Miss Communication

Here are a couple of  little public service announcements for you.   First, always be careful when signing “hungry.”


More than one swipe of your hand and it means hungry for something else entirely.  Second,  if you teach your friends how to sign “bitch,” it’s probably going to come back and bite you in the ass at some point.  Voila! Those are my announcements for today.

Anyway, this morning, I made my usual pit stop at Starbucks for my usual overpriced (yet delicious) latte.  While I was waiting for said latte, I spotted a guy wearing this shirt for gay pride today in Boston:

For those of you who don't know how to fingerspell: this says "equal" and it's part of the human rights campaign for gay, lesbian and transgender equality.

For those of you who don’t know how to fingerspell: this says “equal” and it’s part of the human rights campaign for gay, lesbian and transgender equality.

Curious as to where he got it, I politely inquired, and wasn’t shocked when he didn’t respond, but looked up in a delayed reaction and signed, “sorry, deaf.”  I smiled and proceeded to sign, “No problem.  Where’d you buy your shirt? ”  He was pleasantly surprised and we struck up a quick conversation.  The entire time we were chatting, all of Starbucks stared.

Now, I’m accustomed to being stared at when I sign with my mom.  It’s blatant and I think that it goes with the territory.  It’s not all that commonplace for many people and so they’re curious.  It doesn’t bother me.  But certainly, in this case, the irony of this was not lost on me.  We were chatting in sign language about a shirt that advertises “equality.”  I was reminded of the fact that there are inequalities that befall people like my mom and others who are profoundly deaf- it’s everywhere.

Every movie theater that doesn’t offer accommodations, every insurance company that won’t cover hearing aids, every play or public event that doesn’t have interpreters, shitty captioning on Youtube, Netflix offerings without captioning, people who say nasty things, think deaf people are stupid, and don’t bother to repeat themselves- they are all perpetuators of inequality.  Shame on them.  And while we’re at it, shame on anyone who thinks it’s within their rights to tell ANYONE who they should or shouldn’t love.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we communicate lately, in my master’s program studies, as a designer, as a hard of hearing person, as a daughter of deaf parents, and it blows my mind to think about the thousands of different ways that we deliver messages- literally and figuratively-to the world around us.  But let’s be honest- there is nothing like a little deaf (mis?)communication for a good laugh, so here are some good ones as of late.

During an increasingly desperate search for a lamp for my new parsons desk:

Me: Let’s go to Cardi’s furniture.  I’m desperate- I’ve been looking for a lamp for my new desk for a MONTH.

Mom:  I HATE that place.  They stalk you and follow you around.  They told nana she had to have someone with her when she went in there!

Me:  Well, THAT’S creepy…

Mom: I KNOW!  Let’s just sign the whole time, pretend to be deaf mutes, and they’ll leave us alone!


It’s always super fun to pretend to be stone deaf and then shock the crap out of people when I speak.

Late one night on text:

Josh:  What do you think are the odds mom will get me Taco Bell on her way home from work?

Me:  Er…She’s not so good with the drive thru and that’s the only thing open now, yes?

Josh: I really want Taco Bell.

Me: First, ew.  But, sometimes she drives up to the speaker, waits until she hears SOMETHING (or not), yells, “I’m deaf, I have to come to the window!” and just drives on.  Sometimes I can still hear them yelling as she’s driving away.

Josh: Ok, so, maybe no.

A few days later….


I’m pleased (for my brother) to report that this one was a win, people!


17 thoughts on “Miss Communication

  1. what’s really sad is that drive-thrus are often just as frustrating for the hearing. the people inside the place can’t hear shit, so you’re screaming your head off that you wanted a cheeseburger and small fry because they keep asking you if you want a chicken sandwich with a strawberry shake. what’s worse is that you KNOW the person inside speaks your language, but all you can hear when they talk is “mmpfh sskrch mm pfthquig derp?”

  2. I have to completely agree with being careful when you sign at the beginning. When learning how to sign, I completely confused my husband by asking him if he wanted a bitch when I was asking if he wanted a beer. And just a few weeks ago, confused my father in law. I was trying to let him know my mom said to drive safe. All that came out was beer before my mom laughing so hard I couldn’t get it out. What started as a fear of embarrassment over signing the wrong thing is no longer a fear. I embarrass myself all the time.

    • HA! I assume that your husband, did not, by the way, want a bitch. A co-worker of my mom’s accidentally asked her if she wanted to makeout instead of if she wanted coffee. Nothing like a little accidental sexual harassment to start your day. 😉

  3. Awwww, I like how you just incorporated all sorts of emotions into this post! I totally agree with you on the fact that certain places need to incorporate a translator!

    • Thanks! There are A LOT of improvements to be made…it’s an uphill battle, but SLOWLY, I think things are changing. Interestingly, change comes from vocal advocates and that’s not always a place where the deaf community excels.

  4. Your blog is great. Thanks. I’m afraid I’ve slyly stared at people signing well into my adulthood but it’s out of fascinated appreciation for a language I know nothing about. I guess that’s why everyone stares. Still rude and terribly awkward. Damn!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s