Monday, October 18, 2004

Random acts of giving a damn

Sorry my posting's been spotty. Work is quite overwhelming right now, although I hope it'll get better after a major meeting Tuesday we've been gearing up for for a month.

I want to say thanks to everybody who sent me emails with good wishes, encouragement, and support at my getting the CI evaluation appointment. I was surprised by the number who took the time! All very much appreciated. It's you guys who are getting me through this.



Even strangers and acquaintances.

Much has been written -- some of it by me -- about the challenges of getting through everyday dealings with clerks and cashiers, cops and waitresses, bank tellers and drycleaners, when completely deaf. But I think it is worth mentioning the people who barely know me and yet who have responded with uncommon instinct and kindness.

There's the staff at the nearby Hallmark card store, which work and personal needs see me visiting about once a week. I had to mention I had gone deaf to them very early because they were used to dealing with me as a hearing person. The staff there, and especially a woman who I think is the manager, make a point of walking up to me, making eye contact, and clearly mouthing, "If you need anything, just ask." Polite. No fuss. Just helpful. Sales staff anywhere could take a lesson from how these people care for a deaf customer.

There's the server in the diner where Husband and I usually eat Saturday morning breakfast over the newspaper (best hashbrowns ever), who remembers my "usual" and just asks how I would like my eggs done -- eliminating lots of confusing questions and answers.

There's the staff at my local pub, who have learned to sign "thank you" and "you're welcome" so we can exchange those pleasantries when doing business; who write "How are you? How was your day?" on my little notepad. And listen to my answers, and have little written exchanges with me about the courses they're taking, or the new apartment or roommate -- the stuff of college kids' lives.

There's the clerk at the blood testing lab (with which I am all too familiar), who sends me directly on to be tested when I arrive because she knows it's hard for me to lipread when my name is called if I wait in the queue.

A little closer than a stranger is my hairdresser, possibly the only straight male hairdresser in Canada, who responded to my hearing loss with incredible solicitousness and kindness and who speaks very patiently and clearly to me, and who figured out a different way to cut my hair so that I could style it when I was forbidden the glues or sprays or gels (hair products are forbidden during MRIs, CT scans, and a number of other tests I was doing several times a week). He's the front man for a successful local rock band that's opened for many a touring show, and I reviewed him years ago when I was doing entertainment reporting (positively, thank God -- wouldn't that be awkward?). I told him that I was awfully glad I hadn't gone deaf before I got to hear his wonderful road stories about touring and opening for and performing - or just hanging - with everyone from April Wine to Blue Rodeo, from Trooper to the Tragically Hip, from the Guess Who to Bryan Adams to the Crash Test Dummies to the Barenaked Ladies and even, God help us, Loverboy.

So let no-one fool you. The stupidity and impatience and density and condescension exists. We are still some way from being in a place where no handicapped person ever encounters the 'deer-in-the-headlights' look and the "Oh shit -- what do I do now?" vibe from someone in the service industry. But let's never overlook the grace and kindness we do encounter, as 'different' people, out there, every day.



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