A story about communication difficulties: The Tramp Photographer
A rainy Monday morning in Manchester. I arrived at the office after a week-long holiday in Helsinki. I made tea for the team and caught up on the latest news from Steve who proceeded to tell me about our new Contacts Database Consultant... “Well.. his name is Jim, and he is settling in well, he’ll be working with Tina and just a heads up... he likes to talk a lot.” “Oh dear,” I replied, “I’ll have to turn my Cochlear Implant off if he’s too loud.” Steve laughed and continued talking, “Jim spoke to me for an hour about his hobby... taking photographs of tramps.” I looked at Steve puzzled, “Did you say, tramps? He likes taking photographs of tramps?!”; “I said. “Yes,” said Steve, “I couldn’t shut him up.” I laughed. At that point, the fire alarm went off, so we left the conversation there. How intrigued I was. I had never met someone before who had such an unusual hobby. How did he get permission to take pictures of tramps? Was it not a controversial hobby? What did he do with the images? And what of Jim himself? He must be a fascinating character and dare I say it… a little odd. I mean... it isn't every day you meet someone who likes tramps. My curiosity was at a peak now. I couldn’t wait to meet Jim!
Two days later, Jim returned to the office. I was in bright and early and couldn’t contain my excitement. My chance to meet the Tramp Photographer at last! Steve did the introductions. He then proceeded to drone on about the contacts database project, “And so Jim will be leading, designing a prototype... blah blah blah." I felt myself gazing into space, and then I blurted it out…. the quickest and most random sentence, “Steve tells me you like taking pictures of tramps.” The room went silent, and Steve looked down at the floor. Jim looked at me puzzled. For one moment I thought he had no idea what I was saying. But, then his eyes lit up as if he’d taken a moment to register what I had said and he smiled. “Ah yes of course. Would you like to see my photos? I’ve been away this weekend taking pictures.” I nodded again and again to the point that I felt like my head was going to fall off. It was the moment I’d waited for. “Give me ten minutes to set my laptop up, and I’ll show you my pictures. Is this okay?” Ten minutes I thought. He’s going to make me wait ten minutes?! How dare he. “Yes of course” I replied, and I smiled but it was the smile of impatience, and it made me look deranged. Get a bloody move on I thought.
Ten minutes later and I heard the magic words from Jim, “Come over, the photos are ready to see.” It was music to my Cochlear Implant ears. Jim points to his laptop screen, “These are the pictures of Tramps I took in Stockholm at the weekend.” I stand beside him and look, but I can't contain my surprise when I see the photos. They are colourful pictures of what seems like transport. I look closer at the screen, and I see rows and rows of pictures of trams! I look at Jim who notices my bewilderment, “I thought you were showing me pictures of tramps,” I splutter. Jim starts laughing, “No, I’m a tram enthusiast. My hobby is taking pictures of trams!”
In telling this story, I have not disclosed, until now, that Steve is deaf in one ear. Alongside this, my pronunciation of the word 'tramps' was not crystal clear. I was also prone to mishearing and misreading the lip patterns for the word tramps. This event occurred one year after my Cochlear Implant operation. I was still in a period of transition with my communication.
Steve, Jim and I laugh about this story to this day. Sure, I used to get annoyed with myself when I had communication mix-ups. But, I realise now that life is too short. I am not perfect, and I can laugh at myself. Laughter, after all, is the best medicine.
I do love the stories around communication mishaps. One of my favourite comedies is 'Fawlty Towers.' Do check out the episode titled ‘Communication Problems.' It centres around a demanding woman called Mrs. Richards, who is hard of hearing. She checks into the Fawlty Towers hotel. Basil, Sybil, and Polly, the hotel staff, find themselves with a tough customer. It's British comedy at it's finest.
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