December 16, 2009

I Am Not Ignoring You!

I am always making others mad, confused, or annoyed because I like to "ignore" them (when really I did not hear them). This is something I have to accept. I have grown tired of looking around me all of the time, like a paranoid person, looking to see if there is anyone trying to talk to me or approach me about something. It is exhausting.

I know that there will be lots of times where someone will say, "Hi, how are you?"or they may say "Oh, you look nice." If I don't see them or if I am not approached directly, most likely I will not hear them. I hate for them to think that I ignored them or did not care about what they say. There is nothing worse than someone not responding to you. I must seem like a total snob.

This is why it is so important that I let as many people I know be aware that I do not hear very well and that I am deaf in my left ear. I don't want people to assume that I am ignoring them.

I have had plenty of embarrassing and even frightening experiences where people thought I was being rude and disregarding them.

One time, I was working in an art store. I was re-stocking some brushes on a shelf, slowly and carefully. I was trying to pass the time. There were hardly any customers in the store; it was a slow day. When I finished, I turned around and was startled to see a man standing close to me, red in the face, and looking at me.

"Can I help you sir?" I asked, slowly backing away towards the main area of the store.
"Miss, I have been standing here trying to get your attention! I have been practically yelling "Miss! Miss!" for the past five minutes! You just had to finish putting the brushes away, huh?!" he yelled.
I smirked and said, "I apologize sir, but I am partially deaf and I obviously did not hear you. You must have been yelling at my deaf ear."

His eyes grew big and then he slapped his hand against his forehead when he saw my hearing aid.
He cried, "Oh! I am so sorry! Geez." He blubbered something about how bad he felt and he kept apologizing. He was really embarrassed.

Another awkward experience, due to me 'ignoring' people, happened while I was in New York, not too long ago. I was trying to get on a crowded subway car after a long day of student teaching. A group of teenagers stood in front of the doors of the train. They would not move, even though they knew I was trying to get on (oh, there were plenty of room!). I shoved my way through to get on, right before the doors closed. Relieved to find an empty seat, I plunked down and closed my eyes for a second. When I opened them, I looked around the train as I always do (I love to people watch). I noticed to my left that there was an angry looking teenage girl staring at me. When my eyes met her eyes, she started screaming at me.

"You pushed my friend! You pushed my friend! Yeah, you sit there and ignore me as I talk to you! You think you can sit there and not listen to me! Oh you gonna listen to me!"

She just went on and on about what a horrible person I was and then she accused me of being a racist.

I looked at her and said loud enough for everyone on the train to hear, "Maybe because I am deaf in this ear, I did not hear you. OK. I accidentally pushed your friend as I was trying to get on the train. I apologize for that. But, I will NOT apologize for not hearing you. OK?"

She stopped talking.

Junior High was when I first realized that I should probably start letting others know about my hearing loss.

My art class had an end-of-the-year party that I participated in. As I munched on some snacks, a girl I did not know real well came up to me and said, "I did not realize that you have a hearing aid!"

I stood there chewing quickly and trying to swallow my food (don't you hate it when people talk to you as you just put a bunch of food in your mouth?). I wondered why she was bringing up my hearing aid. Before I could say anything, she told me that in the beginning of the year, when I was sitting at a table drawing, she commented on my drawing as she stood behind me. Of course, I did not hear her. She said that she commented a few more times and I still did not respond. She thought I was ignoring her and being rude. So from then on she avoided me, thinking I was this mean and unfriendly person. Me being shy and not taking the initiative to approach and talk to people did not help either.
"I thought you were weird and being snobby," she said.

I felt awful and I told her how sorry I was. She smiled and said that at least she knows now. I remember feeling kind of sad. Maybe we could have been friends. Who knows how many other people perceived me this way.

It took me a very long time to accept my deafness and to really acknowledge it out loud. The more I started talking about my hearing loss and letting others know about it, the easier life became. However, I do realize that I will continue to anger and confuse people, probably on a daily basis, and that's OK. It keeps things interesting, I suppose.

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3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. I feel the same way that I need to let people know about my loss. Unfortunately I need to work on my assertiveness first!

    I've had many situations like the ones you describe. People are so quick to assume I am a snob or don't want to do my job.

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  2. Or they are quick to assume that you are not paying attention. But, you can't blame them. I know once most people realize, they are more than accomodating. If they are not, then they are not worth your time.
    I am not always this assertive. It depends on the situation. I still have to work on it. It is hard.
    Thanks for your comment!

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  3. Sorry, I have to laugh! This reminds me of something that happened to me on the metro in DC. Three of us got on the train and sat down. Me and one girl sat in the front horizontal seat, and the other girl sat alone on the seat vertical to ours (handicap/elderly seating.) We were chatting in ASL, and at the next stop, this big, black man sat next to my friend in the other seat. She freaked out since he started talking to her; she was also socially awkward and from another culture. We reminded her in ASL that her behavior was not appropriate, and resumed our conversation.

    The man threw a fit; he started yelling many things that I missed, but one thing I caught, "You never know if these stupid deaf people are talking about you." After he said that, I spoke, "Sorry sir, but we're not talking about you. You just startled my friend, that's all" He was flustered, and everyone on the train started laughing! "I'm so sorry! I didn't realize! I'm so sorry!" He then tried to kiss the back of my hand! EEK! We finally made a hasty retreat out of the train! haha.

    ~Janel

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Keep it civil.