug deeper. “Well. How else would you explain a magnetic rock?”

Alice wanted to mutter that rocks could very well be magnetic, but somehow, the argument didn’t convince her. So she shut up and let Jack dig for senseless playthings in the sand.

Marie got to her feet, walked over to the beat and checked it out. “Right. Who’s up for some broiled Ladder Lizard?” She walked up to the creature and started inspecting it. Suddenly, she let out a yell. “You!”

Everyone looked up. Alice could see Brock halfway hidden inside the creature’s mouth. He had just been about to make a break for it, but seeing Marie, his body went limp. He fell down into the sand.

“Don’t eat me!”

Marie frowned. “Why would I eat you?”

Jack spoke. “You’re not going anywhere.”

Brock looked at Jack, a mixture of fear and self-loathing on his face. “I want to live! Please let me go! Don’t kill me!”

Marie cracked her knuckles. Arbuck cocked his gun. And even Alice pulled her eyes to slits. But it was Jack, their captain, who acted.

“Kill you?” Jack pulled his eyes to slits. “I’m going to destroy you.” Then, he grinned and held out his hand. In it lay a sandy dice. “At Parcheesi.”

And so they had broiled Ladder Lizard, played Parcheesi, and Jack destroyed them.

Good times.