I recently read that Eric Clapton, legendary musician, is suffering from tinnitus and is loosing his hearing. While this does not surprise me it does give me pause to be sympathetic. Extremely loud rock concert venues produce levels of damaging sound that if converted to simple physical assault would be considered a crime. Clapton is only one among many “rockers” who will be affected.

In my case it was unprotected shooting as a child and teenager. Then as a young adult I was drawn onto what was then called Hi Fi music – played loudly. It was thrilling. My concert experience was limited mostly because, although I loved the music, I disliked the noisy intrusive crowds that seemed more interested in the noise they made than the music being made. So, I rattled the rafters at home. Probably just as harmful as concert volumes.

Clapton is 72. I was 66 when friends gently “confronted” me and my deafness. I was essentially unaware of my condition. I just turned the volume up to acceptable levels and unconsciously developed the ability to read lips (today called speech reading) quite effectively.

To be sure, much late life hearing loss is inherited. I had to shout to hold a conversation with my grandfather. Many of the men on my mother’s side of the family were hard of hearing. Even so, had we been enlightened enough to insist on ear protection for me, my deafness might not be as severe as it is. It just wasn’t an issue in that day. The thing is, young ears are easily damaged. That damage does not heal like a cut or bruise. It’s cumulative.

The tide is turning. The level and quality of public awareness is increasing as we speak. Over the counter hearing aids are practically a reality. This addresses the prohibitive expense of a quality digital haring aid. Even with the development of technology the most effective tool is public awareness and insistence on a quieter public experience. Restaurants, theaters and public areas will respond to public input. The theater promoting “Sound that you can feel” must be avoided or provide ear protection. Loudness is not a prerequisite to happiness.

Finally it’s an individual responsibility. Make your voice heard. You must vote! If we stop supporting loud venues they will disappear or become quieter.

I am probably the last person on the planet to sign up for “Bill Pay” at my bank. CA has been doing this for years while I write out a physical check, seal it in an envelope with the proper documentation and walk it out to the mail box to be picked up around 4 PM.

I don’t have many checks to write. And I hate writing checks. Always have. However, the activity of writing out a check and mailing it provides an opportunity for contemplation and evaluation. Any more it’s just click click and it’s done! I like that, but nevertheless, it is one more part of the unraveling of the social fabric.

For many years, I had a physical Post Office Box at the physical Post Office. I liked that. I got to know the people there and they would call me by my name. There was contact. I realize there is no physical contact when mailing an envelope but my correspondent and I share a physical contact with the same envelope. That’s not exactly a hug but it’s at least physical. We both touch the same object, albeit a few days appart.

Bill Pay eliminates all physical contact. Surely this works to prevent the spread of disease, but does little to build community.

When I was a kid, the first Monday was bill pay day which entailed a car trip to downtown Baton Rouge, all of six miles, to actually walk into the bank to pay the house note, then the electric company, the gas company and the water company – all of which were paid from a pouch containing actual money. No checks. There were people everywhere – on the sidewalks, in stores. Often you would meet people you knew. There was a huge social component about the whole process.

A few days ago my son, David, sent me a text saying he wanting to try out a feature of Apple Pay called Pay Cash. He sent me $1 in a text message. Son of a gun – it worked! Even though I am a dollar richer, nothing physical happened. All virtual. All digital. No handshake. No actual passing the actual buck. I sent him a return text reminding him that he could probably send a larger amount. I haven’t heard from him since. There you go.

I was sitting here the other day contemplating fetching another load of fire wood and I was sidetracked by the realization that I hardly ever actually see any of the few friends I still have, in the flesh. There is no town cafe where you invariably run into someone to talk to. I gave up the post office box years ago. Now and then I run into someone at the market but that is more like a drive-by encounter than an actual arranged visit.

So-called social media is social only by a vigorous stretch of the imagination. Vocal inflections, scents, the tone and nuance of body language and most of all touch – all are lost on the Internet. We are morphing into a "touch free culture.

I suppose it could be said that less touching would go a long way toward a less harassed culture. I suppose that would be a positive outcome. I don’t want to get bogged down in that worthy discussion but it is enough to say here that as long as there are women and men there will be some level of sexual tension and from that tension comes growth and learning and occasionally, intimacy.

Touch free is great for your car but it is devastating for your soul.

You’d think that after that comment I’d drive over to Yarmouth and write out a check for the propane and have a chat with the friendly woman there an catch up on the local weather gossip. You’d think. More than likely I will fill in the amount on Bill Pay and click “Pay” and be done with it.