Nobody Expected The Spanish Sign Language

, , , , , | Working | October 2, 2019

(I am relatively fluent in American Sign Language. I am the only one at the donut/coffee shop I work at that is, and as a result, I often get asked to assist deaf customers. I am on my break and have stepped out of the back of the store to eat my lunch and relax in the sun, when my manager comes charging through the back door and runs up to me.)

Manager: “[My Name]! We have a deaf customer; is there any way you can assist? I’ll clock you in and you can take an extra five minutes on your break either way.”

Me: “Of course!” *runs back to the front of the store*

Me: *signing to the customer* “What can I help you with?”

(The customer looks very confused and a little panicked. He says something and makes hand motions which I don’t recognize as any ASL I’ve ever learned, but it does sound familiar. I try to repeat in ASL one more time, slower, and spelling it out as opposed to actually using signs. The customer responds in a louder and more flustered voice, but very clearly in an incredibly Spanish accent:)

Customer: “Spa-nnnnnishhh?”

Me: *turns to my manager as I, my manager, and my coworker all realize what’s happening* “Yeah, he’s definitely not deaf, he’s asking for Spanish, not Sign.”

(My manager turned red and ducked into the back with an apologetic look to me. Thankfully, I speak enough broken Spanish that I could explain to the customer what had happened — when he used hand gestures and drew out the N in “Spanish,” my manager mistook it as drawing out the N in “Sign” — and the customer had a giant laugh! In Spanish, he explained that he was confused about why the manager had brought up a deaf cashier to help him! He then also asked me to grab my manager so he could assure him that he wasn’t offended at all, and that this situation made him laugh. The customer even corrected me a little bit on my bad Spanish, and left a $5 tip on a $10 order! All of us were still chuckling when he left the store with his donut and coffee.)

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