I was interested in Scott because although I know lots of deaf people say they have no need to learn to hear and they're fine as they are and they frown on this procedure, Scott is somebody who wanted this to work. And our show today, our radio show today is all stories where people are trying to make contact for the first time with something that they have never encountered or experienced. John's gymnasium for the sole purpose of making out. But on this Sunday, March 28, 2010, when Sam answers the phone, Yemal is unusually quite, not really engaged. He thinks for sure that's what it is and he doesn't know how he's going to respond. A few hours later, Sam and I are making a rare Sunday lunch together because the boys hung up earlier than usual. When they talked about the violent, Sam used to say stuff like, maybe this'll be over soon, or things are going to get better. Now mostly he'll just listen and won't try to explain it away. One day Sam distinctly remembers there was coverage of the explosions, bombs hitting Iraq. Yemal wrote back about the pro-democracy propaganda flyers written in English. Within a couple of weeks, they were writing each other about more personal stuff.
And Scott's situation seemed like a particularly harsh example of that. His second big problem with implants was he didn't have the ability to ignore any sounds. And the third time I said, please stop the-- and then I started throwing up. Really insulating the pavement with my homemade carnival salsa. Because I went to an all boys catholic school and I actually couldn't admit to my peers that I hadn't had my first kiss because I knew they would make fun of me mercilessly. Because these guys that I went to school with, I mean they were just make out machines. I mean this was a gymnasium that was chock full of sweat and Binaca and Led Zeppelin and Drakkar Noir and I was flanked at the dance by my friend Sam. You know, thinking about someone incurring debt based on my appearance. This is about the time Yemal's wife, Temara , is supposed to be having her baby. I'm not sure how to say this, Yemal says, then he gets quite again. A lot of times they're looking for answers to questions like, how would you feel if this was happening to you? It was like they were watching a football game Sam says. So he asked his Israeli chat buddy, Acrosstheuniverse, what he thought about the war. Half a year went by and Yemal bought a calling card and asked Sam for his phone number.
We have somebody also chatting his way into the lives of people very far away in the middle of a war, we have scientists pondering exactly what we should say the very first time we find extraterrestrials to talk to, and what boneheaded things people want to say to them. Anyway, so when this came back to me, it was really just as horrifying. It's just as horrifying as it should have been the day it happened. But I think that when you're 12-years-old, you just don't understand certain things about the digestive system. And the new plan was that I needed to tell the Scrambler operator that he needed to stop the ride. I was working at a teen clinic for girls at the time and as Sadeem reached 15, he would send the girls poems he'd written about life in Iraq.
From WBEZ Chicago it's This American Life distributed by Public Radio International. And I bring this all up to say, we are all so clueless as we learn about making out and sex and all that stuff. The premise is that you sit on the two-person pod with the person you're in love with, and then that pod goes in a circle. So we sit down on the Scrambler and Lisa's snuggling up next to me. You don't know that you shouldn't eat popcorn and peanuts and funnel cake and cotton candy and then go on a machine that scrambles your body. It's basically like saying, we're going to take sugar, which everyone knows is bad. And I'm like, I'm not sure what he selling point is there. So I know from the moment they put the bar seat belt down that I am going to throw up for sure. I mean I think the only thing it's ever done right is just held someone's esophagus down to the pavement in a Scrambler accident, making sure that they are dead, and that they can not talk about the Scrambler accident I know when they put the bar seatbelt down I'm going to throw up for sure. But the mathematics of the Scrambler are such that the window of opportunity in which one can communicate with the Scrambler operator is a very limited window. They'd respond by writing meth poems and heroin poems. I talked to the boys sometimes by phone and e-mail, but didn't ask to talk yesterday because I didn't want to mess Mahmood's Sunday's scheduling.
For somebody like Scott getting the implant as his age, his brain can never catch up and learn to process sound. Talking was a way to pass the time when it was too dangerous to go out on the streets.
We can only make an educated guess what this really sounds like. Because first of all, because it was probably true.
I talked with Scott Krepel through his interpreter, Marc Holmes-- they were in a studio in Washington, DC-- about what happened when Scott was 11 or 12 and the government approved the use of cochlear implants in children. And of course, he tried to imagine what it would be like to hear.
The first time I heard something, I can remember very vividly because it wasn't really-- it didn't feel like hearing. I was sitting there and nothing was happening except for like a little thing that was tingling throughout my body.
As best as we understand it from people who could once hear and then later in life got the implants, there's a mechanical edge to the sound that you hear with these devices. And he was like, oh, I talked to Sandra and she said that you're the worst kisser she's ever kissed. But more importantly, because I couldn't explain to my friends why it was true. But I was lucky because my friend Sam was right there with me and he's goes, me too, dude. Mike Birbiglia, performing a story from his new one-man show and his new book that is coming out this fall.
Musical notes have to be nearly half an octave apart before you can tell the difference between the notes. I couldn't do like, well that makes sense because I've never kissed anyone before. So instead, I had to just be like, yeah, that sounds about right. The book is Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories. Already, we don't even know them and we've made mistakes. From WBEZ Chicago and Public Radio International, when our program continues. Each week on our show of course, we choose a theme, bring you different kinds of stories on that theme. What's amazing about this next story is that this couple befriends these strangers. And really, they get to know them and what their lives are really like at this level that is so intimate. When it's cold, which isn't often, he wears grey and red stripe sweaters. He likes to hold babies, stand next to camels, and sit on saggy couches conversing with handsome young men. His big brown eyes, thick dark hair, a mischeivous-looking moustache, a three-days beard, and a tiny gap between his front teeth.