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:
- Person approaches. “Hi! Blah, blah, blah!” I respond, “I’m Deaf.” They run away as quickly as they can.
- 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.
- (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.)