Updated: May 24, 2022
Going for drinks is a great way to connect with people in a social or professional setting. It is non-commital, it's just drinks and perhaps some tapas/appetizers, and a great way to have a quick conversation with anyone. It's also a stand-up work event where you are essentially networking with people outside of the workplace setting. Part of me likes going for drinks as it's an excellent way to meet people you ordinarily wouldn't meet and a great context to learn more about people in a non-committal way. You ask questions, polite chit chat and you can always excuse yourself if you do not necessarily like the conversation.
I like going for drinks in bars that have great cocktails. Pina Colada is one of my favorites and a glass of good white or red wine is always great with steak. If all else fails (if it's the most basic of bars) I go for the standard rum and coke or a Smirnoff Ice if there's one.
What a lot of people don't realize is that going for drinks as a hearing impaired individual is anxiety-inducing, because restaurants and bars tend to be very loud, especially at peak hours. The upside of fine dining is not necessarily the good food for me, but the fact that it's quiet and I can actually fully follow conversations.
When I first started my career in the city of London, as anyone who has worked in the city would tell you, drinks at the pub are part of your regular team bonding sessions, especially during the summer. If you want to build good team banter and relationships (which was necessary for my line of work at the time) It usually paid to go for such events. Listen, I would not lie to you. probably a significant chunk of the conversations I had then, I didn't hear the other party. I had mastered the art of pretending I could hear what the other person was saying and giving the appropriate interjections here and there. Another thing I did was if I caught one sentence I always somehow found a way to repeat that sentence or ask a question on that sentence to give the impression that I was listening (to anyone I did this to I apologize..it was a coping mechanism lol)
Alongside the listening fatigue doing this repeatedly wasn't necessarily fun and sometimes gave me a headache.
This continued when I moved to Nigeria briefly and I attended wedding receptions. If you have gone to Nigerian weddings you know how loud they can be with the live band or the DJ would be playing at Ibiza - worthy volumes. This was one of the reasons why I hardly went for them as well as what I found were excessive social interactions, there was always great food though. It was however easier for me to follow Nigerian conversations because I usually went with friends with whom we spoke in a familiar accent that I grew up with (when we were not code-switching of course)
Shortly after I moved to Canada, I upgraded my hearing aids to an excellent pair that made a world of difference. The technology of the new hearing aids made it much easier for me to hear others in a noisy environment, plus I had adapted to holding conversations in a noisy context.
I enjoyed going for drinks a little bit more, and if it was dinner even better (as we had a table and would be reasonably closer to people I would be talking to) If it was a somewhat quiet place it was a bonus. I basically got with the program and just accepted it (it never really occurred to me to request places that had a quiet atmosphere) as a while ago I always equated a restaurant that was quiet during peak lunch/dinner times meant the restaurant would not have good food.
Clearly, you can tell I love good food, if I would prioritize that over my ability to fully participate in a conversation.
However, I went for dinner with a friend recently, It was a very lovely restaurant by the lake and she said to me. "I chose this restaurant as I thought it would be easier for us to hear each other" It was like a light bulb moment went off in my head - why didn't I ever think of this before? The food was great too, but it was truly the thoughtful gesture that really warmed my heart.
The last few weeks have been people asking me in the spirit of being accessible-friendly, "What can we do differently to make things easier for you?" These are very well-intentioned questions and I genuinely feel my heart melt a little bit every time I hear someone ask this question (and they really mean it). However, it's been hard for me to answer because I have spent the better part of 30 years plus adjusting to make life work for me with minimal interruption to the other party or me adjusting to handle situations with fully able-bodied people It never occurred that maybe they could adjust to accommodate me (except maybe if they were close to me). So the lines of what is normal for others and what I have done to make life generally accessible to me are blurred I truly find it difficult to tell which from which.
I have been trying to be more intentional about what exactly is it that I do, that wouldn't be something a fully-abled person would do. This would hopefully help provide useful advise anyone that is hoping to make life accessible for others.
Having conversations in a not-so-noisy area is a great example of this.
I still love drinks and dinners but I would also love to accommodate everyone else. Having a quiet atmosphere should be something I would be adding to my search criteria whenever looking for a restaurant. However, for drinks at a bar, it's probably impossible! except it's next to the beach :D
Until next time!