The queue to the gallery slowly inched forward in the rain, and I passed the time by thinking about the tedious business of getting a replacement hearing aid. I had just visualised the stage where they discover your ears need syringed after waiting two months for an appointment, when the gallery door suddenly opened and we were quickly ushered inside by the security guard.
Hearing aid search conditions inside had deteriorated rapidly since our previous visit, and as the spouse and I fought our way through the heat and noise of the crowd, I abandoned hope. There was no way a fallen hearing aid could survive, let alone be found in there.
The spouse was now beginning to get rather irritable.
“I mean how could you not notice the bloody thing falling off, surely you’d have noticed you couldn’t hear properly?” he shouted helpfully above the racket. “I mean, you were talking to people in here, you must have had it on, surely?”
I wasn’t about to go into explaining the black art of bluffing by talking at people in crowded rooms, so opted to be petulant instead.
“I can’t hear properly with the bloody thing on or off”, I snapped. “Not in situations like this.”
I stomped off into the crowd and began retracing my steps but, within seconds, it was clear that it was going to be a waste of time. People were standing all over my invisible thread, and trying to weave amongst them felt like tackling a rugby scrum. Wearily, I admitted defeat and went to talk at some nearby colleagues instead. Someone helpfully suggested I put out an ‘all staff’ email about my predicament, but whilst I was tempted by the thought of becoming the author of the most bizarre ‘Lost and Found’ email at the Institute of Artistic Endeavour since someone found an accordion on the front steps, I opted to keep my institutional dignity intact just for the moment.
The spouse was now keener than ever to get home, but once back outside in the rain, I decreed that there was a final check to be made. I picked up the invisible thread for one last time, and began following it downhill towards where we’d unpacked the luggage from the coach earlier in the evening. The thread ran out rather poetically just beside the ‘Hidden Hearing’ shop on the high street, but there was no sign of the aid. I found an interesting piece of red plastic in a pothole, though. It was now time to go home, and I was very much looking forward to attending to the trench foot which I was sure must be developing inside my sodden shoes. I wearily heaved my two rucksacks on to my shoulders and consoled myself that even if we’d found the aid by the bus stop, it would have been ruined by the rain anyway. It would have stood a better chance with the lonely slug back in Crianlarich. I stopped dead in my tracks.
“THE PHONE!” I shouted, clamping the spouse’s arm in a vice-like grip with excitement, “I think I listened to my voicemail when we first arrived back! I need to take the aid out to listen to the phone…maybe it’s on my desk!””
“Well you’ve got bugger all chance of finding it on there from what I saw earlier”, said the spouse, a little disparagingly, I thought. “I’ve had enough of this,” he declared, ” I’m going home.”
Without even stopping to berate him for his heartlessness, I shot back up the steep hill to the main building, my two rucksacks now seemingly weightless in the excitement. I burst breathlessly through the front door, and pursued my flight up the architecturally acclaimed central staircase. As I skidded round the corner and into the office, I almost heard the soles of my hiking boots give a little tyre screech on the naked concrete.
My remaining colleague looked bemused once more, as I began the frenzied excavation of my desk, in the manner of someone looking for a vital piece of evidence in a suspense film. Unfortunately, there was to be no cinematic denouement just yet. Once everything on the desk had been thrown to the floor, I slumped into my chair, defeated. The desktop was bare.
I stared, transfixed, at the illuminated red voicemail light, and wondered who had left a message. I now remembered that the spouse had dragged me off before I’d had a chance to listen to it earlier. I wearily reached to drag the phone by its cord to listen, when… I spotted a cheeky little flash of red underneath. Eureka! The denouement had finally arrived. The aid had been hiding under the phone the whole time!
To the imaginary accompaniment of the Hallelujah chorus, I popped my lost hearing instrument on to my overjoyed left ear, and finally set off for home.