Imagine the year is 2019: You’re at a real estate office with a friend to inquire about purchasing farmland with the intention of growing pre-pickled vegetables. (This would be done by irrigating crop with vinegar instead of water.)
You ask the realtor some questions. Rather than answer you, the realtor pulls your friend aside and whispers in their ear. The realtor works in a polite smile but gives you nothing more than that.
Once the meeting has ended, your friend relays all the realtor’s answers to you (“No, you can’t pay the mortgage in pickled vegetables.”) Your friend also tells you about the mortgage plan they’ve agreed upon without your input. Although you trust your friend to make the right decision, you can’t help but be wary of the realtor and remark to your friend that you found it unsettling how the realtor ignored you.
THEN! Your friend defends the realtor’s behaviour. Your friend asserts to you that the realtor was professional and rationalizes you being left out of a conversation about something that affects you. In other words, “Shh, the adults are talking.”
When you’re deaf, this isn’t an unusual scenario. You can’t blame the language barrier when there’s a workaround: writing.
I understand the appeal of convenience as I’d love to access the world in sign language. When I communicate by writing or typing on my phone, I am meeting non-signers halfway. Even if I am with a hearing friend who signs, it’s not their job to interpret. Imagine being so lazy about returning the effort, and saddling the effort on someone else?
We live in an age where, instead of calling up a friend for a chat, hearing people will exchange text messages with one another all day long. But it’s outrageous for me to expect them to approach a conversation with me in the same way?
Four years of living in Montréal, a city where the primary language is French meant I removed my expectations of communicating with people directly. When it came to short interactions, I was often letting Yann or a French-speaking friend take the reins.
But in BC? Where I can work my English magic on paper? Fuck that.
Last week, I visited the property management office to fix a situation that arose from a meeting where I was excluded. Before discussing the situation, I explained to the receptionist that I had shown up solo because of people’s tendency to ignore me in Yann’s presence.
The receptionist then called her boss over and showed him what I had written. A discussion happened in front of me before the boss retreated to his office. The receptionist then relayed what her boss had just told her.
I looked at her in disbelief and wrote:
“It just happened again. He had a conversation with you in front of me, without even as much as look in my direction.”
“I’m his assistant.”
It was about the situation! You know, the one in which I’m involved? You sincerely think if I weren’t deaf, that your boss would’ve done the same thing?
If they don’t want to talk to me, maybe I don’t want to pay rent?
As these people get to decide whether I have a place to live, and the main issue had been resolved, I just nodded and thanked the assistant. Yes, I had to nod and smile politely before coming home to rage about it on my blog.
I don’t want to have to write posts like this: it’s not fun to examine whether I’m asking for too much when it comes to being a part of civilization. I want to judge my neighbours’ taste in lawn ornaments and share my plan for a pre-pickled vegetable farm. (My best seller would be the pickled asparagus as they’d make your pee smell twice as funny. Let me know if you’re interested in learning more about this cockamamie plan of mine.)
Overall, this situation isn’t funny. It happens far too often for me to let slide. I need people close to me to notice when others do this and not make excuses for them. Don’t be that dick who defends other dicks.