Monday, August 29, 2011

What Is It Like To Ride With A Deaf Driver?

What is it like to ride with (a) Deaf driver?
One of the most common things I have been asking by *hearing people about our driving. It is only natural that people do get curious because how can a Deaf person drive if he/she can't hear? Is it safe to be on the same road with a Deaf driver? Most of the time, I can safely say yes, it is safe to be driving with a Deaf person, however, the only prerequisite you will to expect craziness to happen. 

(* Hearing is a term that is used among Deaf people to refer people who are NOT Deaf and can hear)

Let me begin by telling you a story about my friends and me. I have been friends with Sharon, who is also Deaf, for many many many many years. One day, Sharon and her husband, back-then boyfriend, M (I haven't gotten this person for his permission to use his name yet so we will refer him as M for time being), and I decided to go out for lunch at our local favorite Chinese in Milwaukee area. Now, for your knowledge, M is not Deaf, but a hearing person. Sharon was driving through a heavy traffic on HWY 43. I sat in the front passenger seat, chatting with Sharon, and was at complete ease. M was sitting in the back seat, watching our conversation, and he did not say much during the drive. Sharon's driving was mostly pretty good, but every time she looked at me; she slowed down slightly and sped up when she was done watching what I signed. Keep this in your mind that we were in a pretty heavy traffic, and our car was in the middle lane. The passing lanes were also packed. So other drivers were stuck either besides, behind or front of us with very little chance of being able to pass around to switch to the different lane. 

We arrived at our favorite haunt and sat down after ordering our food. M started laughing as we sat down, and said, "I have to tell you both this. I know you both can't hear, but I can. The whole time you (pointing at Sharon) drove; there was a woman behind us that was incessantly honking at us the whole time, and she was pretty aggravated at how you were driving. It would have been funny if she realized that you were not a crazy driver, but a Deaf driver.

So, if you ever find yourself stuck behind a car that seems to be alternating between fast and slow and you're getting pretty aggravated then you might be stuck behind a Deaf Driver.....

Ever been pulled over by a cop? You wish that you have a good excuse to not get a speeding ticket, right? I can say for 85% of the time, I get out of getting a speeding ticket just by pulling a Deaf card, and grin while promising I won't speed again in the future.

I have so many stories I can tell you about being pulled over by a cop and using my Deaf card, but none of them are as funny as this one is.....

During our freshman year in college, Sharon  (why is that I always seem to get in trouble with driving when Sharon is with me, seriously) and I were traveling through the back-roads from visiting Teri (our other good friend) at her local college. I offered to drive since I knew the area pretty well. We were riding in my faithful old black Suzuki car. We approached a small quaint-like town. Unfortunately, the town was also riddled with a lot of detours due to construction. This took place before I had GPS, okay? I decided alright, I don't want to take a different road and I might as well drive through this one blocked off road that was semi-accessible for neighbors. 

Before I entered the construction zone, I looked at Sharon and told her that we were going to drive through the blocked off road. Sharon shrugged. I drove over the bump, past the construction warning signs, and felt gravels crunching under my car tires. Suddenly, I saw bright red-and-blue siren flashing in my rearview mirror. Crap. I pulled over to side of the road, and told Sharon to play Deaf and Dumb because I was going to get us out of this.

I turned off my engine and waited as the cop sauntered up to my side. I rolled down the window and looked up at the cop. Crap, it was a female cop. I was hoping it was a guy cop--easier to charm and get on my way. But no, it was a very authorative, and butch-looking woman. I glanced at Sharon. It was apparent that she had thought the same. The female cop stared at me and frowned. She crossed her arms upon her plump stomach. Her aviator glasses gave away no reflection of her eyes. She started to speak rapidly. I shook my head and signed slowly, The woman's eyebrows furrowed. She spoke again. I signed the same thing again; I ... am... Deaf. She asked me if I could read her lips. I shook my head. Looking back, that should have tipped her off that I was, in fact, reading her lips, but for some reason, it didn't. 

She frowned then addressed Sharon, hoping she was able to speak for me, and Sharon shook her head. The cop realized that she was addressing two Deaf people and had no way to communicate with us. I was hoping she would give up at this point. She didn't. 

She took a small notepad and started scribbling on it with a shiny pen. Then she handed me the note: are you aware this is a construction zone? I nodded my head then a brilliant idea occurred to me. I wrote: I am sorry; we are both from out of the town, and I am lost. The cop took the note from me and read what I wrote. She sighed and pointed me at the right direction then waved me away. I looked at Sharon and said, does that mean we can go? Sharon replied, I think so. 

I started to drive and soon the cop caught up with us and followed us. I drove us back to the regular, construction-free road, and turned left. The cop turned right. 

Sharon shook her head and said, I can't believe we got away with it. 

I grinned and said, "Hey, this is when our deafness really comes in very handy...."

Other short funny story; I am 19 years old, and I am, again, driving my Suzuki car. Wow, I have had a lot of adventures in that car. Anyway, I am speeding...let say between 90 to 100 mph because I am running so late for my ... statistics class. I am driving to my school from my home which is about half hour drive. Unfortunately for me, I see a red-and-blue sirens in my rear mirrors and I pull over to the side. I know there is no way of getting out of this speeding ticket. No way. I am caught. Plain and simple. How can I weasel out of a speeding ticket if I am driving that fast? 

A cop walks up to me and he has a full mustache which covers his upper lip. Swell, I can't even read his lips. I shrug. The cop mumbles under his mustache. I give him a half-smile and point at my ear while shaking my head. The cop freezes for a moment. I repeat the motions again then pointed at his notepad. The cop takes his notepad and begins to write. I nod my head and grin as large as I can to applaud this man's quick understanding. The cop hands over the note and the words are hard to read, but I get the gist. The cop is basically saying I am speeding. 

Again, I know I am caught. No way to wiggle out of this one. I shrug then write, "Well, officer, you see, Deaf people have a condition that sometimes their foot has to do something with the fluids in our's a Deaf thing, really, and well, my foot is spasming pretty bad. Hence, I end up speeding because of my stupid foot spasming. I try not to speed, but sometimes that happens, you know." Then I hand the note to the cop, and prepare to get a hefty ticket. Hey, it is better to have a cop laughing while writing the ticket....instead of him scowling at me. 

The cop reads my note. And re-read the note. It feels like the minutes turned into hours. I begin to worry and wonder if I can get busted for humoring the cop? 

The cop scribbles on the note and gives me the note. I couldn't believe my eyes. The cop apologizes and tells me that he hopes I feel better and not to speed this time. I squint my eyes and glance at the cop. I could not figure if the cop is also joking with me or if he is sincere. He smiles and waves at me then returns to his car. I pull back into the traffic, puzzled, and wondering if the joke is on me.

I absolutely love driving with hearing people. You know why? I love their reactions as they see me signing and driving at the same time. Hearing people, if they are unaccustomed to Deaf drivers, seem to be unable to compute that Deaf people are multi-taskers. We can take our hands off the wheel, prop the wheel against our thighs, and sign. Or we can text on our pager with one hand while holding the other hand on the steering wheel without taking our eyes off the road. Oh, don't worry about sirens. We are perfectly capable of seeing red-and-blue sirens or big white truck with red cross on it. Because the last time I checked, it is still mandatory that people should be able to at least see in order to obtain their driving licenses, right? We follow other cars' cues as well. We can keep one eye on the road and other on our Deaf passengers. The hearing person always tell me that his/her hair strands turn gray after riding with a Deaf driver and sometimes, Deaf passengers as well. Before I enter the car with a hearing person; I always smile and say, "Buckle up, you're in for a fun ride." 

I can tell you one thing....if it is not for me being Deaf then my driving stories would not be as entertaining. 

1 comment :

  1. As I remember it, the lady was laying on her horn because Sharon wasn't driving fast enough (not that you could go any faster, with the traffic). I was laughing my ass off in the back seat for several minutes, then I finally told you both while still stuck in traffic. Ashley then looked backwards and gave that lady a giant "number 1."