I Can’t Hear You, I’m Reading

can't hear when I read, lost in reading, unreachable reader,

“Girl Reading” Pierre-Auguste Renoir (public domain)

I don’t simply get lost in books. When I read, I am unreachable.

Getting too absorbed in reading was a problem when I was a kid. I didn’t notice if I’d been reading in the tub so long the water turned cold. I didn’t notice the lamp I surreptitiously turned on after bedtime was still illuminating my page close to midnight. I didn’t hear my mother tell me to “get your nose out of that book and go outside” or hear her call me for dinner. I wasn’t trying to disobey. When you’re swooping aloft on the air currents of a story it’s hard to notice what’s happening back on Earth.

The problem was worse in school. I’d get done with some inane social studies assignment and sneak a library book from my desk. Soon I’d lift off, finding myself in the howling winds of a Siberian blizzard or the scorching plains of Africa. Eventually the poke of a classmate’s finger would rouse me. I’d look up to an odd silence only to realize the class had moved on to math and the teacher had called on me.

I got lost in more than books. I started reading daily newspapers when I was ten or eleven years old. (Trying to figure out the nonsensical world of grown-ups, something I’m still trying to do.) My younger brother tells me I was entirely unreachable behind the paper. He had repeated nightmares that he ran into the room yelling, “Dad has been kidnapped!” only to hear my preoccupied “uh huh.”

When I became a mother I didn’t let myself read for fear of ignoring my babies. Okay, that’s a lie. I read when they were asleep or safely occupied. (Surely they needed a break from my constantly loving gaze and all those vocabulary-enhancing conversations.) I took my babies out twice a day in any weather passable enough for a jaunt, often walking with a book propped on the stroller handle. (This was possible only because there was no traffic in my neighborhood.) I also read while nursing, peeled potatoes with a book on the counter, read well into wee hours of the night despite chronic new mom exhaustion. Admitting this to people unafflicted with a library addiction as severe as mine feels uncomfortably revealing.

I thought my lost-in-books-syndrome had eased somewhat by now. That is, until I missed a flight because I was reading.

I rarely fly, so I’m super responsible about the details. I print out copies of my flight information for my family, compact everything I need in a small carry-on, take healthy snacks, and arrive at the airport ridiculously early. Apparently what’s really irresponsible is allowing myself to take reading materials.

Last time I had to fly I was heading home from San Francisco. My fellow homebodies will understand why I chose a non-direct flight, one that stopped in a small Texas airport, simply because it departed earlier in the day and let me get home sooner. I had almost two hours between connecting flights but didn’t waste a moment getting to the the departure area. In this not-so-big airport with its small departure gates I couldn’t find a seat unencumbered by people or their luggage or their Cinnabun bags. So I sat on the carpet, my back against the wall, and started reading The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I made sure I was no more than 10 feet from the desk to ensure I’d hear them call my flight.

I repeatedly looked up to check the clock until I lifted off into the book, becoming lost to linear concepts like time. When I looked up again (after what seemed like only moments) the area was empty.

A plane was taxing away from the window.

I wasn’t on it.

A bored employee assured me the flight had been called several times. They saw me sitting there but I didn’t look up. There were no flights heading north or west after mine till the next morning.

I got to spend the entire night on a hard plastic airport bench. The lights were dimmed but informational announcements about keeping your luggage secure played every 15 minutes. All. Night. Long.

I finished my book. I read everything on my Kindle. I memorized the posters on the wall. I thought bitterly about living on a backward planet where transporter beams are not yet a reality.

Perhaps I should start a support group. Hello, my name is Laura. I’m an Unreachable Reader.

20 thoughts on “I Can’t Hear You, I’m Reading

  1. Reblogged this on Human Relationships and commented:
    Reading is learning and living in the different world. I don’t believe that people can’t miss their name while they are reading! It’s totally airlines fault, by ignoring a person next to their desk!
    Happened to me couple times before, and tell you the truth it’s so upsetting that services are getting worth than ever!
    They probably just gave your sit away to the stand by person, instead of putting a paying costumer first!
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story!
    Sharing! Have a great day!


      • Since my housemate and I are beset with lazy-arse delivery people who will go so far as to put a parcel UNDER the door bell, but not ring it, I am with the above commenter. Some people are so dilatory and self-centred that they would rather have your subsequent complaints than say, “Excuse me, are you waiting for this flight?”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thankfully I’ve never missed a flight, but then, I never fly alone so someone else will hear the announcements! It really bugs my 17yo daughter when I don’t hear her when I’m reading and she’s talking to me. And I should know better than to start a new book at bedtime, however, the siren call of that book is usually louder than the call to sleep…. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello fellow sufferer. My parents once called the police because I didn’t come when they called and they couldn’t find me for most of a day. I was up a tree at the bottom of the garden, with my nose in a new book… Needless to say I wasn’t allowed to climb that tree with a book any longer. I still have problems in airports with registering announcements, but thankfully have never actually missed a flight – yet. There’s still time…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was going to ask the title as well! I am a fellow book addict. I laughed when you said you read with your babies. Everyone thought I was crazy, especially as my first so rarely slept. “He’s asleep! You should be asleep!” The thing is… I can’t sleep without reading first. Plus, as an introvert, I need a daily chunk of reading time. In addition to reading on strollers and while nursing, I read aloud to my colicky son. I read him what *I* was reading. It calmed both of us. Thank you for this- I’m sharing it with my readers, many of whom are also bibliophiles.


  5. My friend Laura,
    Please pardon the gender of this classic term. Your are “Everyman”!
    You plummet my life, if not everyone’s. I only survived adolescence by hiding in books until I was no longer a teen. Even after “three score and ten”, give me a dead-tree classic (a Moby Dick?) and a pot of coffee and I am good to go. Thank you for your “bottom-less well of wisdom” from middle America (I was born in Oklahoma- “you know we belong to the land! Oklahoma-OK) ccr

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I missed the connecting train from Chicago home to Michigan once. They put me up in a hotel, I think. Or else they put me on a bus. I’ve read that book many times since. It’s not great literature, but the idea is so compelling. Replay, by Ken Grimwood.

    Reading through the boring parts is what got me through school.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I, too, am an UR. I can’t hear while I’m reading. Or problem-solving a tricky logic statement while coding. Which leads me to believe that gently reading requires heavy brain power. Nowadays I’ve had to give up books for audiobooks, during which I can fall gently asleep if I don’t have something to do with my hands.

    Liked by 1 person

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