Beware of Old People Who Can’t Hear

It started with a simple comment about underwear. My dad-in-law was over, along with my mom-in-law, for Christmas Eve dinner. The evening was filled with light conversation and a wonderful meal filled with Osso Buco, rissoto, and wine. With dinner over and us now gathered in the living room, he excused himself to the bathroom. It was upon his return and his simple questioning about “armor underwear” that I realized we are now in for a world of change where we can no longer talk about old people behind their backs, or in front of them, or when they go to the bathroom.

And it’s all Steve Jobs’ fault.

Some short backstory.

We all know that one of the things that can degrade as we age is our hearing, and like many an older person my dad-in-law is no different. It probably started with a lot of “What did you say?” and “Huh?”, then progressed to denial and a lot of “What did you say?” and “Huh?”, and then progressed to getting hearing aids that never seem to work well and a lot of “What did you say?” and “Huh?” You could hear the feedback loop at times, road noise and restaurant noise always seemed to interfere with a conversation, and even with the hearing aids there was a lot of repeating of conversations.

Those were the old days. Papa got new hearing aids, and they pair with his iPhone.

Yup. For the past few years I’ve mentioned to him that they are now making hearing aids that work with the Bluetooth in the iPhone. You can use your phone to adjust the volume, adjust bass and treble, there are settings for when you are in noisy situations, and will let you know when your hearing aid batteries need changing. Isn’t technology grand! He has an iPhone but doesn’t use it nearly as much as my Snapchatting mom-in-law, GrandmaEleanor, but a few weeks ago he took the plunge and immersed himself in the world of new hearing aids, a set that pair with his phone. Yes there was the slight learning curve and getting used to them, but he soon discovered that one of the nice things was a feature called “Live Listen” where you can use the microphone on your iPhone to “hear” conversations, meaning that you can put your phone closer to a conversation, let’s say between your wife and daughter as they are talking across the room, and you can now be part of the conversation. He wouldn’t have to just watch the picture on TV and wonder if they were talking about him. Good news for him, but probably bad news for my mom-in-law!

He also discovered you can also spy on people’s conversations when you, say, go to the bathroom.

Back to the underwear.

As I mentioned he excused himself to go to the bathroom, and the conversation between my wife and mom-in-law drifted to last year’s Christmas dinner and a game between the siblings called “Rob Your Neighbor.” My wife donated a myriad of items, include some Under Armour clothing items. Simple enough conversation, but then the world turned. My dad-in-law comes back and says something like “Who got the armor underwear?” We looked at him and said “What?” “I heard your conversation when I was in the bathroom, through my phone.”

It didn’t occur to us when he went to the bathroom that yes, his phone was set on “Live Listen” and there it was, in between my wife and mom-in-law, so even though he went to do his business, there he was in the bathroom hearing everything that was being said, albeit still missing bits and pieces. My dad-in-law had now turned into an undercover spy!

This is greatness for my dad-in-law, but now my mom-in-law has to always be aware of where his iPhone is, and not out of worry he might leave it behind somewhere, but because he might now be his alter-ego, “Grandpa Al: Master Spy.”

As Christmas 2015 is now behind us, and technology continues to amaze us, I must issue a warning: Beware of old people with hearing aids! Yes, it’s great that Steve Jobs brought us the iPhone and enhanced their ability to listen and be part of conversations, but if your elders excuse themselves to the bathroom and just happen to “leave” their iPhone so they don’t “drop it in the toilet,” beware, they might just be trying to see if you are talking about them behind their backs.

So if you are at the opening of your parent’s will hoping for your payday, don’t be surprised if it reads “Remember at Christmas 2016 when I went to the take a dump, and you said your Dad was bat-shit crazy but has a ton of dough, and you couldn’t wait for me to die! I heard you through my iPhone. Well, I’m dead, and I’m giving all of my “dough” to the dog. How’s that for “bat-shit crazy!” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!