Jussi Ahola

Curious humanist

Story of a vagabond who bought a broken hearing aid

An old vagabond was in trouble: lately he had noticed that the sounds of the street had started turning softer. Day by day the bark of the dog, shouts of the vendors, and clatter of the subway trains were becoming quieter. All this, however, wasn’t his biggest concern: the greatest pleasure in his life were frequent discussion with fellow street men, but now he had trouble making out what others were saying to him. He found himself asking people to talk louder, and when they did, he could hear them fine and enjoy the ensuing conversation.

An appointment with a doctor at the homeless shelter confirmed that the vagabond was suffering from age-related hearing loss. The doctor advised him to get a hearing aid and suggested a store that sold these devices at reasonable cost.

The next day the vagabond walked down to the store and asked for a hearing aid. The store manager eyed the vagabond suspiciously; from his looks the manager could tell that he probably wouldn’t be able to afford any of the hearing aids that were on display. The manager excused himself, went to the back office, and came back with their cheapest model.

“This one here,” the manager said, “is a fine piece of equipment. I’ll make you a really good deal on this one.”

The vagabond eyed the device, and seeing the price tag on the box, knew he couldn’t afford it.

“I’m sure this would get the job done,” the vagabond responded, “but I’m looking for something a bit more affordable. Could you show me your cheapest model?”

The manager explained that the model he had already shown him was their cheapest and that he couldn’t go any lower on the price. The vagabond felt disappointed and started to make his way out of the store.

At the door he stopped, thought for a quick second, turned around, and dashed back to the counter.

“Do you happen to have any broken hearing aids?” he asked zealously.

The manager wasn’t sure what to make of this, but answered that they did have some broken devices that other customers had returned.

“How much would one of those broken devices cost?” the vagabond went on.

At this point the manager was even more baffled, but as another customer had just entered the store, he was now just eager to get rid of the vagabond.

“Well, I guess I can give you one for free.”

The manager went back to get a broken hearing aid and handed it over to the vagabond.

“Enjoy your hearing aid,” the manager yelled as the vagabond was now cheerily walking towards the doors.

The next day the vagabond was back on the street with the broken hearing aid. As his fellow street men saw what he was wearing, they automatically spoke up to make sure that the poor old chap could also take part in the conversation.

Our vagabond never again had to ask anyone to talk louder.

The lesson? Focus on the problem, not the solution.