was the unbelievable comment behind me in the supermarket.
Now my sign language skills are around the preschool level. They are appalling. Even if I knew more signs I don't have the manual dexterity needed to improve them much. The sign languages of the deaf (in this case Auslan) are languages in their own right. They require real skill and just as much learning as any other language. I respect those who use Auslan, BSL or any other signed language.
I also know that deafness is a very, very serious issue. People who are even "hard of hearing" or whose hearing is "not as acute as it used to be" are often isolated from what is going on around them. I help out where I can. It has been an automatic response from me since I was in my early teens and I first came across a profoundly deaf person. We sat together on the long bus journey every Friday night for a year. She was about the same age as me. It was either sit there staring straight ahead or trying to make conversation. I ended up helping her with her homework. We sort of understood each other. Over the years I have managed to learn a little more - enough to try and help when necessary.
And that is why I try to help the profoundly deaf man I sometimes see in the supermarket. It doesn't bother me in the slightest that we look a little "different" as he patiently waits for me to tell him where he might find something or he tells me his dog has been to the vet or that his sister (also deaf) is having another baby. It is simple conversation, every day conversation.
Most of the people I know in our local shopping centre (and I know a lot) just shrug and tell me, "I don't know how you do that" (and no, they don't want to learn). Then there was the unbelievable comment from someone I don't know although I have seen him around the shops. It was, "Look at those dummies waving their arms around in the air. Wouldn't you think they wouldn't want to advertise the fact they can't talk properly?" He knew exactly what he was doing. It was not ignorance. He was laughing.
I lost my temper. I lost my temper there in the middle of the aisle. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I am still recovering from a heavy cold which caused a bout of pneumonia. I was no longer contagious so I had made the effort to go and get some milk. I was tired and all I wanted to do was curl up on my sleeping mat and go back to sleep.
All that might have been the case but nobody was going to get away with that. I stood there, blocking the aisle, and I told this man exactly what I thought of him. I did not swear. I did not need to swear. I could still tell him.
"F.... you," he told me and turned around to walk off. His way was blocked by someone else.
"She's right you know," two people told him.
"F...ing idiots all of you," he told them and pushed past.
I took a deep breath and prowled on to get the milk. As I was getting it another voice said quietly behind me, "I really am sorry for my husband's behaviour. He's just been told he is going to need hearing aids but that is no excuse."
I feel for both of them. It isn't going to be easy.
More Auslan signing on tv - and subsequent interest in learning the language - an unexpected consequence of covid. Long may the interest last.
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