Celtic Illumination, part 272, Life or deaf.
Sorry if any of you find this disappointing but the second week of my ‘on the job’ training in Liverpool, went swimmingly. I was with a lovely Liverpudlian chap called Dan, we had great fun and the week flew past, leaving me a fully trained audiologist, allowed to work on my own and for myself. I still had one or two little niggling issues with the company such as the free fuel card. Yes, it was a great bonus to have free fuel for my little executive car, but I had to drive twelve miles to the only garage where I could use the card. My claim that a twenty four mile round trip, every time I needed to fill up, might be wasteful fell on deaf ears, which was no great surprise as the company listened to the senior man in the area, who just happened to be the same prat I had spent my first week training with.
So it was I waited for the postman on Monday morning to bring me my first weeks work. The two weeks I had spent in the field had already been planned out by each individual I had worked with. They had been working for some time so there was some overlap in their planning and structure. Like most other key areas of the job, I was finding out things I felt, a little later than I should have. First of all was the executive company car, which wasn’t, then there was the competitive salary, which wasn’t, now came the next bombshell. I had been told that I would be given twelve clients each Monday morning; this is what I was waiting for.
I don’t really like talking like this, for I’m not sure who the fool is in all this. On the one hand it could be me, and if it is I’ll hold my hands up. I still feel that I was approaching my civilian career with a military attitude, which was to win. It you were hit along the way, you took the blow, but you kept going. Like the two duelling knights in Monty Python, when one cuts the others arm off and he says, “Oh, it’s only a scratch.” I suppose I had expected an A4 piece of paper with twelve names, address and contact numbers on, but that is not what arrived. As I have said before, Scrivens was a huge nationwide company who regularly advertised in the national press. Normally they would take full page adverts in tabloid newspapers, with the advert promoting their ‘invisible’ or ‘hidden’ hearing aids.
They would also encourage people to send in for their free sample, of an invisible hearing aid, promising that they were under no obligation for doing so and stating that no one would contact them. All this information would be in a two inch strip running across the bottom of the page, which the person would cut out, add their name, address and home telephone number then post off to Scrivens. So to say that I was disappointed to find my twelve clients were actually twelve of these strips of paper would be an understatement. Next to the persons telephone number would be the statement, or promise, that no one from the company would contact them. My job was now to contact them, convince them that a free hearing test, in their own home, would be their best next move, go to their home, test their hearing and sell them some hearing aids.
I wasn’t very happy with the situation. At the time with people desperately trying to prove how better they were than everyone else, ‘going private’ was of course one way to show just how better you were than your neighbours. And Scrivens worked along the same principals, why bother going to the old and useless National Health Service, where you would queue for hours for second rate service and second rate equipment. If you wanted to be better than everyone else you should go private, have a person come to your house, test your hearing and buy their superior equipment, that’s what really posh people do. The elephant in the room is that in the United Kingdom, the daily newspaper is very much a part of the class system, as in a certain class of person reads a certain type of newspaper.
People who can afford to go private for their health care do not read tabloid newspapers. People who love to pretend that they are refined and posh do read the Express or the Mail, although read is the wrong word as they are mainly all pictures of brainless celebrities. And when I started going to see these people, the situation just worsened. During my two weeks experience in the field I had not noticed, but a majority of the people I was seeing were elderly widows. I remember that many of them lived in warden supervised accommodation, with personal alarms to hand, in case they fell and their only friend being a cat.
I felt sorry for these old ladies who first of all would offer you a cup of tea, then, as you were testing their hearing, tell you all about their children who they didn’t see much anymore, but who had produced some lovely grandchildren, cue photographs and second cup of tea. Most of these elderly ladies were surviving on state benefits, but I felt that certain items were missing from my medical case. As I was travelling around, quite a bit I may add, I was calling in to see old friends. One was Adrian who I had called in to see when I was working as an advertising executive in Glasgow. Adrian was working as a general practitioner in the Lake District but he was moving the following weekend to Manchester where he was setting up in a local surgery.
I was in Manchester so had called in to see Adrian and his lovely fiancé, who was a psychiatrist and a great laugh. What I do remember was that Irene and I went over one evening for a bit of a social get together. I loved listening to Adrian’s stories about when he worked as a junior doctor in one of Glasgow’s hospital accident and emergency departments. He would talk about sewing peoples heads back together, when they would notice the person who had hit them, and the fight would start again with Adrian still trying to patch them up. But Adrian unfortunately mostly talked about the beatings I would receive at Violent Hill. Adrian had noticed my kit in the car and briefly looked at it suggesting that my equipment was more modern than his. But despite this I still felt that certain items were missing. I felt that Scrivens should have issued me with a black leather jacket, dark sunglasses; black leather gloves and a cosh, so that I could have waited outside post offices on pension day and taken money from the pensioners as they left. I found myself with these elderly ladies, having fitted a display model and watched their eyes spring open to see them understand how much their lives could improve from having a hearing aid.
Rather than ask them to sign a contract for five hundred pounds, which they could pay weekly, I would give them the results of the hearing test and tell them to go to the National Health Service where they could get the exact same hearing aid for free. After all, they had spent all their lives paying for the service; why not use it, now that they needed it. Of course there were occasions where I did actually sell hearing aids. I remember once going in to a house where the son was waiting for me. He was a very important fellow and had taken time off work to come and supervise me test his mothers hearing. If she needed anything he would pay for it and could I hurry up because he was very important and had to get back to his place of work. I’m sure you completely understand when I say that, before I had even opened my case, I knew she was going to need two gold plated, inner ear, hearing aids.
There were occasions where I would shout at people like the time I went into an old peoples home in Preston and the matron showed me in to a room where an elderly lady was sitting on the edge of her bed. I was told that she had great difficulty with her hearing so I could go and sort her out. I didn’t need my otoscope to look in to her ears as when I drew back her hair I could see that both ears were completely full of wax. I had never seen anything like it in my life and said so to the matron, who still expected me to start digging in and clearing all the wax out. She got shouted at, not the old lady; she couldn’t have heard me anyway, but the matron. After about three weeks of this I was summoned to Birmingham on a Thursday morning, where it was explained to me that my job was to sell hearing aids for Scrivens, not refer people to the National Health Service for free hearing aids, they were letting me go. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t that bothered, as I was terribly uncomfortable with the job and once again the apparent lack of morals you seemed to need to succeed. However the biggest loss would be my little executive company car with free fuel. I didn’t feel that I was losing a status symbol, just a form of transport, which was a bit of a bugger as I had booked to travel to Ireland the next day with the family on the car ferry from Liverpool.