Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas Doctor Dance

It’s Christmas time. Time to be jolly and merry and all of those happy-time feelings. I always try my best to stay in the spirit, but sometimes it’s hard to do. For example, if people talk with me, I have to, at some point, let them know I’m Deaf so they don’t think I’m just ignoring them. But it seems that the words, “I’m Deaf,” are a real shocker to most people and they may even come across as rude. But if I wrinkle up my nose and point to my ear and very slowly nod, that doesn’t work either. Plus, it makes it look like I’m apologizing and do I really need to apologize for being Deaf? I don’t think so. I’m proud of it as far as the culture goes. So, sometimes just letting people know I can’t understand them is a chore. It makes me feel guilty and it shouldn’t.

On the other hand, there are people out there that, when I tell them I’m Deaf, they have an altogether different response.

Yesterday was a busy day. Two days before Christmas, lots of people out there buying last-minute gifts and food for the holiday. Kenny and I had to go to his doctor. He has some skin marks that look like they may be precancerous (or cancerous) and he needed the doctor to scrape them off and send them to the lab to see what the next course of action should be.

Everything went well. I was seated at the end of the table where I had a straight shot to see the doctor do his stuff.  First, he gave Kenny two local anesthetics. I know how much those hurt, so I cringed. The doctor looked over at me and said something. I, not wanting to get into a conversation about hearing and not hearing, simply smiled and nodded. (Many times that is NOT a good idea.)

The doctor then got a scraper (I think that’s the technical term. Or maybe “doohickey”) and started doing his deed. He kept glancing over at me, but I never saw his lips move, so I just ignored it.  Finally, I saw that he said something and his assistance smiled. I had no choice, but to let him know I’m Deaf. His reaction? He started to mime.

Now, I don’t know if I prefer a roll of the eyes, a person telling me they know some sign and start signing their ABC’s, or people who start gesturing obnoxiously, but this time it was interesting to see him move the way he did. You know? You don’t see doctors dancing and convulsing very often. So I watched intently and then waited for the explosion.  I finally guessed what he was trying to convey. Many people who watch the procedure he was doing end up fainting and he was making sure I wasn’t going to follow suit. I assured him I was fine and I didn’t think I would faint. Then he finished up and left. Right before he left, he turned to me and said something like, “Have a nice holiday.”
That was nice.

See? So some people, when I tell them I am Deaf, give me the deer-in-the-headlights look or roll their eyes and turn away (usually saying “Nevermind.” I’ve learned to lipread “Nevermind” fairly well). Some people get way too excited and then trap me for a half an hour with the little (and I mean little) sign language they know. But some people will do what they can to let me know what’s being said by writing (my preference), gesturing, or some other way to get their point across. The doctor did the latter and it worked out great.

Now we just wait for Kenny’s lab results. But I can be assured, if I ever have to see his doctor again, he’ll be just as pleasant as he was yesterday. And that, folks, is a relief.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Etiquette Lost

Every culture has their own ideas of etiquette. For example, in America, it's polite to shake someone's hand when you meet them. In Japan, people greet each other by bowing. The same idea holds true for the Deaf Culture. We have various traditions and ways of minding our manners.

Today, I'd like to discuss what to do when you see two people or a group of people signing. Or rather, what not to do. Don't burst into the crowd and start asking questions. You would think that would be a no-brainer. At least you would think that.

A couple of weeks ago, Kenny and I were signing at a neighborhood Speedway (gas station). We're deep in conversation when a robust older woman starts punching at Kenny's shoulder--actually causing him pain. When Kenny chose to hold up a finger to the woman (no, not the middle finger) and continue on with our dialogue, the woman actually swung Kenny around and grabbed his hands to get him to stop.

"Are you using that, um, hand language?" she asked ignorantly.

"My wife and I are using American Sign Language to talk, yes." Kenny has so much more patience than I do.

The old lady then asked, "Why?!?" and said it as if what we were doing was incredulous.

"My wife is deaf. It's how we communicate."

"Why would you marry a deaf person? You're not deaf...are you?" Kenny's patience was wearing thin and I was getting pissed.

"Ma'am, did you need something? My wife and I are trying to have a conversation."

That's when she started grotesquely waving her hands about and laughing. Before she left, she mumbled to herself, "What a waste of time."

We don't encounter situations that often that are so blatantly rude, but it happens. And just to make it clear, do NOT do what that old lady did. If you do, you're risking being smacked silly by several people.

All this frustration, rudeness, and ignorance when all she should have done was wait for a break in the conversation and lightly touch Kenny's (or my) shoulder. However, in this scenario, I don't think it would have turned out much differently. Some people simply haven't got a clue.