Monday, July 9, 2007

My "fake" hearing flop

I finally got my driver's license at seventeen, after a year of badgering my father. The only glitch was that I had to run errands for them, including my younger sister, without complaints.

My sister, then thirteen, attended a weekly Asian Indian dance class. The class was usually held, in turns, at each student's parents' homes. The Indian community in my town was quite small at that time. Almost all of the students' parents were considered as "family friends" of my parents. Practically everyone knew each other.

One Saturday late afternoon, as usual, per my parents' orders, I drove my sister to her class. To save gas, I had to stay there till they were finished and then take her home. Usually it took about 2 hours, or 3 at the most if the teacher felt satisfied that the students accomplished their steps.

Bored, I sat stiffly on the sofa, with my legs crossed and my arms on my chest. Suddenly, one of the student's older brother came up and beckoned me to follow him.

Relieved, I eagerly followed him to his room for a distraction. Sanjay was only about 1-2 years younger than me but was quite an intellectual and an expert with computers during an era that was emerging during the mid-80's.

Sanjay politely offered a seat in front of his computer. Standing next to me, he started explaining how to use the computer and play some games. He looked straight at the computer and talked fast, pointing at some things on the screen.

I quickly realized that he had NO idea I was deaf. In spite of about 5 years of living in the area, my parents apparently did not bother to "announce" that I was deaf; only when certain situations came up.

Sanjay continued to talk quickly, with him facing the computer instead of to me. I panicked, not sure what I should do. My mind started thinking fast. Should I tell him? That may scare him though. Or should I just pretend, just to be polite?

I was still unsure as he continued to talk. I sat tensely while staring at the computer, and pretended to nod as if I understood every word he said.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity of looking at the computer with a blank look on my face and robotically nodding my head at Sanjay, I was relieved when he finally finished his monologue of explanations.

Satisfied, Sanjay pleasantingly asked me if I had any questions.

Not feeling comfortable with this pretense, I nervously after a second of hesistation, decided to confess. I would look like a fool if I did not as I obviously had NO idea how to use the computer. I then told him slowly that I was deaf.

Stunned, Sanjay stared at me for a moment then replied stiffly, apparently not comprehending the fact that I did not HEAR his explanation, that I was welcome to use his computer and left in a huff, leaving me in an awkward situation.

Glancing at the computer with not a faintest idea where to start, I felt uncomfortable staying in his room so I went back to the living room where the students were practicing the dance.

Since then, Sanjay never spoke to me, not even a simple "hi", ever again.

It is always best to inform the person at the beginning, to save any embarrassment or awkward moments.