Friday, October 18, 2013

How Can I Appreciate You If You Won't Go Away?

Everyone of you must have had at least one or two experiences where you’ve been out in public and someone approaches you and starts talk with you and you haven’t the faintest clue who they are. So what do you do? Well, if you’re like most people, you smile, nod, and act like they’re one of your closest friends all the while trying to get a name out of them.

That happens to me a lot. Being Deaf, I am approached by many people of whom I haven’t any idea who they are. Could be lack of memory on my part (I would forget my name if it wasn’t written in my underwear), but usually it’s people who are learning sign language and see me using it, so they want to practice with me. It can get pretty scary. Here’s a few scenarios:

  1. Person approaches. “Hi! Blah, blah, blah!” I respond, “I’m Deaf.” They run away as quickly as they can.
  2. Person approaches: “Hi!” Then they throw their hands up and start making a crude attempt to sign with me. Since they obviously already know I’m Deaf, I attempt to make it look like I can remember them or know them, but their signing looks like a cross between two cats fighting and a seizure victim. I run away as quickly as I can.
  3. (This one happens pretty much every time I leave my house with someone and am signing.) A friend and I are signing at the store. A few people spy us signing and then stand there and watch (“It’s such a beautiful language.) This is called eavesdropping, as you may know. Next thing I know the audience approaches and starts showing me the signs they know (ABCs, numbering, NICE TO MEET YOU, “Jesus Loves Me.” –gag gag gag gag). They won’t leave, so I’m trapped trying to look polite, all the while hoping against hope that something will distract them soon and they will have to go away.

So, I’ve been asked what the proper etiquette is if you see someone signing. Do you approach? Do you wave? Do you show them the I LOVE YOU sign? (You have no idea how many people love me as soon as they find out I’m Deaf.)

To me, it’s kind of like being fluent in French and you happen to overhear some people talking in that language. You might wait for a break in the conversation and then venture over there and say, “Hello.” Short and sweet. If you’re FLUENT in American Sign Language, it’s OK to go say Hi and tell them how you started learning sign. You might find you have some of the same friends. But if you don’t know how to sign at least at an advanced level, please pass. Walk by—maybe smile and sign HELLO…and keep walking. It’s nice you appreciate their langauge, but don’t bug the deaf person. That may sound harsh, but there are exceptions to the rule. 

1 comment:

  1. I just discovered your blog today and am reading it. So sorry if you have to approve a million comments from me. I'm losing my hearing and am trying to learn ASL through the internet. Anyway I live in Tennessee. I have and love boots. I have like 38 pairs of boots. Anyway, I was in the mall and saw a deaf woman signing with a friend. She had on some beautiful boots. I wanted to sign to her, excuse me, Your boots, I like, you buy where? I was also going to sign that I was just learning ASL so I'm sorry my sign isn't good. Instead I chickened out. I was afraid the woman would think I was using her to practice ASL. I was also paranoid because I only knew the sign for shoes, not boots. Another story is when I could only fingerspell, I was really bad and slow at it. I was walking in my neighborhood and saw a poster at a house that said free kittens. I rang the doorbell, saw lights flash and thought that a deaf family lived at the home. I was right. I tried to fingerspell, how old are your kitties? Instead I fingerspelled, how old are your Titties. I know your thinking, how could you mix up the letter K and letter T? I was just paranoid about not fingerspelling fast enough! I could have died , but the deaf lady had a CODA. I apologized a thousand times. The deaf lady laughed, and signed I made her day,and she appreciated me at least trying to communicate with her. I was still mortified!