I was standing at the corner early one morning, waiting for the go ahead to
cross the busy city street. The corner was packed full of people. It was raining and foggy out. I stood there patiently waiting with my black pok-a-dot umbrella, sipping my luke warm coffee.
A few people sauntered up to the crowd and started debating something. I couldn’t decipher the words until the conversation got a little louder. I kept looking straight ahead as though I heard nothing, something I am accustomed to doing mostly when I work in the city.
As I waited, I starting paying attention to the variety of umbrellas and rain boots people were displaying as they shuffled off to work. I stopped hearing the conversations around me, lost in my observations & thoughts. I got jilted back when a woman lost her temper shouting, “You know, you’re nothing but a rube! You have no idea what you are talking about! So naive, I can’t even stand another minute talking to you. I’m walking to the next block. Don’t follow me!!”
“A rube, ” I thought, “what is that?”
The sign changed and we all quickly walked across the street with our poker faces in place. A couple of men passed me speaking Russian, a guy flew past on his rented City Bank bike, splattering street water on some executives.
I had no idea what a rube was but I knew I’d google it later and that it was clearly not something I’d ever call someone. Still, it’s interesting how just walking a mile and a half to work can broaden your vocabulary.
Later on in the day, back at the train station, I read the train schedule for the Hudson Line and walked to track 13. I found a seat and called my mother to see if she could bring my daughter to Girl Scouts that night. While we were on the phone, the conductor made an important announcement informing us that they had to “change some equipment” on our train and that we needed to board the train at track 33 instead. As I power walked to track 33 with everyone else, I overheard a couple of people reading Metro North news on one of the TV screens in the station, “Now there was a fire on the train somewhere?” Strangely, it didn’t phase me. These trains are more than 30 years old.
It struck me that if I was deaf or hard-of-hearing, I wouldn’t have gotten that message from the conductor. I would have seen everyone on the train getting up and exiting quickly, wondering in this day and age, what in the world was going on. I would have followed the group from my train car, paying close attention to if they were mostly all going to the same place. That is, if I wasn’t sleeping. We (people who can hear) take information that we so easily receive for granted. And most of us don’t stop to think about the people who are not getting that same pertinent information. We don’t always do it on purpose. We just make this subconscious assumption that we’re all on the same page.
Then, I thought about that woman losing her temper and calling someone a rube. I thought about the vocabulary that I’ve acquired from reading and hearing other people in their conversations. We take incidental learning for granted. Countless hours are spent teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing kids things we all learn without trying because we just happen to hear it. It made me think about an elementary school student I work with every week and all of the vocabulary that comes up in lessons that she isn’t familiar with. She remembers the things that she learns with her eyes and the way it feels to talk about things in American Sign Language and she’s just learning to read. She’s not hearing any of these words, we are showing them to her on a page, then showing her how to sign the concept and use it in signed conversation. It requires a lot more work for a deaf child to retain English vocabulary than it does for kids who can hear & hear it often. Also, remembering how to use new vocabulary words in ASL is much different than being able to recognize the written word & remember it’s meaning.
Just some random musings of a Sign Language Interpreter at the end of her work day…