Michael Fahey: A few moments without my hearing aids in, observing coffee shop life

Posted on March 4, 2014

We were in the local Starbucks for a coffee last week and I didn’t have my hearing aids in (too much background noise for me). Which gave me the chance to observe what was happening around me.

My wife nipped to the loo and so I’m sat peacefully on my own and all around me are people chatting and enjoying their coffee. I am doing my usual perusal of my fellow man while wincing at how bitter the coffee is (why I drink this stuff I don’t know).

There are two girls laughing and smiling across from me, a big long haired bearded guy with shorts on is well into his laptop, headphones on, feet tapping away and nodding his head to the music, three paint splattered workmen in front of me seem to be sniggering at something, and the queue of people at the coffee bar snakes almost through the doors into the street.

They too, seem to be extraordinarily happy with their lot, grinning and smiling to themselves. Makes a change to see so many people happy for a change….

I feel like I am the only sad miserable old git in the shop, when my wife comes back and sits down beside me laughing to herself. Now what’s she giggling about? I think, and look at her questioningly.

She explained “I was queuing for the loo and I thought I could hear someone singing away inside… but when the door opened it was a quite grumpy old lady… no way was she singing in there! It’s only when I got back here I realised it’s that guy over there with the laptop… he’s singing really loud and he’s quite good.”

I looked across at the guy again, and this time it was obvious that he was singing, eyes closed, shaking his head like a demented Stevie Wonder… really enjoying himself.

Finally I smiled… Yes. That was the effect he was having on everyone around him, the whole shop was listening to him and looking at him enjoying himself and he totally lit the shop up.

Even though I could not hear him, the sight of so many happy people could not fail to lift my spirits.

And THEN… a member of staff walked over to him and asked him to leave because he had finished his drink!

He was sadly packing his laptop away when a lady in the queue put a fresh cup of coffee in front of him.

As she put it down, she looked at him and smiled.

Mike is a semi-retired fine artist working from his home studio in Lancashire. As a profoundly deaf lip reader, he is just one of a large family with a genetic history of deafness. Mike attended a mainstream school before being transferred to a school for the deaf aged 11. He worked as a landscape gardener for thirty years and married Sara (who is hearing), then attended university as a mature student and gained a BA and MA in Fine Art. He is father to a son (hearing) and daughter (deaf on one side) and is currently preparing for cochlear implant surgery.

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