I always thought it would be cool to have a superpower. You know, be able to fly, be invisible, walk through walls, be utterly graceful … impossible things like those.
Turns out I have a bit of a superpower after all. Took me long enough to figure that out, though. As a child, I figured it would be pretty damn obvious to me that I could do something that other people couldn’t, right? Well, it would be if I could fly or turn invisible. Those things are apparent, so to speak.
Instead, I find that I can hear all kinds of obnoxious noises that most people cannot hear. The hell of it is, it’s a lousy superpower.
First of all, it’s hard tell you have it. I know, you don’t believe me. “What,” you ask, “is so hard about that? You hear things, other people don’t, they’re amazed. Instant fame, right?”
Fame isn’t quite the word for it. I hear things, sure. I hear all sorts of annoying high-frequency shit, mostly electronic stuff. But for the fame scenario to happen, there’s a fixed series of events that must first occur.
Firstly, I must realise that I am hearing something that other people aren’t. Most of the time I don’t know what other people aren’t hearing. High-frequency noises are background annoyances; they’re not the sort of things that are important to the average person’s Ümwelt, their significant, subjective sensory world. (Probably because er, a lot of people can’t hear them, at least not past youth.) Since they’re not especially notable, the sounds are not common signifiers. People who can hear them don’t have a functional use for such noises, and therefore don’t mention them. I just assume that nearly everyone’s hearing what I’m hearing. It’s not until I make mention of something, asking “What the hell is that annoying noise?” or noting with alarm, “Something is seriously wrong with your hard drive — it sounds ‘sour’,” that we both realise that I’m hearing things, and they aren’t.
Or rather, they think that I’m “just hearing things”. And there’s the second failure point in the fixed series. Either they think that I’m imagining noises because they can’t hear them, or they think I’m just being whiney because what’s obnoxious to me is barely perceptible to them. The third failure point in the fixed series is that they have to value — or at least be impressed by — the “superpower”. But no one is. I’ve yet to do anything heroic with such an ability, aside from predicting the immanent demise of a computer that everyone knew was old and cranky anyway.
These are not the grand moments of realised superpowers we script in our daydreams.
Granted, there is something satisfying about announcing to a student, “Your cell phone’s ringing; weren’t you supposed to keep that in your locker?” Student of course denies having the device on their person. Student thinks they’re being clever by having downloaded that “mosquito ringtone” that supposedly older people can’t hear. I of course, can hear it, despite belonging to the demographic group that gets dubious thrills like annual mammograms.
(If clicking on the mosquito ringtone link in the article to listen to the 17 kHz sample, then laptop users should first plug in some high-quality headphones because crappy laptop speakers don’t go that high.)
And it’s only a little useful, inasmuch as I have SuperMomHearing above and beyond all such necessities, which neatly made for my (ex-)husband’s hearing loss, but also which made for poor sleep. There’s nothing like waking bolt upright because a cat is hacking, two stories down, at the other end of the house. (That’s “hacking” as in coughing up hairballs; we don’t have LOLcats fixing motherboards or scripting code.)
Not only can I hear all this stuff, but I’m overly-sensitive to loud, sudden or high-pitched noises. When someone drops a glass in a restaurant, I nearly jump out of my seat. I keep earplugs in my purse to dampen overwhelming situations, and try to avoid being indoors when they test fire alarms at school.
Can I sue my Fairy Godmother for malpractice? Most of the gifts are okay, but was it really necessary to give me the hyperacussis, or Muses that are such night-owls? I mean hell, I’m exhausted, it’s midnight, and then one’s gotta grab me by the collar and pester me until I’ve written out some long piece of poetry or prose. And although it’s handy to be able to scratch my own back, the weird bendy tricks that come with hypermobility don’t really make up for the creeping osteoarthritis. But that’s a rant for another day …
(Speaking of Beings Fantastickal, I really need someone to come by and engage in some pest control, as we have a terrible infestation of Tea-Sucking Færies. No sooner than I brew myself a nice cuppa then I turn my back to attend to a needy cat, or go riffling through a stack of papers or heap of books, and one of them flits by and has drained off a goodly portion, leaving me cold dregs. They’re a right bastard of a nuisance, especially considering they like to mischievously break pencil points.)