Monday, June 8, 2015

"What Did She Say?"

We walked into Olive Garden and were seated immediately. The place was quiet since we were early for the lunch crowd.

"What would you like to drink?" was the waitress' first question. I knew what she was asking from past experience, so I went ahead and told her I wanted an iced tea and she went on her way. She returned shortly thereafter to take our food order.

"Are you guys ready to order?"

I watched as Kenny placed his order and then the waitress turned to me and started talking. Not knowing what she was saying, I went ahead and started to order. "I'll have the seafood alfredo, please."

"OK." She said more, so I turned to Kenny to interpret. When he began to sign to me, the waitress' eyes grew as big as saucers. I found out what she was saying and answered -- just as clearly as I had before. She looked baffled -- as if finding out I was deaf completely blocked her brain waves. "Wh--what did she say?" She turned to Kenny to rescue her. "I didn't understand."

Kenny signed to me to repeat myself and I did. Still the waitress stood there, unable to comprehend the words coming from my mouth.

After a minute of repeating myself, I was visibly frustrated, so Kenny finished up the order and the waitress awkwardly walked away.

That wasn't the first time a person was fine listening to me till he or she discovered I was deaf. People find out this information and all of a sudden tit's like the clarity of my voices dissipates and they can't understand me. But, despite the frustration, it's really quite absurd and I often have to laugh out loud. What is it in my voice that changes? Do I start to mumble? Do I start to slur my words like a drunken sailor? No! Nothing changes except the other party sees I'm deaf and that I need sign language to understand them. But since they don't know sign language (It's another story if they think they do), they assume we cannot communicate with each other and they have to ask my husband to talk for me. Nevermind, I've been talking all of my life and didn't lose the bulk of my hearing till I was 27!

Because this happens so often when I'm out and about, I have repeatedly asked my family if my voice has changed. Some have said that my voice has gotten a little deeper, but most people emphatically tell me no. My voice is the same as before I went totally deaf.

So why the comprehension problems? I believe it's gotta be in their heads. I mean, isn't one of the first things you learn about the "death" is that we also can't speak? Deaf mute, right? Before I sign, I look "normal." Then I use my hands and POW! I must be a mute. I must be "deaf and dumb."

Well, let me take this moment to clarify. To not be able to hear -- no matter how deaf a person is -- does not in any way automatically mean they're not able to speak! Everyone has a past and you can't know a person's abilities simply by watching and/or guessing.

Remember this blog the next time you meet a deaf person. Assume nothing! Get rid of all the stereotypes in your head. Just because a person has a disability or comes from a culture other than your own, doesn't mean they fall into a set of characteristics you learned as kid or even an adult. Keep an open mind! But I still have to laugh when people, who have been talking to me, all of a sudden can't understand me and need to ask my family, "What did she say?"

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