“Given a chance to truly express yourself, you can change the world.” (Well, so says the box, at least.)

(This one is for LA, who emailed me recently to say she had thought of me while cell-phone shopping, and who struggles far more than I could ever even know. Much love, peace, and strength to you, always.)

Sometime last week, my dad decided to switch wireless plans, and went out and splurged on brand-new, shiny cell phones for Shereen and me. “It’s cute,” I said, inspecting it dubiously. New cell phones never inspire much excitement in me the first time around. Not before I’ve tried them out myself, that is. And sure enough, I wandered around the courtyard sing-songing, “I can’t hearrrrrr youuuu,” to Shereen, who stood inside and dialed my new number, her own cell phone held to her ear.

So I went on a mission a few days ago. To the wireless store. To fulfill my dad’s expectations that I will indeed find Perfect Cell Phone Number Three on my own, and to get my fourth wireless number in three years. Such drama. Trust me, you don’t even know.

I’m probably somewhat of a disgrace to deaf and hard-of-hearing people. (Not that I know any others in real life.) But I don’t know sign language, although my lip-reading skills rock das Haus, thank you very much. I barely, vaguely know what a TTY device is. I absolutely refuse to use a T-coil loop and headset with my cell phone. And my idea of “hearing aid compatible” varies widely from that of cell phone manufacturers, I’ve discovered.

“What do you mean your phone’s not hearing aid compatible?” asked the girl at the wireless store, when I went back to return the phone my dad bought me. “It should be.” She showed me the top of the box. “See? It says ‘TTY compatible.’ It should be working just fine.”

I sighed. “Well, it’s not, because I don’t use a TTY device. I just switch my hearing aid to the T-coil setting, hold a phone up to my ear, and talk. And I can’t do that with this one, because all I hear is a rushing sound.”

She called over a co-worker for advice. He suggested the T-coil loop and headset because those would allow better volume control, an idea that may have some merit, but which I flat-out dismissed as “too much of a process.” For your information, I have three earrings and a hearing aid in each ear, not to mention my head-wrap and outer scarf, and glasses/sunglasses if I choose to wear them, rare as those moments are. My poor ears. There’s no room around there for headsets and things, geez.

“Trial and error then,” he advised. “It’s messy, but it works.” He shrugged nonchalantly, and walked off whistling. I rolled my eyes at his retreating back, and turned my attention to the cell phones the girl brought out for me to try.

Basically, I sat there with my regular cell phone in one hand, switched off, and called my voicemail from the endless phones she handed me to try out. If I could hear my voicemail greeting nice and clear, then good. If not, the trial phone was relegated to the “doesn’t-work” pile. And let me tell you, there didn’t seem to be anything but the “doesn’t-work” pile.

Did you know Siemens is one of the best-known manufacturers of hearing aids? I learned this when I was eight years old, and I didn’t realize until quite recently that they make cell phones as well. And I’d like to know why their cell phones don’t work with my hearing aids; I really would. Especially since their phones look so slick. How wrong is that.

“That must be so frustrating,” said the girl carefully, neutrally, watching my face as I sat there, my eyebrow raised impatiently, listening to endless repetitions of my own voicemail greeting, shaking my head and passing the phones back to her, only to pick up the next one. I wasn’t sure if she was referring to the lengthy process involved in my picking out a cell phone, or if she meant hearing loss in general, but I decided to go with the latter. “Not really,” I answered simply. “I forget about it most of the time.” And I do. I don’t know if she quite believed me though.

The co-worker dude stopped by later to check up on how we were doing. He seemed to be shocked at the ever-growing pile of “not-working” phones, and my casual manner of testing them. “You guys,” he drawled, “I don’t believe this. Come on, have you even thought of using the volume button on the side of the phone?” The girl looked sheepish, but I didn’t like that condescending tone I detected. Hell, I didn’t particularly like him at all. “What, you seriously believe that wasn’t the first thing I thought of?” I snapped. He shrugged and wandered away again.

Would you believe that after going through a towering piles of at least two dozen phones, there were only two that worked? It came down to this and this. Even then, I was so obsessive-compulsive, and so used to failure by then, that I had to re-try each of them several times, just to make sure. I can’t even begin to tell you how unbelievably tired I am of hearing my own voice say, This is Yasmine. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you. Maybe I should record a new voicemail greeting. Something mean-spirited and along the lines of, Stop calling me, dammit. Leave me alone. Hang up. Go away. My friends would absolutely love it, I know. It’s just the kind of thing they’ve learned to expect from me. But my daddy-o calls me quite often from the road, too, and ends up leaving hilarious rambling mushy lovely messages for me, and he just won’t be amused. Darn.

So the wonderfully patient girl (bless her) gave me more information about the two phones that worked. And I came home and thought it over for a couple days, and then went back last night to actually buy one of them. The girl was gone, but I took a seat, leaned my elbows on the counter, and explained my situation to a nice helpful guy working there. He stared at me, baffled. I raised an eyebrow in amused expectation. When people stare so bewilderedly, so confusedly, they are about to say something hilarious. This I have always found to be true. In this case, he waved his hands around in the air and stuttered, “But…but you’re hearing me perfectly fine right now.” I laughed. “The power of hearing aids,” I said, somewhat sardonically. I then played some eeni-meeni-minee-mo (not really), and came home with this phone after all. (I laugh everytime I look at it. It’s so…flat!)

And then Shereen and I played around with ring-tones, and that probably requires a whole separate post of its own.

[Now go read LA’s post, because it’s so sad and beautiful and eye-opening that I’ve had it stuck in my head all day.]

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