Monday, October 10, 2011

Caught In The Act

OOPS moment 

When I was younger; I had a misconception that all hearing people had no clue how to use American Sign Language or any form of sign language and I was able to sign whatever I wanted to say without them understanding what I was talking about. 

Needless to say; I learned this in a very hard way, and it was an "oops" moment. Perhaps the word, oops, was not the best choice of the word in this case? You decide.

I am 15 years old. I am having a great morning at Six Flags Great America (an amusement park in Illinois) with my other Deaf friends, Ami and Glow. We are pretty much spent from riding roller coasters all morning and want to sit down to relax, and grab something to eat. We are having a great chat without any care in the world. Hearing people are all around us; talking and chattering with their voices. I quickly scan around the lunch arena and conclude that we are the only Deaf folks around. Great. It is a free ticket to just talk about whatever without TME (Too Many Eyes; this rule applies only to Deaf people, CODA (Child Of Adult Deaf), SODA (Sibling of Deaf Adult or interpreters or anybody who can sign). 

There is a rather large man, perhaps in his middle 30s, sitting nearby us. He has a large paper bowl of cheesy french fries in front of him. He is eating rather messily. Now, we Deaf people are very visual people...and also, rather blunt. I notice this man eating rather slobbery. I turn to Ami and Glow and sign without any care because this man obviously does not understanding my fluttering moving hands.

I make a comment, Wow! This man sure eats like a pig! I exaggerate and dramatize the man's action of eating. I mimic the man's eating style by pretending to shove my face with loads of french fries into my face and smear my face with greasy cheese. My friends are laughing at my dramatic gestures  rather than the comment itself.  Again, I have no care in the world. I know that the man has no clue what I am talking about.  Even if he thinks we are talking about him; it doesn't matter because he has no true proof that we are talking about him, and it's not my problem.

Suddenly, I see Ami's eyes widen, and Glow tries to get my attention to quit signing. Of course, I continue making fun of the man's eating habit--completely oblivious to my friends' change in their behaviors. Within a few seconds, I see dark shadow falling upon me, and I look into that direction. Sure enough, the man is standing next to me. His large body is imposing and his face is flat. I look at him and raised my eyebrow to express my annoyance of being interrupted. What does this hearing man want? 

The man takes a deep sigh. Then he start to......sign!

Look, I know what you are talking about. And what you are saying is not very nice. Miss, you need to mind what you say. 

The man must have seen confusion on my face.

No, I am not Deaf. But I do know how to sign. My mom is Deaf. 

My face becomes very red. I am partially shocked that this man has understood our entire conversation and can sign. I am also pretty embarrassed to be caught in a misbehavior. I am not a mean person, but here is this man thinking I am a vile teenager. 

The man wags his index finger at me and frowns at me rather in a disapproving manner. 


Holy BATS!  I am busted. No way of wiggling out of this one. 

I stammer a quick sign of apology. The man narrows his eyes and walks away. My friends burst out giggling and I stick out my tongue at them. 

At this very moment, I vow to never make fun of anybody in public, and not to assume that hearing people does not know how to read sign or can sign.