Opinion | Biff America: Soundly confused
“Are you insane?”
If anyone else had asked me that, I would feel compelled to emphatically answer, “Why? What have you heard?” But in this case, I assumed the query was rhetorical.
A rhetorical question is one asked to make a point or one to which the questioner already knows the answer. Since it was my wife, Ellie, who asked if I was nuts, my assumption was that it was the former.
But honestly I was at a loss for what I did wrong.
We had just finished a nice breakfast at a fairly busy restaurant and had made two new friends.
The place was bustling and loud. I often have trouble hearing in crowded places, but we snagged a nice two-top off to the side.
It took a while for our meals to arrive, but we were in no rush. There was self-serve coffee, and we passed the time visiting with an attractive young couple from California who was sitting at a table next to us. The dude looked to be in his 40s, buff (pecs hard enough to crack eggs on), wealthy and handsome. The gal much the same but perhaps half his age. They had spent the past six weeks enjoying their trophy-home in Summit County.
They said they were returning to their place on the coast in southern California the next day. Though the guy seemed bummed to be leaving, his wife not so much. Though she loved it here, she said she was looking forward to the beach and wearing less fleece and more swimsuits.
Perhaps from my craggy face, that has seen decades of high-altitude winters, and wearing a down vest in summer, they tagged us as locals. After questions and observations about traffic, parking, the troll and why no one obeys pedestrian signals, we got on the subject of the availability of tradesmen.
They had spent much of their time here doing or paying for home improvements with limited success. I told them with the short summer season, it can be difficult to get tradesmen to show up for minor estimates and jobs.
As mentioned, I can’t hear well in crowded rooms and have a great difficulty picking up high sounds. I often can’t hear alarms, beepers or when my mate criticizes me in an upper register. I hate always asking others to repeat themselves, so often I’ll pretend to understand what is being said and respond innocuously, “Right,” “yeah,” “I know,” “I hear ya” (even though I don’t).
As the room got more crowded, I had to lean in to listen. But I did my best to give them the names and numbers of local talent who I had done business with, but I cautioned they, too, would be very busy.
By far, their biggest concern was prepping their property for wildfire mitigation. They mentioned having another home in northern California fairly near to where last summer’s flames decimated Paradise, California.
But unlike plumbing, painting and electrical work, the guy said he enjoyed working in his yard himself. He said he got a kick out of cutting, pruning and otherwise creating defensible space around his home. He called himself a Gucci lumberjack.
The restaurant was getting louder, but I heard him say something about one final effort of clearing some dead bushes later that day, and his wife said she was going to a local spa.
Eventually, the restaurant’s echo made conversation between tables impossible. Luckily, our meals arrived, and my mate and I ate in silence.
By the time we paid our check, the place was packed. As Ellie and I walked out, I wished the couple safe travels.
We had just gotten out the door when my mate asked. “Are you insane?”
It seems that while the guy and I were discussing defensible space and wildfire mitigation, the young lady kept joining the conversation, but with her higher voice, I missed much of what was said.
According to Ellie while the guy and I were talking about clearing his land of bushes near his house, his wife interrupted saying she wouldn’t be helping because she didn’t want to ruin her nails and instead was going to the salon to get a bikini wax.
According to my mate, I looked the woman in the eye and said, “I would definitely recommend that because dead shrubbery is both ugly and a fire hazard.”
Ellie said the lady seemed offended.
Using a low voice, she suggested I look into a hearing aid.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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