Monday, November 14, 2011

Safety First

     Two years ago, my best friend George and I went to a Metallica concert. We camped at the entrance overnight so we could get in early, and we ended up making our way to the very front of the stage. A huge speaker, almost the size of my house, towered over us. Fortunately, I came prepared.
     “What are you doing?” George asked when he saw me fumbling in my pocket.
     “Earplugs,” I said, producing the small foam cylinders.
     “Earplugs? You’re going to wear earplugs?” He punched me in the shoulder. “We camped out all night to get this close, and you want to block the noise? You must be crazy!”
     “Safety first,” I said, shoving them in my ears.
     Seconds later, Metallica took the stage. When the first guitar chord struck, I saw George crouch over in pain, clutching his head between his hands. I didn’t notice when he lost consciousness, but I really enjoyed the show.
     George lost most of his hearing that night. That was a real bummer because we couldn’t go to rock shows together anymore. He was so upset that he almost never left his house. I pleaded with him for months to come hang out with me, and I even learned sign language so we could communicate, but he always said he couldn’t enjoy life without sound.
     One day, about a year ago, I found just the thing to cheer him up. A local movie theater showed a Charlie Chaplin marathon. All silent movies. Reluctantly, George agreed to come out, and he grew more and more excited as we entered the theater. I think it meant a lot to him that we could share the experience in the same way.
     We found our seats, and just before the theater lights dimmed George reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a pair of sunglasses.
     “What are you doing?” I signed when I saw him put them on.
     “Safety first,” he said.
     I started to sign that he was an idiot, but the lights went out and he could no longer see me. Seconds later, the projector flickered on.
     I lost most of my eyesight that night, due to the intense brightness of the projector reflecting off the screen.
     Hanging out with George became even more difficult, but we still managed to get out once in a while. He would guide me and I would translate words into sign language for him. Last night, we decided to go to a wine tasting together. He led me up to the tasting counter and placed a glass in my hand. I set it down in a place where I could find it again and signed what the server was saying.
     “This particular syrah,” he started, “has strong notes of cinnamon and apple, with a touch of clove and a slightly musty aroma. You really need to inhale a strong whiff of its bouquet to fully appreciate it.”
     I could hear him pouring a glass. Immediately, I held my hand out to George and he placed a small piece of plastic in it.
     “What are you guys doing?” the server asked. I could sense that George was duplicating my actions.
     “Nose plugs,” I said, adjusting the clamp over my nostrils.
     “That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard,” the server said. “How can you appreciate the aroma with nose plugs?”
     George and I said the words at the same time. “Safety first.”

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