My grandfather has lost his hearing.

Not one to let us forget, he likes to say, “I have no idea what you people are talking about,” any time we have a conversation within five feet of him. It’s possible he’s still just getting used to this relatively new handicap, but I think he also likes to remind us of his plight.

Initially, we went to great lengths to try talking to him, shouting and enunciating like coked-up over-actors. “What are you talking to me for? I’m deaf for christ’s sake!” He said. We’ve since discovered an easier way to keep him entertained and occupied: closed captioned television. For the better part of a decade, he has read everything he has watched on TV.

I’ve decided to spend the next 12 hours watching closed captioned TV. 

No sound, just words. I’m not sure if I’m doing this out of curiosity, guilt or boredom, but I’m doing it.

Hour 1

There is a news report about forest fires forcing people to be evacuated. The captioning said “ejaculated”. It was clear what the right word was supposed to be, but it was much more entertaining to think that the National Guard had ejaculated hundreds of people in Texas. I’ve never been more amused by people being forced from their homes. “We’re not going anywhere until it comes,” one defiant man said. I think he looked down at his penis when he said this. His wife seemed very tired.

The captioners typing out live TV are called Speech-to-Text Reporters. I love them and the mistakes they make. A report on politics has one congressman “rubbing against” the incumbent. I can’t wait to see their debate on gay marriage.

Hour 2

Entertainment Tonight hates deaf people. There are so many quick cuts and visual changes, it’s next to impossible to read the text without getting a headache. It’s almost like reading on a bus. In the dark. Without your reading glasses. On acid.

There is a report on a Sofia Vergara magazine spread and its making me nauseous. I’m actually annoyed by the numerous shots of Vergara in her underwear. I feel like turning in my penis.

A segment on Eddie Murphy is littered with spelling mistakes and typos. Drawers are spelled “Drawerers”. There also seems to be a lot of confusion over the use of “into” and “onto”.

“Is he the first black man to host the Oscars?” I ask my wife. “What? Who?” She asks. She has no idea what I’m talking about. She doesn’t even know I’m watching TV.

Talking head Nancy O’Dell is speaking and the text does not match up. I don’t know how to read lips and it’s a bit unnerving. No wonder my grandfather hates everyone. “This guy is an asshole,” he’ll often say about people he just met. “Why?”

“I told him I’m deaf and he just kept flapping his big lips.”

Hour 3

Most commercials, I’ve discovered, do not have captions. This means that shows, newscasts and movies get interrupted with strange, often borderline psychedelic short films. They’re like silent movies with product placement.

Hour  4

Top Gear is on. This is one of the few shows we watch regularly and I’m sad to say it loses some luster when you can’t hear it. More depressingly, it’s not easy to distinguish between the show and the silent car commercials I’ve been watching all night.

The cat has jumped on our coffee table and blocked the lower part of the screen. I now have no idea how quickly the Mini Cooper does naught to 60.

We see a lot of (engine revving), which seems like a pointless description for deaf viewers. “It’s fun, you can lose your imagination,” my wife says, and she has a point. I imagine that the Mini Cooper’s engine sounds like an elephant. I want one.

The description (speaking foreign dialect) appears on the screen. Can they do this for anything that sounds foreign? Where do you draw the line? “Hey babe, can you make me a (speaking foreign dialect)?” I ask my wife, pointing to the espresso machine. She just looked at me as if she deeply regretted our wedding vows.

Hour 5

The captioner working the Letterman show is either drunk or very lax about his job. He often abandons words in midstream. Are people just cutting themselves off? If so, I’m feeling a bit let down by the art of conversation.

“Cons trayed” just flashed on the screen. I think this is supposed to mean “concentrate”. Either that or they are talking about convicts with serving trays.

Letterman is interviewing a soldier with a robotic prosthetic hand. I should be interested and engaged. Instead I’m incredibly confused. There are no questions marks anywhere, and the disjointed conversation has this hazy, abstract feel to it. Is this what alcoholism is like?

Hour 6

The silence in the apartment is deafening, and my wife keeps talking to me, as if she wants to fill up the empty air. “I’m trying to watch this,” I keep telling her. I don’t think I’ve ever said that more honestly.

Hour 7

I’ve found a boxing match on HBO.

It’s strangely hypnotic watching two men silently beat the living crap out of each other.

I also just realized there is absolutely no reason for the existence of sportscasters. It’s bewildering to read the play-by-play for something you’re watching. I’m suddenly very depressed for the men whose livelihood involves describing what his audience can already see. Is there anything more pointless?

I once lived and worked in London, and the English were very quick to point out everything they disliked about North Americans, with one example being our penchant for supposedly “saying what we see”.

“You’re like a bunch of mongoloids who have never seen civilization,” One particularly charming Englishman told me. “You have very ugly teeth,” I responded. I guess he was right about us.

I just switched over to a soccer game. There are no captions for this and I’m really enjoying it. It’s possible I just need a break from reading, but there is something to watching a sporting event free of statistics, trivia, interviews and babbling ex-athletes.

On the other hand, I realize I’ve just spent the last half an hour watching 22 men chase a ball. I’ve actually zoned out twice.

Hour 8

A game show contestant has been trying to encourage her partner. She has said “You got this” 15 times in a row. At least I think so, I stopped counting when I realized there is a poor bastard somewhere typing it out every single time.

Hour 9

I found the Downey-Galifianakis movie Due Date and the captions between the dialogue are the best part. In the space of a few minutes I’ve seen: (grunts) (door closes) (door opens) (horn honks) (clears throat) (siren wailing) (engine turns on) (hard rock music plays) (sighs) and (Intro to Fleet Foxes’ Mykonos plays).

How useful would any of this really be to someone born deaf? Is the sound of a grunt something that people can just infer? And is there a more irrelevant bit of information for a deaf viewer than “Intro to Fleet Foxes’ Mykonos plays”?

This is how closed captioning describes the sound of masturbation: (rhythmic smacking) (breathing) (rhythmic smacking) (exhales loudly). It’s almost poetic.

I just saw the description (indistinct shouting). I’m not even sure what that means but I think it’s my favorite so far. It sounds like it could be the name of a French film from the 60’s.

I take it back, the description (intense groaning) is now my favorite.

Hour 10

My wife has gone to bed. Watching TV like this while she’s in the next room makes it feel as if I’m engaging in some sort of illicit and shameful act. It’s making me realize just how catholic I am for an atheist.

Hour 11

True Blood is fucking stupid.

Hour 12

Somewhere between True Blood’s ridiculous witch story and a documentary about bible salesmen from the 60’s, I completely gave up on the text. I have no clue what I just spent the last 30 minutes watching.

I’ve never been so tired watching television, and I have no idea how my grandfather does it. I’m going to bed.

Hour 20

I decided, in my stupor last night, to email my grandfather. I wanted him to know what I had done. I wanted him to know that I empathized and truly understood how difficult a transition this has been for him.

I wrote, what I thought, was a nice, supportive email detailing what I had seen and noticed over the last 12 hours. His response, written entirely in Caps Lock, was succinct: “WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU DO SUCH A STUPID THING?”