I Feel Sorry For This Guy’s Dog

, , , , | | Friendly | June 29, 2019

(I am a certified ASL — American Sign Language — interpreter and a volunteer for an organization that makes various resources available to the deaf community. As part of our outreach initiative, we will visit deaf individuals at their personal homes to discuss what we offer. We get a tip about a possible deaf person living in our area, so I go with my deaf friend and coworker to meet him. My coworker does not read lips, so I act as an ASL interpreter during the entire conversation. I never speak as myself the entire time and translate every word dutifully.)

Coworker: *signing* “Hi! My name is [Coworker] and I am deaf. Someone told us that there is a deaf man living here. I would like to meet him.” *big smile*

Homeowner: *speaking to me* “A deaf man? There’s no one deaf here.”

Coworker: *gets his attention and continues speaking in ASL* “Oh, I see. Maybe we got incorrect info. Thanks, anyway.”

Homeowner: *now speaking, as he should, to my coworker* “So, you’re deaf, huh? You can’t understand my words?”

(This seems innocent enough, as many people are curious when someone’s using an interpreter. And people tend to like watching sign language. We would be happy to answer a few questions if he is talkative. But it quickly turns ugly.)

Coworker: “That’s correct. Although I read and write in English just fine, I can’t hear it and I don’t speak it.”

Homeowner: *points to me* “So, without him, you could never understand anyone?”

Coworker: “I usually do just fine without an interpreter, actually.”

Homeowner: “This is so fun. It’s like I’m talking to a dog. I talk, and you just have no idea what I’m saying. You’re just watching me talk with a smile.”

Coworker: *stunned*

Homeowner: “I talk, and you know it’s meant for you. And you want to tell me something back. But you just can’t. It’s just like talking to a dog.”

(The man continued on for another minute or so, referring to my friend as a dog the entire time. My coworker eventually threw his hands up, giving up, and we walked away. It would have been rude of me to cut off my friend and speak up; instead, I had to stand there and translate the insults for him. It was agony.)

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