Monday, April 21, 2008

The Signaller

There are a few ways to get me to write a post about you. Being penis cleaving psychotic is one way, breaking your nose during sex is another, and so does having a disability.

Generally, I am not one to laugh at apodia or alopecia and the only disability I will outwardly scorn at is obesity. Maybe on occassions I have laughed at people with short tongue committing to a varsity debate, tussling with words like 'scrutiny' only to emerge with 'trunity'.

For the whole of last week, well, a vast part of it actually, I was stuck to a very peculiar individual whom I shall refer to as Gary, because that is his name. Gary was like every other normal white collared working male.

He was married, had a decent well paying job, had a few girl-friends on the side who worked as GRO's in KTVs or dancers at the Thai pubs, played golf, devoted a portion of his income to vice and Martell, over turned his car and had to do reservist. He was normal, save for one minor disability, he had a minor hearing problem.

This I assumed was just a 'minor' problem since he didn't have one of those hearing aids on him and he was perfectly capable of hearing words like 'sex', 'massage palours' and 'book out'. The only problem, was the vocation in which he was assigned to, that entirely perplexed me and wondered if SAF was taking a rib out of this and making it a joke.

He was a Signaller.

In case you are not familiar with this particular vocation because you don't have a penis and need not serve national service, or if you had one but you declared your love for other penises and they threw you into solitary confinement or where ever is it they post you, then allow me to break this down for you.

As a signaller, you are expected to do many un-neccessary things, like run around, carry a weapon, lay communications lines and totally disrespect the work Singtel has done for men. However, the most important job a signaller has, is to communicate via military devices that looked like a phone Sir Stamford Raffles brought when he arrived here.

In short, their job was to LISTEN to what the other party had to say and relay it to everyone else. Sounds easy? Not when you are Gary, the hearing impaired signaller.

It's bad enough that he had problems hearing people speak on a daily basis, and now he had to communicate information via distorted lines? This was going to be interesting. This was like putting a polio midget in the NBA. Sounds like a great idea, let's just wait and see what happens.

Obviously, this gave us alot of problems and it didn't help that Gary was also soft spoken, which was unexpected because I always thought they would be loud just to hear themselves echo in their heads.

The first spark ignited with his inability to relay messages to the commanders. And the scenarios always played out as such.

Gary: "Roger. Over and out."
Commander: "Gary, what is the message?"

Silence. It would be an eternity of silence as if we half anticipated Mary Poppins to jump out from the trench and engage us in a song and dance.

Gary: "I don't know, I can't hear them."
Commander: "Then why did you say 'roger' when you don't know what they are saying?"

Silence again.

Gary: "What did you say?"

This entirely killed me. Half the time I thought the long pauses where meant for him to collate his reply, when in actuality, he was struggling to figure out the question. I started giggling so bad, I was biting my hand just to stop myself from choking.

Gary kept me amused for the week, just because it was hilarious to watch him in action. He had this problem of hearing people call for him and if he did hear them, he had a problem with finding where the person was.

He would be in the trench and someone would call him several times progressively louder at each subsequent time before he finally responded, and I would watch him. He would always first spin around to ascertain where the voice was coming from and then blindly reply, 'yes?!' while continually looking for the person.

Most of the time I would just point to him to whoever was calling, but the worst was when someone called for him and people around started echoing out his name. This would entirely confuse him but it entertained me to no end. This was like laughing at the special Olympics, but I am an asshole and conscience is a detachable word in my life.

Naturally, his disabilities gave the commanders tons of problems because he was giving them wrong information and their patience was beginning to wear thin. Now surely, the moral card can't be entirely imputinised. Surely, there must be a threshold of tolerance even to disabled (or in this case partially disabled) people.

This was a faceoff between patience and understanding versus a physical disability and played against the backdrop of poor military allocation of resources. And I was loving every minute of it.

He was also great to have in group conversations because he always provided a sort of a communicative lag. He was like a dial up modem caught between the advance of modernity and thrown into the fray of broadband fanatism.

We would start a topic and then discard it entirely within seconds, and Gary would always pick them up like a revival quest and it didn't matter that we stopped talking about politics 6 minutes ago and were now idling between soccer and beer.

He would always start talking even when someone else was talking and interupt sentences and at first I thought he was the kind that only bothered about his views and it slowly occured to me that he was missing entire conversations and even had problems catching words said in the slighest dip in volume.

There was once we were talking about gambling in general and lunch came,

Me: "It's chicken rice again." [mumbling]
Gary: "No why?"
Me: "Huh? Isn't yours chicken rice?"
Gary: "Mine? Ya it's chicken rice."
Me: "Then you said no?"
Gary: "You asked me if got dice right?"

I smiled and thank God for giving me Gary. I think he is great, but I don't want to go to war with him by my side. Next, I want a blind medic.


At 1:11 PM, Blogger violetjade said...

Na, na tsk tsk tsk (shaking head), making fun of ppl..again I ain't any better, lol reading it.. keke~ another hilarious writting frm U.

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