Generalissimo Franco is still dead!!
The first time I heard that line in the mid-’70s – delivered by SNL’s Chevy Chase, and re-shouted by Garrett Morris for the hearing impaired – I thought it was hilarious. (SNL sketch) When I heard it just recently – delivered by a guy on a tennis court – I also thought it was hilarious, but for different reasons.
Today I’m very comfortable talking about the fact that I wear hearing aids. But this wasn’t always the case. I’m embarrassed to admit that for quite some time, I thought the ringing in my ears – tinnitus is the medical term – was caused by crickets in the yard and in our walls. I never thought it was my hearing. I spent years asking people to repeat things. Consequently, What?? became the most common word I uttered to my wife, son, friends, clients, waiters, and anyone else I needed to interact with in order to conduct my everyday life.
Finally, I agreed to have my hearing tested. Shortly thereafter, I reluctantly joined the AARP generation and bought hearing aids.
I dreaded wearing them in public. I had vivid memories of my mom’s hearing aids. She would frequently forget to turn them on. Or when she did turn them on, they made that annoying high-pitched whistling noise, which was probably why she “forgot” to turn them on. She was embarrassed.
I knew I would be equally embarrassed: going to dinner parties, poker games, client meetings, bars and restaurants. People would start treating me differently. They’d start enunciating everything ve-ry loud-ly and slow-ly. Just like Garrett Morris.
Pleasant surprise: that didn’t happen. Because hearing aids are so effectively camouflaged now, most people didn’t notice them unless I pointed them out. And because many of my friends were hearing their own crickets, they were eager to talk about my experience. I became the hearing aid pioneer in our group of friends.
I’ve worn hearing aids for several years now. I don’t even think about them.
But I take them out when I play tennis. So when anyone says something to me on the court, unless I’m right next to the guy, I probably don’t understand what he’s saying. I just smile, nod my head, and hope that he didn’t just say, “Call 911, I’m having a heart attack.”
A few weeks ago I was playing doubles against two younger guys. In spite of their youth, my partner and I were easily winning. When one of them called out the score, I didn’t hear him. I said, “What?” He repeated it, in the same conversational tone, and I still didn’t hear. I asked again, and that’s when he very cleverly shouted, “Generalissimo Franco is still dead!!” I laughed so hard, I could barely return his serve.
Why was this so funny to me?
For one, I was surprised he was old enough to know that classic SNL line.
Also, I’ll admit that I enjoyed the fact that while he was cleverly making light of my hearing inadequacy, my partner and I were deftly exposing his and his partner’s tennis inadequacy.
But most importantly, right then I realized that sometime between 1975 and now, I had joined the demographic to whom Garrett Morris was shouting those headlines. Not my grandfather, not my mother, but me!
75 million baby boomers are officially old now. And we’re the reason we regularly see a sign-language translation of important speeches, and the reason everyone can easily access subtitles for most TV programming. It’s not just a few old guys who are having trouble hearing; there are 75 million hard-of-hearing folks out here. And we’ve got clout.
I said, “WE’VE GOT CLOUT!! Generalissimo Franco is still dead… and the boomer generation is still deaf!!”