I am deaf. I am at Starbucks. I want to order coffee. I have to do it on paper rather than out loud because I speak so poorly, I don’t like to try. I intend to write it down and show it to the barrista, but I am nervous. I don’t know if I am more nervous because I am not really deaf and I feel guilty or because I am different from the other customers and I will be labeled as disabled. I am not looking forward to placing my order. I order a medium decaf coffee by holding up a notebook with the phrase “Medium Decaf Coffee, Please.” The young man at the counter does a quick transformation from a confident good looking guy to a bumbling embarrassed guy. He says,” yes sir” three or four times. He spends a long time giving change from a five dollar bill for a coffee. Then, he hands me $4.27. (The bill was $1.73) He seems hesitant and confused, and I’m thinking that he’s too worried about hurting my feelings to reconsider if he has the correct change. I shake my head: “no.” He goes thru an explanation (that makes absolutely no sense) of why it is the correct change. Then, he hands it back to me, and I again shake my head: “no.” He then thinks a second, and he gives me $2.27 change, shorting me a dollar, and then as an afterthought he finally corrects it and gives me the right change. He is clearly addled. And I feel bad for causing him anxiety, especially since it is all a drama for the paper. But, I am trying to maintain my position as a deaf man. I am trying not to respond to sound stimuli. There’s no crime in looking though—for a deaf man. In fact, I enjoyed a heightened sense of sight as I drove without radio accompaniment in my car. I am not talking to anybody. And if they are talking to me, I am avoiding their eyes because I am so busy looking at the words coming out of their mouths. Though I am a bit excited by my isolation, I am also of course, just plain lonely to be so apart from others and their community.
I notice I have a message on my cell phone, and I am not supposed to answer it, because I am not able to answer it at this time. I answer it anyway thinking it may be someone I love or it may be someone I work with that will give me money. I am so fortunate to be able to communicate by cell phone with such ease when my alter ego that is deaf is unable to do so. In fact, my alter ego can use cell phones today. There are cell phones capable of sending messages with the key pad, thus bypassing the need for speaking and hearing voice. But, it is definitely not as simple as my cell phone.
I go to the bathroom, and while I am sitting in there, (a restroom designed for just one person,) someone knocks on the door loudly a few times. Ordinarily, I would speed up or at least answer to let them know that I am in here and that I am aware of their need. Today though, I do nothing for I can not hear them knocking, and therefore I am not aware that they are even there. Normally, in such a...