Viewing but wondering what they said

When Better Half and I watch movies or TV shows together, it’s not too far into the story line when we gaze deeply into each other’s eyes and ask the same question: Huhh?

What did they say? Did you hear that?

It’s usually followed by a frown or two, a shrug of the shoulders, sometimes a scolding ssshhhh! so we can concentrate extra hard on hearing, but ultimately there comes that truthful admission.

I don’t know. Beats me.

By the time all this happens, we’ve missed a crucial part of the story, at least two, three or four scenes, we don’t know what’s happening, but we keep watching anyway, hoping to put bits and pieces together, play catch-up and get the general drift of what’s going on before the closing credits.

I don’t think it’s just us, that our hearing is that bad or anything.

I blame it on a lot of factors – a diagnosis that includes a “low talker” syndrome, funny accents, poor pronunciation, talking too fast and a lack of lingo knowledge on my part. Let’s face it, if you’re watching a movie about horse racing, for example, and you don’t know track talk, it can be hard to follow the dialogue and know what’s going on.

Accents are another reason I’m left in the translation dark.

I was interested in watching “Downton Abbey” after I’d heard so many people rave about how great it is. Dummy me, I thought it was “Downtown Abbey.” Duhhh. That should have been my first clue that things would progress from bad to worse.

I watched about a third of the first episode and was exhausted from ear squinting.

So much for following British drama.

Oddly enough, I don’t have this no-can-hear experience when I watch the old TV shows – “Big Valley,” “I Love Lucy” “Hawaii Five-O,” “The Honeymooners” and Jackie Gleason promising, “One of these days, Alice!”

TV isn’t the only time, however, when I face challenges hearing conversations.

I’m reminded of the time when we were out with acquaintances for dinner one evening. I was sitting next to someone who’s a notorious mumbler. He leaned toward me at one point to say something that I didn’t hear despite requests that he repeat himself. Since he was laughing each time, I laughed a little, too, figuring that whatever he was trying to tell me was humorous. OK. So be it. Done.

But then he nudged me, urging me to tell Better Half what he’d told me – that much I heard. Uh-oh.

I gave this deep thought, paused and then leaned into Better Half, telling him I had no idea of the content of the message I was pretending to relay, but please laugh when I’m finished, as if I’ve told you something comical.

That Better Half did. The mumbler seemed satisfied that the message had been successfully conveyed.

Thank goodness that went OK.

And thank goodness for repeats on TV and DVDs and rewinds.

It cuts down on the “Huhhs?” in the household.

(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at