Thursday, September 21, 2017

September 21, 2017--Audiological Tale: Sound Czech (Concluded)

We were watching TV and I was using the bluetooth device my audiologist, Dr. Gary Schwartzberg, had given me that transmits sound from the TV directly to my hearing aids. To activate this feature, I needed to click on the remote control he had supplied and then when done watching turn it off. When I did so, I heard something in the Czech woman's prompt that I hadn't heard before, something incomprehensible to me. I assumed it was in Czech itself, not Czech-accented English.

Perplexed, I told Rona about it and her first reaction was to be dismissive. "Here we go again," she said, "More hearing aid craziness."

"But I thought you said you liked what was going on with the loaner hearing aid, when it was, how to put this, talking to me. Remember? You just now said it was exciting."

"Fair enough, "she said, "I tell you what, let me have your hearing aids, which I can put in my ears, and then hear for myself what you're talking about."

I removed them and passed them to her. She inserted them and asked what I had done to hear the Czech voice. I told her to click on the button on the remote that turns on the TV sound. She did and heard nothing. "Try again," I said, "Sometimes you have to do it two or three times to make it work."

She tried it a few more times but with the same result--it didn't turn on. "Let me have them back," I said, "Maybe you didn't click hard enough or who knows what."

I pushed the bluetooth button and immediately could hear the TV through my hearing aids. I also heard the same Czech words as before. "It's working," I said, "Including that Czech woman who Gary hooked me up to. Try again." Once more I passed the hearing aids to her.

Rona tried and again there was nothing. I was feeling agitated, she was feeling frustrated. They seemed to work for me but not for her. How could that be? 

"I'll tell you what--I'll keep the devices in my ears and you can get close to me and put your ear next to the hearing aid in my right ear to see if you can listen in to what I'm hearing. That should work because it's pretty loud."

She did and signaled she was hearing what I was hearing--the Czech voice. 

"What is she saying?" Rona asked. "I can't quite make it out. Maybe turn it off and on again. She seems to say the same thing every time you do that. It will help me figure it out."

I did, and again we both heard the voice. Doing this three or four more times, Rona said, "I'm beginning to understand her. Not that I understand what she's saying. It must be in the Czech language, but I think she's saying something like be-yekima."

Excited, I said, "Let's look it up on the Internet where you can type in a word or phrase in Czech and it gives you the English translation." 

We tried that a number of times but nothing even close appeared on the translation webpage. "This is making me crazy," I said, "I know you've found tapping into Gary's other life to be interesting, and I agree. But this is starting to feel more aggravating than interesting. I thought switching from an American-English prompting voice to a Czech one would not be about receiving actual Czech words but would be English words spoken by a computer-generated voice with a Czech accent. What's going on feels like a lot more than that."

"Why do you think Gary didn't make that distinction?" Rona asked. 

"That's a good question. Maybe he's enjoying sharing some of his past with us and each time we go for an appointment teases us by revealing other aspects of it. Maybe he's done some work with Czech operatives. Before the breakup of the Soviet Union they were occupied by the Russians. Maybe this whole Czech thing comes from his experiences with that. That is," I said, "assuming he had some sort of Czech connection. Minimally, I'm totally confused."

"We have to ask him," Rona said. But before she could complete her thought, I heard another, different word.

"Come back," I said, "There's a new word coming through. I can't quite make it out." Rona pulled up a chair right next to me so she too could hear what I was receiving. "Can you make that out?"

"It sounds like pumice me," Rona said. "Which obviously makes no sense whatsoever."

"Not if it's an attempt at English. But what if it's in Czech? Which I suspect from the experience we just had with be-yekima it likely does. That no matter what it might mean, bottom line is that it sounds like a Czech expression. Again, not a version of an English word. Let's see what we can figure out from the translation webpage.

I entered pumice me and clicked enter. Nothing came up, which, considering how this was going, was not a surprise.

Rona said, "Let me run a series of other possibilities, varying the spelling. Maybe if I get close enough we'll stumble on what it means."

She worked at this systematically for about half an hour, trying various spellings, but produced no positive results. But when she got to pomuz-me she got a response--pomus mi in Czech means help me.

We were stunned. Exhausted, and now exhilarated by what we were being drawn into. We speculated about what all this might mean. We thought it must be something from Gary's other life. Was the computer-generated voice trying to communicate with us? To get us to do something to free her? If so, where was she? Assuming the voice was human. Or was "she" like Apple's Siri? A digital "person"?

The more we thought about this, the more confused and the more intrigued we became. I knew there would be no sleep for me that night. There would be no way to shut this down or ignore what was happening. I suspected that the next time I turned on the TV we would hear more from her.

Equally agitated, Rona said, "We need to see Gary before your next appointment. As soon as possible. Tomorrow if he can work us into his schedule. This is not going to go away. It could be that someone, the Czech woman, again assuming this is coming from a real person, is in danger."

So the next day, as expected after not getting much sleep, we did arrange to see Gary. 

As if not surprised to hear from us, he said, "Why don't you come by this afternoon and we can talk. In the meantime, stay calm." I thought I heard him chuckling.

"Easy for you to say," I shot back. I was feeling that he was playing with me, concocting situations and scenarios to get inside my head, "You get me all riled up and then tell me to be calm. How helpful do you think that is?" I had never spoken to him that way.

"I hear you," he said, sounding professional, "Come by any time this afternoon. Angie will squeeze you in."

Later that day when we saw Gary, without any preamble, I said, "OK what's going on? I know, I've been having some fun with you, maybe at times I crossed the line, but this Czech business is making me crazy."

Gary listened, smiling, not saying anything. So, I continued, "I love your stories and enjoy when you string me along. I really do. I enjoy the play and would not be happy if you stopped. But this one . . ."

Interrupting, Gary said, "I wish about this one I could tell you more. But," he shrugged, "I can't. Sorry."

"What? Why then . . ."

Rona cut in and said to me, "Why don't you just enjoy this. Not everything has to be fully known or even make sense. Loosen up a bit and enjoy the ride."

I thought about that for a moment and said, "I noticed you also didn't do much sleeping last night. But loosening up and going with the flow is not natural for me. I'm more about finding solutions and solving problems."

"My recommendation," Gary said, "is that about this you listen to Rona."

We sat there for another ten minutes, none of us saying anything. Standing up, Rona finally said, "We need to shop for dinner." She came over to where I was slumped in the chair and put her arms around me.

"One more thing," Gary said, "Before you go, let me switch you back to the American-English prompt. I think you've had enough Czech for the moment. You've been Czech-mated!" 

He loves puns and we heard him laughing as we headed out.

Czech Republic

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