There was a small English bookshop next to the hotel we were staying at in Milan. On the evening of our second day, after a round of shopping and walking in the city, I decided to visit the shop. When I entered I found two old men talking in loud voices. There was no one else around, and seeing me the younger of the two stood up: “How can I help you?”
“Nothing specific,” I replied. “Just want to look around.”
“Just browsing? That’s alright, go ahead.” He turned back to his companion.
I scanned some titles on the shelf. It was a small room, and instead of paying attention to the books I found myself listening to the two seated only a few feet away. Their accent was British, and the exchange was about the weather outside. I interjected, and was soon part of their small-talk.
One of them was the bookshop owner, the other – at-least a good twenty years older – was his friend. This friend soon clarified why they were talking loudly.
“You see I’m deaf in one ear,” he said, pointing at his left side, “and,” – pointing now to the right, “I can’t hear through the other!!”
In the laughter that followed, the deaf man’s cackle drowned the rest.