When Cultures Collide

, , , , , , , | Friendly | October 9, 2020

The health crisis is well in progress when I make a post-gym visit to a chain grocery store. Though I have some residual hearing that I make the most of with hearing aids, I’m actually quite deaf. I walk in wearing a hoodie — rain is likely, and I’d rather not have a dripping umbrella in my car — and a folded red bandana as my face covering, which that very chain has been selling heaps of since the beginning of the crisis.

As I’m going down an aisle, coming opposite me is a dude in his thirties with a very… curious face covering. Imagine Scarecrow’s mask from the Batman series, but with a country camo aesthetic. I’m still a bit foggy from the gym when Country Scarecrow aggressively asks me a question as we walk past each other.

Country Scarecrow: “ARE YOU IN A GANG?”

I’m roughly the same age as him, short, pasty, and vaguely fluffy, with no ink or piercings to claim. I fit no one’s image of a gang member unless it’s a gang dedicated to show tunes and ice cream.

More confused than anything, I keep on walking as my brain processes the vaguely hostile question. I continue getting my provisions, and several minutes later, at the other end of the dairy section, I spot Country Scarecrow, and this time I’m ready.

When we get closer, he again starts asking if I’m in a gang, if I’m a Blood or a Crip, yada yada yada. I put my basket down and let my hands do the talking.

Me: “I’m deaf; do you sign?”

Country Scarecrow looked confused, so I repeated the signs I used and also gestured to my colorful hearing aids. I then pantomimed writing, and that did Country Scarecrow in, and he stomped off in a huff.  

Whatever rise or confrontation he wanted out of me was foiled by his inability to understand my minimal use of ASL. If I run into him again, I look forward to practicing my Español on him.

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