Not Stupid, Rude, or Ungrateful--Just Deaf
by Tina Blue
November 8, 2002
About a week ago I stopped by the store with a friend who stayed out in the car while I ran in to pick up a loaf of bread. While I was in there, I grabbed a few cans of catfood and a couple of other odds and ends, too. Several things in my basket were on sale, but I would only get the sale price if I showed the cashier my Dillon's card. Without it, I would have to pay full price.
Naturally I had left my card in my backpack in the car. Oh, well. I would only have saved about a dollar anyway.
When the cashier asked me for my Dillon's card, I said, "No, I'm sorry--I left it out in the car."
Then the young man behind me in line said something to the cashier, and the cashier said something back to him, but I was writing a check for my total, so I didn't pay any attention to their exchange.
When I handed the check to the cashier, he handed me back a handful of change. I had written the check for the exact amount, so I stood there stupidly for a second, staring at the change in my hand. Then I looked up with a puzzled expression, and the cashier said, "He used his Dillon's card for you," indicating the young man in line behind me.
"I'm sorry," I stammered, "I didn't realize. I'm deaf--I didn't know what you were saying to each other."
As I returned to the car, I thought about how often I have been in the store with someone--a friend or one of my kids--who has to tap me and say, "Tina, this lady just asked if you know where the cornstarch is," or "Mom, this person is trying to talk to you." If I'm not facing the person who is trying to talk to me, I am not likely even to realize I'm being spoken to.
Since this happens so often when someone is with me, I assume it must also happen fairly often when I am in the store alone. But on those occasions, because I have no one to alert me to the fact that I'm being spoken to, I must be ignoring a lot of people who are saying things to me or asking me questions. How rude I must seem to them!
I suppose I could prevent such incidents by looking clueless. One reason why people ask me about things in stores is that I have a purposeful manner and I very obviously know where everything is. But hearing people often think deaf people are space cadets anyway, so I hate to reinforce that stereotype by pretending to be clueless when I actually am not.
I guess those are our choices: we can seem clueless, or we can seem rude or ungrateful.
It would save me a lot of awkwardness and trouble, though, if I could figure out a way to "seem" deaf.