The ear tends to be lazy, craves the familiar and is shocked by the unexpected; the eye, on the other hand, tends to be impatient, craves the novel and is bored by repetition.
Have you ever had an experience where you learn something that seemed so obviously true and then turned out not to be, like Columbus discovering America where he thought India was going to be?
Yesterday, while I was having a procedure done on my ears, the audiologist had trouble placing a device into my left ear that had gone into my right ear easily. The device’s purpose was to blow cold air into my ears, one at a time; and then to do the same with warm air. I won’t explain why the audiologist was blowing hot and cold air into my ears because no one wants to hear about someone else’s medical procedures unless they’ve had the same procedure, but inserting a device into my ear was what she was doing.
“Is my head at a bad angle?” I asked the audiologist as she worked at my left ear.
“No, not at all,” she said. “Your left ear’s architecture is a little different.”
“My ears are different from each other?” I asked.
“All ears are a little different, left from right.”
“I always assumed they were the same.”
“No, they’re like fingerprints. Your left hand’s prints are different from your right hand’s prints and ears are like that.”
“I don’t know how I feel about that,” I said.
“I think you can feel okay about it,” the audiologist said, finally getting the device to seat properly into my ear. “Your left and right eyes test differently and your teeth from one side of the mouth to the other are different, so why should ears be any different?”
“But my ears look the same.”
“To you, perhaps, but not to me.”
At that point the audiologist chuckled which is probably not a type of laughter that anyone aspires to except aging uncles, but it is the only word that describes the audiologist’s laughter. I have no idea if chuckling was the norm for her, or if my shock at the lack of uniformity of my ears struck her as singularly funny, but I do know that since that exam I have not been able to look in the mirror without staring at my ears, as if they have become the American continents where India should be.