Monday, January 26, 2009

Silenced Giants

On my lunch break Friday afternoon, I ventured over to Subway to quench a craving that I had. I go to lunch at one, so I figured the line would be rather short.

I was wrong.

There were about 7 people in line, but the place was absolutely dead silent. You could have heard a pin drop.

“Hmmmm… everyone must be having a bad day…it sure is quiet,” I thought to myself as I planted myself behind two rather massive men, smiling at whoever would meet eyes with me.

Just as I finished my thought, the bigger of the two men – the one in front of me who wore blue overalls and an orange shirt, swung his entire body around and started SCREAMING.

With his hands.

Apparently, the two men behind me were with the two men in front of me. I have no idea how I managed to get in between the party of four.

His exaggerated motions scared the living daylights out of me because I had no idea what was going on. He was grunting and moaning and flailing his arms about with fury.

I timidly peeked over my shoulder at the men behind me and they were flinging their arms just as much.

They were in a fight, and they were deaf.

And I was caught in the middle of it.

I tried not to watch them as I feigned interest in the new flatbread and the lone bag of jalepeno chips that begged to be bought. But who was I kidding? I was amidst quite the scene. Every person in the restaurant was staring, yet the place remained absolutely silent. I cleared my throat and it was as if everyone had just heard a sonic boom as all heads turned toward me.

I was starting to wonder if there was a new Subway rule that you weren’t allowed to speak. Kind of like the Soup Nazi. The men continued to scream their lungs, er…hands, out at each other and I think I may have even dodged a few times. I’m telling you, it was dangerous. By the looks that I was getting, I think people started to wonder if I was with them.

After all, I was in the middle of the whole fiasco.

It came time for the one in front of me to order and I couldn’t help but wonder how this was going to work. He made little round circles with his hands and the lady behind the counter asked, “meatballs?” He nodded.

“Wow…she’s good”, I thought. “I would have guessed….marbles, hail or polka dots.”

He then pointed to a picture of the bread he wanted. A picture that was facing us, so the lady behind the counter had no possible way of seeing it. He stood there confused and kept pointing. I could tell he was getting frustrated.

I decided it was time for me to help. Super Whitney to the rescue! Da-da-da-DAAAAH!

“He wants the 9 Grain Wheat”, I said.

She looked at me and thanked me. The big man must have seen her glance to me and he turned around, gave me the biggest smile and the thumbs up.

I felt so proud.

But I have to admit, when I saw him swing around so fast, I was half scared I was going to get chewed out (though I would have no idea what he was saying). I was quite relieved to see the smile on the jolly mans face. He suddenly wasn't so scary. We were kind of friends now.

I went about my way in line, smack dab between the silenced giants, and learned a very important lesson. People with disabilities are no different than me and you. Just because I have never seen a deaf person stand in a Subway line and try to order a sandwich, doesn’t mean that they don’t do it every single day. They go about their routines just as you and me, and aside from it being 100% more challenging for them than us; the biggest difference is that they leave an impression.

I go to Subway all the time and surround myself with dozens of other people ordering the same old sandwiches, and let me tell you, not one of those people sticks out in my mind. But Friday, the four deaf men in a heated argument definitely made my lunch one that I won’t soon forget.

I just hope they resolved the conflict before someone got hurt.

30 comments:

  1. Awesome post! The mental image of a bunch of huge deaf men "screaming" at each other must have been really something!

    How sweet of you to be helpful instead of acting like they had a disease or something. Too many people either just stare or shy away, but the simple fact is they are just as normal as you and I, perhaps even more extraordinary. =) I loved reading this!

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  2. SO nice of you to help that man out - I am sure he appreciated it greatly!

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  3. Your sweet momma could have written this post. It sounds exactly like something that would happen to her. Only, she would have started trying to interpret for them during their fight and would have tried to bring peace!

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  4. Haha!

    I teach Sunday School, and while I am there a class for deaf children is going on in another room. One time I was walking to my class, and there were a few students from that class in the hallway "yelling" at each other.

    It was the oddest thing I have ever seen. Just because it isn't often you see a screaming match without hearing it first...

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  5. A similar experience happened to me on Saturday. I'd like to think that I helped more than just "help out" the person! What made it more special is that my son saw my "action" and was in awe! It's good to show him that there are GOOD people in the world who do exactly what Jesus would do!! Good for you for not taking a "back seat" to the almost impossible situation you were caught in the middle of!! {{applause}}

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  6. That would happen to you! Ha! I can just HEAR you telling this story! So awesome that you came to the rescue.

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  7. I bet you weren't expecting that when you were going out for a sub.

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  8. You've got me in stitches! I can just see that happening! I have a customer that is deaf and when I see him coming I pull out a piece of paper and we write back and forth until I figure out what he needs. He came in last week and we started our normal writing ritual and after he left I noticed another customer watching me. I smiled politely and said "we were playing tic-tac-toe!" It was my own private joke! :)

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  9. My first job was at a Hallmark card shop. The most memorable experience I took from working there (for three years) was helping a deaf family find the Beanie Babies they were looking for. It was a random but touching experience. It's so great that you were able to help!

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  10. When I used to waitress we had a group of 6 girls who came in as regulars. They always ordered the same thing, and while I often couldn't understand them I was always happy they chose to sit in my section. Its true that they make you remember them. When they first started coming in we (the rest of the waitresses) used to stare in awe as they would be signing away and laughing away just like any other group of 6 girls.

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  11. Very funny post :) I have been reading your blog for a while now and I just wanted to pop on and say hi! It sounds like you and I have tons in common. I too have always wanted to be a domestic goddess and after I had my baby girl in March last year, I went back to work only to discover that i couldn't function being trapped in the working girls body :-) So...I made a huge leap and decided to be a SAHM. And as sad as I was to leave a job I actually loved, this is the BEST job in the world. Decorating my home is pretty much my FAVORITE thing to do. I am always decorating or redecorating something. RIght now it is my daughter's playroom/soon-to-be new bedroom (you can see pics on my blog). Hopefully you will come visit sometime!

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  12. wow! that's quite an experience! and a place i'd never like to be in :)

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  13. I can just imagine how your over- active mind was just a turning while you were stuck in line b/t these giants! Good post.

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  14. That story was sweet and hilarious all at the same time! Sounds like a sitcom episode.

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  15. I had to laugh when I read this. I could just picture you there in that store, freaking out (on the inside) and then trying to help. You need to hang around your mother-in-law and learn sign language! Everyone should learn some. I tell every dentist I go to that it should be a requirement in dental school. :)

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  16. I would have been scared right out of the store! Great story - so vivid, I felt like I was there:)

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  17. Oh my goodness. What a story!! You made it so funny, although I'm sure you weren't laughing at the time, I would have been scared also!!
    And so nice of you to help out, I think I would have been to scared to talk!

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  18. Girl, it must be said - the weirdest stuff happens to you!

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  19. Wow, that's insane! What a crazy lunch!!

    I'm so glad the post was helpful to you!! I remember feeling so confused when I was registering, so I coveted the advice of my friends. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!! I love this kind of stuff!!

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  20. Man, I would've been a little freaked out myself during that fight. I'm glad you helped the guy out.

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  21. As the mother of a deaf child (well actually he's now 17 1/2) I have to laugh at your post. I've seen Deaf adults argue and it is a sight.

    The first time I saw my Deaf son sign brought tears to my eyes. When my hearing daughter learned sign language before she talked I had a doctor tell me she had a speech problem. When we took our son to the Deaf school for the first time and to see the look on his face when he saw all the other kids signing...it was just beautiful.

    I suppose I could go on and on with Deaf stories. I personally want to thank you for the compassion you had towards these men. So many people in this world would have just looked at them and turned away. My son will graduate from high school next year and it scares me to death. To think of him in this big world, being a US citizen but a minority. He wants to attend Tulsa Welding School which is about 2 hours from our home. Once again...just worries me so much.

    Anyway...thanks again. YOu're awesome!!!

    Robin Junker

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  22. Very strange experience, but it sounds like it made an impact. Thanks for sharing! :)

    Stay warm!

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  23. Wow! Awkward for you and everyone else in the place. I work with a couple of hearing impaired students and see how tough day-to-day tasks that involve interacting with their peers can be. Still, sounds like these guys were old enough to know that a lady was in their presence...no fighting!

    Have a great day!

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  24. OH MY GOODNESS YOU HAD ME FREAKING OUT IN MY CHAIR!! wow! i have never met a deaf person. BUT $ ALL AT ONCE HAVING A FIGHT! you go girl, for helping him!

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  25. HILARIOUS! I cracked up while reading this one!!!!

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  26. *That* is a cool story. Not that your other posts are not cool, but the imagery and emotion in that post were tangible. Excellent.

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  27. What an awesome story! You had me on the edge of my seat! =)

    I occasionally see a blind person walking around town, but not with a dog; just a cane. I'm amazed that he can get around and go about his errands, but he knows exactly where he's going and how many steps it takes to get there!

    ~Kate
    "Which Proverbs 14:1 Woman?"
    http://www.proverbs14-1.blogspot.com

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  28. I just happened upon your blog through another and read this post and laughed so hard! I am currently getting my masters in Early Intervention Deaf Education and I too had the same reaction the first time I saw a bunch of kids that were deaf fighting. I was so surprised because I didn't expect to hear anything but the truth is that deaf people are SO loud, which makes sense because they have no idea if they're being overly loud. But this post made me laugh till my side hurt! You are a very kind person for helping that man out! And most of all thanks for sharing your life with us!

    -Whitney from TX

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May the Lord bless you and keep you safe today! Thanks for the comment, friends! :)

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