Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Deaf for the Day

Can't believe it happened already.

I crossed off my 1st goal from my 101 in 1001 list.


It's true!!

Do another “Deaf for the Day” – only this time really do it for a WHOLE day.

To those of you who don't know what "Deaf for the Day" means, let me explain. I am fluent in American Sign Language, as is my hubby Max. No, I don't know anyone deaf. I just fell in love with the language when I took an ASL class in high school, and stuck with it. My hubby learned the same way. He doesn't know anyone deaf either, yet we are both fluent. It has really come in handy when we need to communicate from across a noisy area, or even when we are in a quiet area and don't want to be noisy. Plus the Deaf culture is just amazing. If you didn't know that Deafies had a "culture", you should look up Deaf culture or watch Switched at Birth on Netflix. It's awesome.

Anyways, back to the subject at hand. In our ASL class in high school, we had a project called "Deaf for the Day". It was sort of like our class final exam. We had to take someone else who knows sign language and go somewhere out in public for at least an hour, wearing ear plugs, and using only sign language for communication. Max and I were dating already at this time, so we went on a date to Applebee's while I was being "deaf". It was so interesting. The waitress looked at me at first, then when she realized that I was only signing to her, she started talking through Max. She kept asking "Does she want more water?", "Is she enjoying her food?", etc etc etc. I was astounded. Then everyone else in the restaurant started taking an interest in me. There were a couple of employees standing at the host pedestal near the entrance who kept staring and pointing at me while whispering to each other. By the end of the night, I figured out why. For some reason or another, they didn't believe I was really deaf. When we left, the young employees waited for us to walk outside, then BLASTED the outside speakers. I had taken out my earplugs at this point because they were uncomfortable, and the music made me jump. I looked through the window of the restaurant and saw them all laughing together and pointing at me. It was really embarrassing. But I just kept thinking to myself "How rude was that? If I really was deaf, my then-boyfriend-now-husband would have been furious, because they knew that he was hearing since he was interpreting for me all night. They would have scared the daylights out of him for absolutely no reason. Just to test me.

Years later, when we were married and Vincent was about 2 years old, I was working nights at a Chinese restaurant to help make ends meet. It was a good job, got plenty of free Chinese food and made some great friends, but my proudest moment on the job was when this Deaf couple came in. They signed "menu" to me, and I handed them one. They didn't think anything of that. That sign is pretty straight-forward. But then they signed "seat" and "stay", and I immediately showed them to their seats. I think they were impressed by that, but it wasn't until I signed "Ok?" in reference to their seating, then told them their "Waitress will be with you in a minute" in ASL that they turned to each other with their jaws hanging down. I walked away with pride, thinking that was the only interaction I would have with them, but then their waitress needed my help interpreting their orders. I was able to explain to them what was in each dish, successfully stopped the woman from accidentally ordering "Hot & Sour Soup" when she thought it was "Sweet & Sour Soup", and was able to tell them if I liked certain menu items or not. (Of course there wasn't anything on the menu I didn't like!) When they left, they passed me at the front counter and kept signing over and over "Thank you, thank you, thank you." I was beside myself with happiness.

And so after those experiences, I made a vow that I would do Deaf for the Day again someday, only for an entire day. I hadn't ever gotten around to it (or had a reason to) before my 101 in 1001 list. So when I woke up yesterday with absolutely NO voice from being sick, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity. Max just happened to be home for the day so he could help me communicate with the kids. So we went for it.

We started the day off by going to Albertson's - the closest grocery store to where we live. I needed some herbal tea for my throat, not to mention some DayQuil. Also some earplugs - yes, I went all out. I signed with my husband throughout the whole store and I was surprised that unlike my 1st experience, no one seemed to pay any attention. The cashier looked directly at me when she greeted me, even though I know she saw me signing to Max in the checkout line. I nodded to her since I couldn't speak, and then when we were finished she just gave me a little wave goodbye. I was very impressed.

As for communicating with Vincent.... That was a little harder. But Max interpreted for us, and also he learned pretty quickly that if he was looking at me, I could pretty much understand what he wanted by reading his lips. We also gave both the kids unofficial sign-names. I say unofficial because it's an unwritten rule that an actual deaf person is supposed to give you your real sign-name. For Vincent we used "brave" signed with one hand and a "V" touching the shoulder, and for Eva we signed "beautiful" with an "E".

At one point in time though, Max came back from his night class in a huff and started yelling things at me. I just looked at him all confused. He had forgotten that he had been signing with me all day just from being away for an hour. That's because when you have been communicating with your hands for a long period of time, you enter the "Deaf Box". When you're in the Deaf Box, any and all noise sort of wakes you up in a sense. Noise brings you back to the land of the hearing. So in any case, he was furious because there was apparently an ant infestation in our vehicle, and he was trying to tell me that he was going to spray our car that night and asked me if we would be going anywhere for the rest of the night. He had a really hard time trying to sign to me through his anger, but he made it through.

Cooking was also pretty interesting, though. I couldn't hear the ground beef sizzling away in the pan and so I almost forgot about it entirely. Then I had to put the casserole in the oven and realized I wouldn't be able to hear my kitchen timer. I ended up setting the timer on my phone and set it to vibrate so that I would feel it in my pocket when dinner was ready.

When I finally took out the ear plugs that night, everything seemed REALLY noisy. I felt like I couldn't hear Max talking to me over the air conditioner and the hum of the computer. Then I suddenly realized..... That was the most peaceful day I've had in a looong time.

In any case, 12 hours of vocal rest and a million cups of tea later, my voice is almost back to normal today, and I'm back to listening to my kids scream and whine at me. Hooray. Lol.

It was a great experience, though. And before I wrap up, I wanna share some tips with you in case you ever come across a Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing person.
#1: Always look at them when you are talking to them, even if there is an interpreter present. Most Deafies know how to read lips anyway.
#2: If you come across a Deaf person who can't lip-read by chance, and if you can't be bothered to learn at least the alphabet in ASL, just using normal body language or mimicking what you're trying to convey works fine. In fact, a lot of times the normal "body language sign" for something is the same as the ASL sign. Deafies will normally appreciate that you are making the effort.
#3: Never, EVER doubt their ability to do things that hearing people can do. EVER.

Hope you enjoyed sharing my experience with me. I know this was kind of a long one - I appreciate those of you who stuck through it to the end. =) You guys are awesome. 'Til next time!


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