On Being Militant

One of the drawbacks of being a fairly articulate deaf person is that you have a duty to speak (or complain, as more often is the case) on behalf of other deaf people.  Once, I told my audiologist that when I encountered broken loop systems or other malfunctioning hearing equipment, that I just couldn’t be bothered mentioning it because they were never going to work anyway, and she pointed out that if I did ask for them to be repaired, it would benefit the next deaf person who came along.

A loop system is a piece of wiring that is put inside the walls of cinemas, or inside telephones or FM hearing systems.  When I put my hearing on a ‘T’ switch it picks up the sound, makes it clearer, and cuts out background noise.  Alternatively there are headphones you can wear which have this signal built into them.  In the entire 28 years of my deafness I have found about two loop systems in cinemas that work – at Roseville and at Fox Studios.  At a Shakespearean play at the Sydney Opera House the system they gave me created so much static I couldn’t hear a thing, and when I complained to the woman at the desk she didn’t appear to believe it could possibly be faulty (despite the fact that it literally looked ten years old).  After much arguing she let me see the play again, but when I went back the magic was gone because I had already seen it (I certainly don’t know how she expected me to hear it again).  At Belvoir Street Theatre the loop system failed time and time again and eventually the manager said they literally couldn’t afford to fix it.   She did however give me a free drink and that made me feel much better (naturally), which is an awful lot more than most other people have ever done.

In London, although theatre and cinema organisers were much more aware of disability legislation and of ensuring that deaf people can hear, the loop systems generally didn’t work.  Two startling exceptions were at the Museum of London at an exhibition of the Great Fire, where a small room showing a documentary had a loop system installed that was incredibly clear, and at an exhibition at the National Portrait Galley.

These were unusual, however.  When H and I went to ‘Enduring Love’ at the Trocadero, the system didn’t work after the previews, as anticipated, and H had to rush back to the ticket desk, whereupon he found that the bimbo hadn’t put in any batteries.  He then missed the beginning of the film, which was the most dramatic part.  At the local cinema in Stepney I complained three times about the loop system and they never fixed it.  Eventually I only went to films that were blockbusters and didn’t require hearing because I could work out what was going on from the pictures, or to foreign films with subtitles.  For the rest I had to wait until they came out on DVD.  I was also so tired and stressed with writing my thesis that I gave up on complaining; I simply didn’t have the energy for it.

However, on returning home and having had more sunlight and rest, I have found myself feeling much more militant about these things than previously.  And thus it was that in cinema at Bulimba I found myself raising my voice at the manager because the staff had given me a set of headphones that, once again, delivered nothing but static.  Another problem with being faulty equipment in cinemas (apart from the obvious fact that it’s supposed to be working in the first place) is that you never know if it’s going to work until the film starts; for some reason the ads don’t come through the same sound system.   This means that you only have a few previews to get up and go and collect another piece of equipment, or to move around trying to find another seat which picks up the sound better.  I have always refused to do this due to public embarrassment, and, as I pointed out to the manager, it isn’t my job to make sure the equipment is working.

In the whole of this time I have never been offered a refund for the inconvenience of faulty equipment.  As I said to the manager, who was no longer making eye contact by this stage, if you offer a service, you make sure it’s working.  It’s basic customer service.  However, I now have a new tactic.  I’m ringing in advance and letting them know I’m coming so that they have an opportunity to test the equipment.  If it doesn’t work, I will get angry and demand a refund.

Meanwhile, I am wishing that magpies would give me such a warning.  It’s spring, and they are aggro and broody.  As I was walking my bicycle across the road the other day (I dismount because I can’t hear the cars coming very well and I’m not an aggressive cyclist), I inadvertently entered their territory and there was much batting of wings about my helmet and squawking, and I jumped back on my bike and peddled furiously.  I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do about militant magpies.  My boss told me she’s seen cyclists’ helmets with spokes on them like they have in the stations in London to keep away pigeons, but I’m not sure that would be such a good look, while my sister said to put my sunglasses on backwards to confuse them, or I could whip out my bicycle pump and beat them off.   On looking on the internet for remedies I found a bloke who suggested an orange flag, but again this fashionista can’t cope with that.  I also found reports of magpies in specific Bris Vegas areas which had attacked, and they made for amusing reading:


Particularly vicious magpie, swoops between cnr Mackintosh Street and Torwood Street, Auchenflower, all the way down Torwood, across Milton Road, down Eagle Terrace, round to Camford Street even under the railway bridge.  Seems to give up by the time you get out the other side of the railway bridge. Attacks riders going in both directions. Is relentless, drawn blood, on two separate occasions. (reported 21 Sept 06)


Old Logan Rd, 100m before the Caltex Servo coming from Springfield. The bird has been recently harassed by Council works on the foot path and has changed its behaviour. It used to give a simple tap on the helmet once or twice, now it hovers by the side of your head and continually bashes the helmet. Attacks the ears and eyes if you don’t wear sunnies or spectacles. (reported 22 Sept 06)

South Brisbane

Magpie in the poincianas on the South Bank side of the Goodwill Bridge and attacks about Sidon St near Memorial Park between Grey St and the Goodwill Bridge. The bird has drawn blood. (reported 14 Sept 05)

And here are a few more from Melbourne:

1.11.02 Harp Rd Kew along bike path / walking path – might be called Valerie Rd in this section. A well known hot spot for vicious magpies for many years.  I think ‘son of magpie’ is possibly even more vicious.  Have been known to peck face.  Avoid by going down side street if possible.  Seem to be bad around path leading up to hill.  Once half way down hill to chandler hwy you have made it!

1.11.02 Byron St Canterbury (this is the continuation of Maling Rd). Particularly terrifying as tries to peck through helmet holes.  Placed sticky tape over holes and stuck on eyes as suggested.  Still terrifies me when it swoops.

11.10.02 High Street Extension after Stud Road on the way to the Burwood Hwy intersection just after the school crossing. This magpie is a real Stuka but without the dive bomber siren!

7.10.02 Maroondah HWY and Deep Creek Roads. As most cyclists are aware, most swoop, but this one “connects”.  The best it has achieved off me is rip a chunk out of my Limar F107 helmet and removed the “L” as well.  Bloody Pies….

7.9.02 Frankston-Dandenong Road near the Springvale freeway overpass. Got bitten on the nose and then repeatedly swooped by the most savage magpie ever seen. Only my bike pump saved me!

It’s like something out of du Maurier’s The Birds.  Ah. ya gotta love Austraya.


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