Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Trying to fit in...One sign at a time.

Hey Guys-

First off, I want to thank everyone for the support and praises I have heard from each and every one of you. It means a lot to me! I also want to thank those who are reading but didn’t leave a comment, again thanks for reading! I also read all comments and take them to heart, and again anything you want to hear from me or anything send me a message I’d be glad to give an opinion about it.

This blog is going to be about how I lived in the hearing world as a hearing impaired person. You may be wondering, wait; we all know what it is like. You do, but in this situation, I grew up in a hearing world, with hearing people, friends and families. I virtually and literally had NO contact with any deaf people. This means I talked to people, I never did ASL, or attended deaf meets, etc etc. Take a look at the next paragraph and tell me not so much what’s wrong with the situation but see how my life was.

Alex to a hearing person-Hey Dude what’s up?

HP (Hearing Person) - Hey Alex not much just chilling

Alex-Sweet, you all going out tonight?

HP-Ya we are wanna come?

Alex- Nah, I gotta go home and study for a test but thanks!

HP- Ok bro no problem see ya!

This situation involved me and a hearing person talking face to face, no ASL was involved no interpreters or anything. Now I am going to run into a deaf person on the street in the next story.

DP (deaf person) - He waves to get my attention notices my hearing aids. He signs and goes hey do you know ASL?

Now, I am like a deer in headlights. How can I communicate to this deaf person? He wants to talk to me because he thinks I know ASL. But, I don’t! What to do?! I shake my head and speak but I circle my lips and go can you read my lips? Unfortunately he doesn’t and only does ASL. This is a HUGE communication barrier on my part. I sort of shrug and go Im sorry and sign it a bit and go I don’t know ASL.

By now you’re probably thinking what on earth is the point of this? Glad you asked. I am trying to get you to see how I lived my life and the frustrations I had with deaf people as a hearing impaired person. Basically when deaf people talk about the frustrations of living in a hearing world, I didn’t have that. My frustrations came from interacting with deaf people. Not knowing ASL was the key point. A lot of people may actually see my situation but in reverse or something.

For example, when I first started going to deaf meeting. I was used to simply clapping and all. However, when speeches were finished, I stood up to clap! Immediately, I was the only one clapping but surrounded in a wave of shaking hands. “Oops” I thought, I sat down embarrassed. Sort of funny I thought. Also shows how used to the hearing environment I was!

I wanted to talk about a story where I went to a Deaf Event where I felt like I was in the minority. Do remember this is from a non-ASL person’s point of view. Mom and I go to the deaf program at JALC to check the place out. We both do not know any sign language. So once we arrived there, we had like 5 people come up to us and start signing to us. I did not have a CLUE what they were saying. I only knew finger spelling and that was it. This professor came up and starts signing my name and I said or rather signed to the best I could Y-E-S. I felt so stupid! He clapped and said “oh good, good, wonderful!!!” I'm thinking “why?” They kept signing some more of course I cant understand a word, and my mom and I looked at each other and were like "lets get out of here, LETS GO FIND ANGIE! (Angie is the coordinator for this program and was someone I could easily communicate to without ASL)

So mom and I took off running to her office, we found her and told her what happened, and she said “ohh I see you met Paul” (who was the professor who signed my name) I said “ya if that’s his name?” she said “ya it is.” We walked back down together. We went back into the room, and it was really quiet (since most of them were signing) and then as we are signing our papers, I heard a HUGE slam as if someone dropped something. It startled me so I screamed like a girl a bit and said “oh my gosh, that scared the crap out of me. Then I looked around and realized no one else heard it and then I said out loud, "WAS I THE ONLY ONE WHO HEARD THAT NOISE?!" my mom and Angie laughed, at they way I said it without thinking.

Then we found a table and sat down, and we kind of talked amongst ourselves... Well rather we talked, and the rest signed, then like I really felt like I was in the minority here. Even though I am deaf/Hearing-Impaired like they are, I can talk and read lips and not be able to do ASL like they could! They all had a clique, something to belong to, I did not. Then people were signing and acting out skits and stuff, and we had a speaker come up and he tapped the microphone and said "ok, can anyone hear me?" this is when I lost control of myself and started laughing abruptly thinking, your asking a room full of Deaf people if they can hear him? I actually heard the room chuckle a bit, while my mom laughed and so did Angie. I assumed he did it as a joke, since a lot of the others also laughed along.

One of those, you had to be there. Then one last funny thing I did, when you clap in sign language you wave your hands in the air kind of shake 'em a little bit and such? Well I forgot that. So every time we "clapped" I started to clap my hands and would clap once or twice, then id forget and start waving my hands in the air. I totally felt like a dork for forgetting. It never failed every single time I start to actually clap then remember and then id wave the hands. Too funny. It was a very fun time and I had a great time. I just got to learn sign language one of these days.

Once again, I want to reiterate that this was MY situation. I typed this out for people both hearing and deaf, to see the light hearted situations I found myself in. Even though I am hearing-impaired, I was so used to being surrounded by hearing people I had to literally readjust, and what was normal for deaf people was not for me. Hence my surprise reactions and thoughts to the different situations. I hope you enjoyed seeing a different side of another hearing-impaired person and enjoyed the irony and situations that had played out in front of me.


LaRonda said...

Alex, you stories add a richness to the diversity we have in the deaf community. Your stories are so welcome and give a fresh perspective for all to ponder. Keep on writing. You're a shining star!

~ LaRonda

Sean said...

Nice post. I may not understand where you come from. But, I can see what you are trying to express the diversity.

Welcome to deaf culture. I hope you will find a time to explore american sign language.

Best of luck!


Ann_C said...

*nodding my head* You're not alone. I understand your perspective as well.

FairLady said...

Don't feel bad.. I still do clap sometimes.. I still do it to this day.. Oh well, I am more of mixture both and I tend to lean more on the ASL culture but every once a while hearing culture slip in me.. :)

Anonymous said...

You are very much like me alex i spend too much time with hearing world and i choose that. I have been involved in deaf community and i tell you it does make you bend over backwards a bit and trying to understand them i am still learning to this day!!! You will learn from it and i still clap when deaf looks at me weird i just chuckle as i clap along lol