A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

Deaf at the Deli by Michele Linder

In Deafness, Hearing Loss, late deafened, Miscellaneous Ramblings on February 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I spent yesterday shopping and running errands.  It was a good day, as I didn’t really run into any particular difficulty…  I wasn’t doing things where I needed to listen or concentrate intently.

My last stop before heading home was the grocery store.  It was late, and the deli was actually closed, but I paused in front of the counter to look at some things in the open, refrigerated case below the counter, taking my time to decide what I wanted.  Because I wasn’t expecting to see anyone behind the counter, it didn’t occur to me that someone might speak to me from that direction.  I happened to glance up, and to my surprise I see a lady hovering and looking pretty disgusted, behind the counter.  Obviously, she had been asking me if she could help me find something.

The look on her face was lethal!!  I’d seen that look before…  it’s a look that says, “I was talking to you and you were rude and didn’t answer.”

I paused, let the moment soak in, and then I spoke those two little words that have the power to make someone melt into a puddle on the floor — “I’m deaf.”

The color drained from the lady’s face and she meekly apologized and slinked away.  I went back to making my selection, but had a sense she was still there and looked up again to see her waiting patiently for me to notice her (the counter prevented her from physically getting my attention by touching my arm or shoulder), and this time she offered a sincere and heartfelt apology… she said, “I thought you were just being stuck up.”, as she improvised the sign for “stuck up” by putting her nose in the air and brushing her finger across the tip repeatedly.

I could have accepted her apology and let it go at that, but instead, I smiled, accepted the apology, and then took a minute to really teach her something.  I asked her what she learned, which resulted in a confused look on her face.  I continued on, telling her that if she truly was sorry that I’d like her to go one step further with the next person she encounters that doesn’t react in the way she expects.  I asked that she take a minute to ask herself the question, “Why might this person not be reacting to my speaking to them?” and to remember the time she got upset with the deaf lady at the deli counter and how awful and humiliated it made her feel to find out that the lady wasn’t rude, only deaf.

I went on to tell her that I was in a very good mood after a long, but enjoyable day.  But, had my day gone differently… had I been concentrating all day long to hear in meetings and appointments, or had she been the fifth, sixth, or even tenth person to make it seem like I was inconveniencing them by being deaf, I either would have been at the end of my rope and burst out into tears, or I would have taken her head off.

Not only do we have to work harder to understand in the world, we also are held responsible for what we don’t hear and how that makes someone else feel.  Wrongly so.

I drove home feeling like I had made the most of that particular teaching moment, and I was proud of the fact that I did it without losing my cool.  I allowed the person their humiliation — it was warranted — and then put them at ease in order that I might leave them with something positive…  more knowledge to handle the next unexpected reaction in a better way.  That’s how we make the world a better place for all of us.

What’s sad?  Not too long ago I would have taken this scenario much too personally, and I probably would not have seized the opportunity to make the person own up to their wrong assumption.  I would have seethed in silence, which wouldn’t have done anyone any good.

That’s what the SayWhatClub has given me…  just by being among others who experience what I experience, and know what I know, I’ve found the confidence to be a better person.

Thanks SWC!!

  1. I know exactly what you mean given my profound deafness since birth. My new neighbor got mad at me one day and she started yelling at me. I didn’t understand what she was saying so I politely told her, “I’m deaf.”

    Did it stop her? Oh, no, it didn’t. She got even more irate and said, “Oh, come on, you’re looking at me right now!”

    Realizing she’s confusing deafness with blindness, I pointed at my ears and said, “That’s the part of my body that doesn’t work.” then I pointed at my eyes, “I think you’re thinking of blind.”

    Was her face beet red! Never again did I have the pleasure of her company… ever.

    • Well, that’s a blessing…you didn’t have the pleasure of her company again…ever.

      I had better hearing when I was younger. Now without my hearing aid I’m in my own little world. Of course, it isn’t the size of a Mac truck so my roommate never knows if I have it on. She’ll start talking to me and sometimes I guess she has an entire conversation with herself before I realize she’s talking to me. She’s no longer bothered by that.

      • Sounds as if your roommate could do with a little educating. :o)

      • She does her best, iseewhatyousay. She has her own issues with chemo-brain from 2 bouts of cancer treatment. We really do deal well with each other 99% of the time. 🙂 And we don’t get upset with each other – a very accepting friendship.

      • That’s so great, anotherbommerblog, that you have such a wonderful and very accepting friendship with your roommate. I’m sure each of your experiences makes you both much more accepting of one another and tolerant of the 1% of the time when wires get crossed. There are benefits in learning to live with adversity. I wouldn’t trade those things I’ve learned for anything! ~~Michele

    • Luckily the lady in my story “got it”… some people simply don’t want to “get it” and there is no amount of educating that will alter their rude behavior. I don’t bother with those people, and if I encounter them in a business you better believe I talk to their supervisor. Of course your neighbor answered to herself and it would seem no amount of effort would have made her think about her behavior. Some people simply do not have the ability to take responsibility for their actions. I try not to take pleasure in their humiliation (beet red face), but it’s hard not to revel just a little bit. :o)

  2. wonderful post, thanks for sharing this experience with us.

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