While the rest of you were busy making a living, raising a family or mourning the passing of disco, I spent the entire 1980s standing in front of 15-foot speakers at rock concerts.
This might explain why the volume knob of my car stereo is normally on "10," and why - even though I turn it down to "2" before entering our neighborhood - my wife can hear me coming from blocks away.This also might explain why I made such an unforgivable error when taking my 7-year-old daughter to her first concert recently at the E Center. No longer able to detect loud noises myself, I forgot to bring earplugs.
The "E," I found out, stands for "eardrum," as in the sentence, "I no longer have an eardrum." (It also stands for "exit," as in the phrase, "Enter our parking lot and you will not be able to exit." More on that later.)
For weeks, my daughter could barely get to sleep or sit still for five minutes - in other words, she acted normally - in anticipation of seeing those poster children for Excessive Public Display Disorder, the Backstreet Boys.
However, after 347 consecutive hours of listening to their 400-billion-selling CD - which contains only the songs "Your Body," "I Want Your Body," and "Could I Just Borrow Your Body for a Few Minutes?" - my daughter decided she had heard enough of the overproduced choir singers. (I had come to this conclusion years earlier, even before the genetics-lab accident that resulted in the group's creation.)
But I wasn't about to let her back out now. Besides, I had to write the review. (You don't think I'd sit through that fabricated fluff just to please my daughter, do you?)
Everything went fine until the last of the opening acts cranked the volume to a level my car stereo would be proud of. The music was so loud, in fact, that I couldn't hear a thing my daughter was screaming at me. After eight tries, I managed to read her lips: "I think . . . I'm losing . . . my voice!"
Two songs later, Emily's eyes were narrowed to a squint. She was flailing her arms about madly and occasionally pushing on her forehead as if to keep it from exploding. The dances these kids do today - very imaginative. Only it wasn't a dance. Emily was losing her hearing. And, I was afraid, her mind.
We dashed up to the concourse and borrowed a set of earplugs (yeah, like you would return them) from a security guard. I spent the rest of the concert trying to get them to stay in Emily's ears. She spent the rest of the night dancing wildly on the chair next to me - when we weren't searching the floor for the earplugs.
The folding chair, unfortunately, collapsed more often than the Utah Starzz's defense. Emily fell off two or three times a song. But she was able to save herself each time by grabbing my ear lobe, hair or throat on the way down.
When the concert ended, I needed immediate medical attention. We discovered, however, we had left our car in the Hotel California parking lot. (You can line up to exit anytime you like, but you can never leave.)
All of the southbound exits of the lot on 3100 South had been blocked off with thick steel cables. And there wasn't a cop, a super-hero or a cable-shredding dinosaur in sight. We were trapped for 45 minutes.
Finally, a dozen monster trucks drove down the sidewalk and jumped the curb. I joined the jailbreak until I realized the anti-compact car curb would rip out my Hyundai's muffler and innards. I made the cars behind me stop and back up.
"I'm going to have to break the cable. There's no other way," I told my daughter in a Bruce Willis-like voice of determination.
"Is that legal, Daddy?" she asked innocently.
"In this situation? Yes," I said, setting myself up for years of teen rebellion. "When a rule is really stupid, it's OK to break it."
Some other guys beat me to it. They stood on each side of a cable and hoisted it up, liberating me and dozens of other low riders.
I wasn't arrested, my ear lobe had reattached itself and my car was in one piece. But what about my daughter's hearing? Would she ever be able to hear her parents yell at her again?
The next morning, she asked when the Spice Girls were coming to town. Her ears were fine, and she couldn't wait to have me spend another evening trying to get earplugs to stay in them.
My ears, however, are still ringing two weeks later. But maybe that's just from blasting my car stereo on the way into work.