Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"It's A Deaf Thing"

My Deaf friends and I have a lot of moments where we just laugh, and say to poor hearing folks, hey.....

" It is [a] Deaf thing"
*FYI, an article "A" in the sentence is normally not used in ASL*
I have been doing a lot of thinking about a lot of moments that my friends and I have commonly experienced as Deaf people and would really like to share it with you, non-deaf, guys. While this is for mostly giggles; it is also educational for you guys who are not exposed to Deaf culture, to Deaf people, or Deaf norms. I have collected a lot of experiences from my Deaf friends that will be going into this post and future posts (yes there are more yet to come) including sharing my own experiences. 

  • I am sitting in the patio area at a restaurant with my Deaf friends. We are laughing and signing; oblivious to others in the patio area, and the waitress comes by us to get our order. She pulls out the paper to write down the order. She sees that none of us can speak, and she can't sign. The waitress begins to make horrid shapes on her lips; stretching, exaggerating every letter in words, enunciating letters carefully, and keeps opening and shutting her mouth in an attempt to make herself understood by us. We all sit back, horrified by this horror show that our waitress is attempting at, and tries hard not to laugh. The waitress, sensing that she has suddenly becomes a butt of our joke, drops her attempt to "exaggerate her mouth". I offer her a sympathetic look and write this down, "I am sorry. I promise; it is not you.  It is just a Deaf thing....You have to be Deaf to understand.....
  • See how ridiculous one can look while exaggerating the mouth while speaking?

  • This is something I'm quite guilty of doing....not once....not even three times, but four times (that was when I had my Suzuki car back in the old college days)! Fortunately, I am not the only one that has experienced this among my Deaf friends. I am in a big hurry. Really, really, really late for an event I'm supposed to attend. Crap! I grab my things, stuff them in my backpack, grab my purse, and quickly check my make-up in the rear view mirror. I open the car door, and press down the lock button. Then I step out and slam the door and run into the building. About ten minutes later, a stranger approaches me and says, 'Madam, is the black Suzuki car yours?' I nod my head: yes. The stranger gives me a pained facial expression, then says, "Your car is running but it's locked. Don't worry, a cop is on his way and will help you to retrieve your keys." D'oh! Then the cops approaches me after he meets me at my car in the parking lot, and asks me, ma'am, how do you manage to lock your keys in your car and leave it running? I shrugged and give him a half-lame, chagrined explanation (hey, it is true), "It's a Deaf thing...You have to be Deaf to understand."

  • As a Deaf person, I have been approached by strangers, people I know, friends and family members about my Deafness. They ask me questions about my Deafness. It does not bother me. I welcome their questions because it gives me an opportunity to talk and educate them about Deaf Culture. However, some questions I have been asked be nice, creative. 
I was approached once by a young man, say let name him, Bob, and he was really curious about me. He never officially had met anyone who was Deaf. Cool. Good exposure for him to meet someone who happened to be Deaf. I wanted him to have a good experience. After all, approaching a Deaf person was somewhat intimidating for many hearing folks. Bob scratched his chin then asked me, can you sign? I stood there, trying to keep my mouth shut instead of allowing my mouth drop open because you see, this guy was in my class for an entire semester. He witnessed my interpreter signing. He saw me signing in front of the classroom for my presentations, and when I answered my professor's questions. I tried to bite back a sarcastic comment, but failed......I replied, see, that happens to be a very excellent question. Very excellent. American Sign Language is what Deaf people use to communicate most of the time, by the way, and um, you have seen me in the classroom with my interpreter here (bob nods his head). I happen to really really like to gesture a lot. I use my hands all of the time. I move my hands frequently and I really can't refrain myself from making those senseless gestures. Somehow my interpreter can read my mind and translates what I want to say. Amazing, right? Bob stands there, looks at me then at my interpreter and realizes that he is a butt of my joke. He turns red and realizes the stupidity of his question. I smile then pat my hand on Bob's back then said, "Bob, I am sorry if I embarrassed you. It is just ... a Deaf thing."  (Please don't let this deter you from approaching a Deaf person with any questions you have though!)  
Facepalm moment, please. 

  • Every culture have their own time orientation. Guess what? Deaf people have what we call, "Deaf Time". True story! More often than not, when it is time for me to leave my Deaf friend's house; I stand up and say good-bye. Yet five minutes later, I am still in my friend's house talking about something new that comes up during the conversation while saying good-bye, and I nod my head then say, I really need to get going. Five minutes later, I have only made it to the foyer and am still talking with my Deaf friend. Total of ten minutes have lapsed since I last said good-bye. Five minutes later, I am standing in the driveway, laughing and chatting with my Deaf friend. My poor husband, Stu, is looking at his clock and realizes that fifteen minutes now have gone by. I finally give my Deaf friend a hug and reaches to our car. Stu gets in the car. Alas! Something I just have to add to the farewell conversation. My friend replies to what I have said and now we are chatting about the subject I had brought up. Now twenty minutes have passed since I last said good-bye. Stu sighs and looks out of the passenger window and says, "Ashley, are we leaving yet?" I exclaims, OH, that's right, I am sorry but I really have to be going and gets in the car. My Deaf friend is still signing to me even though I am buckling up and I reply and laugh. Stu reeves the engine and slowly backs out of the driveway. I tell Stu to slow down, slow down, because I have just one more thing to tell my friend. Stu obeys. I eagerly add what I want to say and my friend laugh. Stu finally backs the car out into the street. It is when I finally wave bye bye to my Deaf friend and my Deaf friends goes into the house. Stu sighs and says, "Ash, do you realize that it has been half-hour since you last said good-bye. Does it really take that long to say goodbye to your friend?" I smile and say, "Well, is a Deaf thing. Welcome to my world.

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There are more yet to come! Keep posted!