Deaf Jam

, , , , , , | Working | November 10, 2017

(At the store where I work, one of our overnight stockers is profoundly deaf. He usually works with another stocker who is partially deaf and can sign for him. One day, the other stocker is out sick, and the delivery that day is very large so the stockers are kept late and  are therefore still in the store when it opens. I’m working one aisle over from the deaf stocker when I hear a customer making a commotion.)

Customer: “Hello! HELLO! HEY! STOP IGNORING ME, YOU IDIOT!”

(I hurry over to see her standing behind the stocker, who is working on something and hasn’t noticed her there.)

Me: “Excuse me, can I help you?”

Customer: “No! This jerk is ignoring me! I want him to show me where the jam is and he won’t answer me!”

Me: “Ma’am, I can show you. It’s right over this way.”

Customer: “No! I want him to do it! Make him do it! Why is he ignoring me!?”

Me: “Ma’am, he is deaf. He can’t hear you and hasn’t seen you.”

(At this point, the stocker finally turns around. He waves hello and tries to go about his work, but the customer jumps in front of him and starts speaking in a very loud, exaggerated manner.)

Customer: “Where! Is! Jam! Show! Me! Jaaaam!”

Me:Ma’am. He cannot understand you. I can show you where the jam is.”

Customer: “No! I want him to do it. It’s the principle of the thing! He spent so long ignoring me, and now I will make him acknowledge me! He’s deaf, so he can read lips, so of course he can understand me!”

Me: “No, ma’am, he can’t read lips. Please, let me show you to the jam.”

(The customer keeps insisting that the deaf stocker be the one who helps her, so I give up and call over the manager, who knows some very limited sign language. He comes over, listens to what the customer has to say, and signs a short phrase to the stocker. The stocker signs something simple back, and walks off.)

Manager: “Ma’am, he says he didn’t mean to ignore you, and he’s very sorry he couldn’t understand you, but he only lip-reads in Spanish. Now, I’ll show you where the jam is.”

(After the customer has left I ask what he really signed.)

Manager: “I just told him to go work in another aisle. To the best of my knowledge, [Stocker] doesn’t understand a word of Spanish, either lip-read or written. I just figured that would be the best way to get the customer to let someone else help her without more of a scene. But d***, do I wish I could ban people like her from the store.”

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