every so often i get an inappropriate comment from someone to the effect of, “gee, it must be nice to just turn off your hearing aids and not hear” or “what i would give to have your hearing problem today” to which i usually say, “hey dumbass – i’d trade you any day.”
there are few benefits involved in hearing loss – the cost of equipment, the things i cannot do, the social things that are missed out on, the annoyance of loud restaurants, not being able to swim or be out in the rain and hear, advantages students take when they realize you can’t hear, loss of patience from people who are tired of repeating themselves for you, etc. – it’s a costly disability any way you slice it.
the few “benefits” there are can be counted on one hand – i’ll tell you about the first one today.
lise and i lived in washington d.c. & baltimore for close to ten years – our favorite outings were ones where we would get in the car, gas up the tank, and drive and explore. there were a number of state and national parks within a couple hours’ drive and we always loved going & hiking, driving, picnicking, etc.
but the cost. holy crap. i mean, we’re talking 15 years ago and i remember having to pay $5 to get into shenandoah national park in virginia (it’s now $8 to $15 per car, depending on the season). assateague island was around $8 (and it’s also now up to $15). blackwater national wildlife reserve was $2 or $3 to drive through, even. we were floored, although we paid and usually had to save up to do it. it sure seems silly now, but that’s how poor we were with lise full time in school and neither of us making much money.
so picture this: one day we’re in a line of cars leading up to the entrance to shenandoah in front royal, virginia. their big welcoming sign posts all their fees, etc. and down toward the bottom…
“Golden Access Card – Disabled – FREE“
i turned to lise and said, “gee, i wonder what constitutes ‘disabled’ here?” figuring it was more profoundly handicapped.
we pulled up to the window and i handed the dude my $5. as he’s handing me my receipt, the following conversation takes place:
“here’s your change and a map of the park, sir.”
“thanks. hey, what do i have to do to get a Golden Access Card?”
“what’s your disability?”
“uh, (looks at watch) about 2:00.”
he glances at my hearing aid, motions for the receipt back, hands me my $5, points up the hill and annunciates clearly while looking me square in the face, “drive up the hill and turn into the ranger station. they’ll give you an application and a card.”
and with that, i got a golden access card, allowing me into any national park in the country. for free.
we’ve used the thing a lot over the years but lost track of the card maybe 6 years ago. during the move, it was discovered in a box and set aside.
today we hit gulf island national seashore at perdido key – the card still works.
uh, about 2:00.