The Reading of the Lips

Papa was hard of hearing. He had a good ear and a bad ear, and over the course of the years, the good ear got worse. We learned at a very young age to make sure we had Papa’s attention before we spoke and to speak loudly and slowly. Papa could hear some, but he also read lips to help fill in the blanks.

I grew up understanding the concept of reading lips, but as someone who could hear, didn’t really think much about it beyond knowing it helped Papa undstand us.

Then my mom turned me on to baseball and the Cubs.

The manager when I was a kid was Don Zimmer and he was a fiery, round man who liked to argue with the umpires. I remember him getting thrown out of several games. There’s nothing like a kid’s curiousity and I was dying to know what Don Zimmer said to get thrown out of the games. Since I couldn’t hear, I decided to do what Papa did and learn to read lips.

I taught myself by watching movies that I had memorized. I knew all the words, so I’d watch them without the sound on and watch how the actors spoke. From there it was just a matter of translating what I saw there to other people. It took some practice, but I got the hang of it.

The new skill served me well. I finally could figure out what Don Zimmer was saying when he argued with the umpires.

Turned out it was a long string of curse words, but the magic word seemed to be “mother fucker”. If you’re worried about my young girl’s mind being warped by being exposed to that word, please don’t. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it…er…read it.

Since then I’ve applied it to more than just baseball. I’ve developed my own troubles hearing in certain situations and lip reading has bailed me out of some awkward situations.

I’ve also developed the odd habit of watching TV with the sound off. I’ve watched a lot of TV shows that way and for the most part I can keep up with the show. Obviously, I’m at a disadvantage if the speaker has their back to me or if there’s a lot of movement. However, I have gotten pretty good at filling in the blanks.

Or in the case of SyFy movies, making the movie even more interesting.

Now that I’ve gone full circle in a sense and am back to watching baseball regularly, I find myself once again being thankful for my skill. Sure it’s great for arguing managers, but my skills have improved since I was a kid. Now I use it to see what guys are talking about in the dugout and on the mound. I get a heads up at what pitch is coming next and I get to see what the guys on the bench and in the bullpen are discussing (hint: it’s not always baseball).

I’m still stumped by Spanish, though.

That’ll be the next level.

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