Monday, March 31, 2008

Don't ever cry wolf

When I was ten years old, my father would often, after coming home from work, take me and my sister swimming at our apartment complex pool. My mother was then too shy to don a swimsuit and she was too busy making dinner anyway.

I learned swimming when I was five in Mumbai, but never got to accomplish it without a "floater" around my stomach. In those days, I had a small "barrel" shaped floater with ropes tied around my stomach before jumping into the pool with my teacher.

Upon moving to U.S. from India, my mother immediately enrolled me and my sister for swimming lessons at a YMCA. I finally learned how to do the strokes and the backstrokes without a lifejacket or any other support.

One early evening at our apartment pool as usual with my father and sister, I decided to play a small trick.

My father was only few feet away, in a deep section while I was in the shallow area.

I pretended to suddenly panic and flapped my arms in the water, while screaming for help.

My father made a mad rush to pick me up but to find me instead laughing and saying that it was only a joke.

After telling me not to do it again, with a serious look on his face, my father explained briefly the story of a boy who "cried wolf".

There was a boy who loved to roam in the forest. He decided to play a prank on the villagers. He cried there was a wolf close by. Hearing his plea for help, the villagers rushed to rescue the boy but found him laughing instead. This happened at least two times. Then the third time, for real this time, a wolf appeared near the boy. The boy panicked and screamed loudly for help. But alas, the villagers, thinking it a joke as usual, ignored the boy's cry.

The moral of the story stayed in my mind for years.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Obedience vs Religion

One evening, after about a year after we moved to USA from India when I was nine, and my sister, five, my parents had to go out somewhere important for a brief time. With some hesistant decision, they quickly lectured me and my sister NOT to open the door to anyone until they returned.

Looking up at our parents' stern faces, we seriously nodded our heads and promised.

One hour later, while we were watching TV, there was a knock on the door.

Puzzled, putting the upper chain lock on the door, I opened it a bit to peek.

There were two older, seemingly nice, ladies standing on the top steps, smiling.

One of them said it was important that they talk to us about Jesus. I merely replied I could not let them in and they had to leave.

Undeterred, they insisted it was quite essential to our lives that they introduce Jesus to us.

I refused to budge, however my sister said she felt it looked okay to let them in as they seemed harmless. But I insisted NOT to let them in at all.

Defiantly, she looked at me, and said to open the door now.

Then the ladies acted as if they had "won" my sister over and inched closer to the door as if to say, "DO let us in... you won't be sorry!"

Looking back and forth at my sister and the ladies, with much reluctance, I slowly unlocked the chain and opened the door.

For about half an hour, they showed us brochures about Christianity and Jesus.

I anxiously nodded to their talk, while hoping that they'd leave soon before my parents returned.

Finally, to my relief, they got up from the sofa and proceeded towards the door.

As they were opening the door to go out, one of them turned, smiling, and said, "Don't ever open the door to strangers".

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A childish crush

In the summer of my eighth grade year, my parents decided to put me and my sister in a deaf/hearing day camp few miles away.

There were about a total of 20 of us, half which were deaf and the other half, hearing. Mostly, those hearing ones were simply the siblings of the deaf ones.

We mostly spent our time hiking, doing creative projects, canoeing, and rehearsing for a silent play, called "Midsummer's night dream".

During this time, there was a fad of liquid flavored candy-laced toothpicks. Some liquid candy was so spiced that if you merely touch the very tip of a toothpick on your tongue, you would immediately feel the burn.

One day, there was a guy named Chris whom I had a crush. Some other deaf kids and I were playing a joke on Chris. Somehow, it went awry. In the midst of our playing around with Chris, a bottle of the spiced liquid candy spilled on Chris' face.

Screaming and crying, Chris thrashed on the floor, with the rest of us, looking terrified at him and dreading the looks of the camp coaches who came in to see what the racket was all about.

Immediately, he was taken to the hospital where the nurses put some medicine on his face. The next day, he came to the camp with all the band-aids. His skin looked quite reddish and sore.

Of course, the camp coaches confiscated all our bottle of liquid candy and toothpicks.

I kept my crush on Chris a secret, yet I wanted to "confess". So, I thought of a method to write it down so that way, no one would ever know.

Or so I had thought.

One evening, after a day at the camp, my sister and I arrived home. My mother was working in the kitchen when my ten-year old sister suddenly piped up to my mom that made me want to wring my little sis' scrawny little neck.

"Nita loves someone and it is written at the bottom of her shoe."

The poor "orphan"

In high school, there was a hoh guy named Scott. He was quite tall, possibly 6' and a bit skinny. He was in two grades ahead of me. Although not that intelligent, he was quite a hard-working student, doing his best to graduate. He never got into trouble like most deaf guys in my school; instead he avoided most of us, roaming down the halls like a quiet and lonely spirit.

His mother died when he was young. His father eventually stopped caring about him and his older brother. As soon as his older brother became an adult, he moved out and became a guardian for Scott until he graduated.

There was hoh girl named Lisa. She and I rode the same school bus. Often, she would tell me how much she liked Scott but he seemed to not to notice her. Finally, in their senior year, Scott mustered courage to ask Lisa to the prom. Lisa said he was such a gentleman and she had a good time.

After graduation, it seemed we heard the last of him. I am not sure if he did go to college but probably due to lack of money, he possibly got a job to support himself.

Two years later, he with his friends went bowling on a Saturday night. The son of one of the teachers for the "hearing-impaired" at my high school happened to be there with his own friends. Seeing Scott, he waved and nodded and went back to his bowling.

Finishing the bowling game, Scott and his friends piled up in the car. Scott sat in the back.

As the car was going up the ramp, getting ready to merge to the highway, suddenly a big truck came plowing. The car seemed not to have time to swerve.

And the truck crashed into the car, slicing the top half.

Everyone, including Scott, were instantly killed.

At the funeral, guess who finally showed up, after all these years?

His father.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The sassy girl

From fifth grade to high school, I had known a deaf girl named Jennifer. She was few years younger than me. We rode the same school bus to the elementary school.

Because many deaf people often go to public schools that were not their "base" schools, the distance was often long. Mostly, deaf students go to schools afar because of their "hearing-impaired" program. Hence, a special yellow school bus in a form of station wagon was provided to pick up the deaf students from afar.

Jennifer had a bright red hair and freckles. Although a cute girl, she had such a spunky personality, speaking out whatever came to her mind, often being tactless. As she grew older, she started to swear in practically every other sentences.

Although we also attended the same junior and high schools, we never got to be good friends due to different backgrounds and values.

Jennifer came from a broken and abusive home. She used to come to school sometimes with bruises. (I am not sure if anyone did anything to help Jennifer back then).

In high school, Jennifer had a boyfriend who was about 3-4 years older than her. More than at least three times a year, she would often run away from home with her boyfriend for few weeks at a time, then return and pick up as if nothing had happened.

Due to this problem, she was often in remedial classes although she had such great potential. The only thing she was good at was art.

She was deaf, or so at least I had thought. My then best friend, Missy, had gotten a pink slip during a class to go to the restroom. On the way, she happened to spot Jennifer at a phone booth, talking.

Puzzled, Missy came up to her and said, "Jennifer, please stop this joke and hang up the phone".

Shushing her, Jennifer continued talking. After hanging up, she replied that she was actually hard of hearing, to her surprise.

In spite of her personal problems, she would make things fun to laugh about. Although she smoked and drank, and perhaps some drugs at a later time, she never encouraged others to do the same, especially me.

For instance, a former deaf school classmate, stopped by my Taco Bell where I was working then, and invited me to attend a "party" at a motel. After his trying to convince me to come, I reluctantly agreed.

Upon showing up, I was the only one who seemed to be "overdressed" while others merely wore jeans and T-shirts, etc. Everyone seemed to be drinking hard liquor while smoking. I decided to drink only wine coolers.

When Jennifer saw me drinking wine cooler, she was quite surprised. "Nita.. you DRINK??! You are so 'straight-laced' Are you sure you want to drink??" I replied that this was only a wine cooler, not a vodka.

After I quit Taco Bell, I eventually lost touch with her. As time passed, I vaguely heard from others that she had gotten married to someone and had kids.

Then, ten years ago, I heard that she had changed and became somewhat mellow and nicer, even quitting smoking and taking up decent hobbies. At this point, she seemed to be finally content with her family, especially her daughters.

Unfortunately, I think, it came a bit too late. She died of cancer.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Night Owl

At the end of my sophomore year, while enrolling in summer classes at Gallaudet, I decided to work as a summer SRA (Student Resident Advisor). I picked 2nd shift work since it paid more.

Because it was during the summer-time, I was given my own dorm room and a share of the kitchen which was nice because I did not like the cafeteria food. During the day, after classes which only lasted at least three hours in the mornings, I did errands, watched soap opera (I was addicted that time), exercised, cooked, etc.

However, one weekend in August, we had a "visitor day". Every summer year, parents came to Gallaudet to ask questions about enrollment and other subjects for their deaf children. Hence, they needed a place to say. Since most dorms were empty, they paid to stay in them.

That meant some over-time work. My supervisor had a brief staff meeting prior to the "visitor day". I was picked to do a 3rd shift on Thursday, one week away. My schedule stated that my shift started at 12:30 am.

Since I was, and still am, a big fan of sleep, I decided to plan my schedule accordingly so I wouldn't feel too tired or sleepy.

One week later, friends invited me out on early Wednesday evening. Thinking that I would go to bed early after I returned so that I could start working the third shift on Thursday.

Walking and chatting along the street of DC on the way back to Gallaudet from my friend's apartment, I happened to mention that I needed to get a good sleep soon.

My friend asked me the date and time I was supposed to start working.

To my panic and dismay, she pointed out my error: 12:30 AM meant Thursday MORNING, not Thursday late NIGHT!

There wasn't enough time to get some sleep upon my return due to having to do some paperwork before I started my shift.

So I ended up with NO sleep for 24 hours which was H-A-R-D!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Miss Vermin

When I first entered seventh grade in a junior high school, as it was called then instead of middle school, I was put in a "hearing-impaired" class for only one period although I was completely mainstreamed in all other classes.

This "hearing-impaired" classroom was quite small, fitting about 3-4 students and two teachers. Deaf students had different class periods, so they would come into this classroom in various periods during the day. That way, everyone would have the benefit of using this classroom.

The purpose of this classroom, at least it was explained to ME, was so I could ask for help, if I needed, on my other classes' assignments. For most of other students, I believe, it was mostly remedial tutoring in various subjects.

One teacher's name was Miss Urban. She was of average height, had a boyish brunette cut, and had a lopsided mouth. Although she signed a bit, she mostly used Cued Speech as a method of communication with me and perhaps one another student. And the other teacher used sign language to communicate with the other students.

(Cued Speech is not a language as most people assume. Instead, it is a simply a supplemental method to lipreading skills, using hand movements to indicate phonetic sounds in the English language. Unlike Sign Language, it can be learned within 48 hours, though can become fluent within 6 months or so.)

Miss Urban had such domineering personality that most students felt quite intimidated of her, including me. Due to her lopsided mouth, it made a bit difficult for me to lipread her although she used Cued Speech.

Every time I said, "Huh? Please repeat", Miss Urban would often shout, "PAY attention!!" How could I tell her that her "twisted" mouth was giving me such distraction?

Almost daily, she would often find something to criticize the students. For me, it was often my clothes. "Your top doesn't match your pants", she would comment. Or, "Didn't you HEAR me calling your name from behind?? ARE YOUR HEARING AIDS ON???"

Sure, I heard some sounds, but how the heck would I KNOW to recognize sounds when I am simply profoundly deaf?!

(Hearing aids simply magnify, NOT simplify the sounds; they tend to distort them. People who lose their hearing later in life can make it with hearing aids simply because they already recognized the sounds from their previous hearing).

Anyway, there was another student, Jeannie, who was overweight, deaf, and mildly mentally retarded.

One day, it was one of the student's birthday. A cake was provided for all of us. After the cake-cutting, plates were distributed to the students.

When Jeannie leaned forward to receive a second helping of plate, Miss Urban quickly grabbed the plate from her hand, signing, "You're too fat! You don't need this!"

Quite conveniently, as Miss Urban said this to her, the other teacher was busy bending down, doing something. I don't know if she used her voice when signing to Jeannie, but I doubt she did. None of the students dared to speak up.

I was so appalled and humiliated for Jeannie. Due to her mental limitations, she simply resigned to sitting at her desk with head down.

Of course, not knowing all this, my parents thought Miss Urban was really wonderful teacher who simply knew the basics of education and teaching, not to mention the fact that she knew Cued Speech well. (Cued Speech was in its infancy that time, hence it was hard finding educators who knew how to use it).

By the end of the school year, Miss Urban unexpectedly announced to us that she would not be coming back. She continued saying that she would miss us and had enjoyed "working" with us.

Years later, I brought up the subject of "Miss Vermin" to a former student who is still my friend. She said that because mother worked for the county school system, she got wind of that vermin's performances that subsequently got her fired.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stringing like a Puppet

In seventh grade, I had a best friend, Jeannie, who was originally Canadian. She came from a large family of six children. Even though she was a causacian, her parents were old-fashioned, believe it or not. We were both 13 and she ALWAYS wore skirts, never pants. She said her parents wouldn't allow it, and not even date until she turned 16.

Students made fun of her, but I remained friends with her. She had a habit of speaking SO FAST that I had to muster all of my strength to concentrate in lipreading her!

Anyhow, Jeannie said she was in my state south only for few years as her dad had a business contract and when it expired, the whole family would go back to Canada.

There was another girl in our group, Jenny, who was Taiwanese. We three often hung out together in cafeterias and we were in some of the same classes. While Jeannie lived a bit too far, Jenny lived close to my house enough for me to ride a bike to her place.

When we reached ninth grade, Jeannie moved back to Canada. Jenny wrote in my yearbook at the end of eighth grade year that when Jeannie moved, she would move up to be my best friend.

But by this time, Jenny became popular when she got elected to be a cheerleader. With her slim toned body and growing looks, she started to make different friends. Still, she would, from time to time, ask me to visit her house after school or some weekends or come over my place.

She started dating a Taiwanese guy who was about 3-4 years older than she. However, due to family feuds on both side of families, she was eventually forbidden to see him. Hence, Jenny resorted to sneaking around with him.

Upon reaching tenth grade, Jenny and I went to different high schools, due to the fact that our base high school did not have a hearing-impaired program. But still, if not often as we used to, we visited each other at our respective homes. (In the 80's, ninth grade was still part of "junior high", as it was then called instead of middle school.)

One weeknight, on a spur of a moment, with my parents' permission, I asked my mother to call Jenny to invite her to spend the night at my house on this coming Friday night. Jenny accepted the invitation.

But, on Thursday night, Jenny called my mother and told her that as a last minute something had just come up and could not make it, however she still wanted to stop by on Friday evening, briefly, just to chat with me and catch up with news. Though a bit disappointed, I agreed.

On Friday, around 7 pm, there was a knock on the door. Jenny came in smiling and we immedately went to my bedroom and chatted. It took about an hour and then Jenny said she had to go as she had important plans.

I was asleep a bit late on Saturday morning when my dad woke me up, saying that Jenny was on the phone, saying she wanted to stop by again for few minutes. Groggily, I wondered why she wanted to come again, but told my dad to tell her to go ahead and stop by.

Again, as soon as Jenny arrived, we went to my bedroom to chat. After a bit of conversation, Jenny hesitated a bit and slowly said she had something to confess.

Curious, I leaned forward to see what she had to say. She admitted the real reason she canceled the slumber invitation in the last minute.

I was stunned.....

And felt used.

She had said she lied to her parents about spending the night with me. After her mother dropped her off at my home, her boyfriend picked her up to go to a motel. That was why she wanted to stop by again on Saturday to make her parents think she did actually stay with me when her mother came to pick her up.

That was the end of our friendship.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Junk food is a surefire cure for our health

At my public high school in my time, there were about 15 deaf/hoh students. A hoh girl named Lara and I were good friends. There was another hoh girl, whom I will name Janie, had a learning disability. She was a quiet and sweet girl.

Almost daily at lunch time in the school cafeteria, most of us deaf/hoh students would sit together.

One day, after eating lunch, I suddenly felt in the mood for some donuts. After buying two Krispy Kreme donuts, I couldn't wait to devour them.

I was sitting at one end of the table, while Lara sat two seats away and Janie on the other end of the table, with other students sitting in between.

A guy next to me was savoring his popsicle and I was about to eagerly tear open the donut package when of all sudden I saw my donut and the popsicle flying into the air!

Confused and dazed, I looked around. Lara apparently had hit the guy and me, to get our FAST attention.

Lara quickly pointed at Janie. I looked at the chair that she was sitting but it was empty. Puzzled, I scanned around for Janie.

Suddenly, I found her, next to the table, on the floor.... having an epileptic seizure!

Panicked, I froze. I had never seen anything like that in my whole life.

Lara beseeched me and the guy next to me to help but of to no avail. I was terrified with absolutely no idea what to do.

Finally, a teacher rushed in to help her. I noticed Janie immediately covering her face while they put her on a wheelchair to the nurse office to recuperate. I sensed she was embarrassed that everyone had witnessed her "problem" and felt bad for her.

Since this incident, I never ate the Krispy Kreme donuts ever again.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The last car

After the police filed a report for the stolen Nissan Sentra, there was nothing else to do but wait.

It was not until two weeks later when I got a notice from the police department that they had found my car and it was being taken to a junkyard.

Meanwhile, my father gave me his car, Chevy Monte Carlo, after all. Perhaps it was a sign that I should have taken the Monte Carlo.

When I went to see the Nissan at the junkyard, I saw the exterior of the car including the tags were normal. But the interior, the seats looked like they were soiled. Where the ignition was supposed to be, there was big gaping hole.

Of course, all the contents, except my contact lenses, were missing.

Looking at the car, I felt used and violated. I knew somehow that if even though the insurance paid for the car repairs, I could not touch it again.

I had one more month before I moved to another state. The car was not really damaged, hence I gave my insurance company permission to repair my car.

However, something funny happened. The next day, a representative from my insurance company called, saying that when they went to pick up the car to tow to the insurance repair shop, the personalized tags were missing.

I could not believe that someone would actually STEAL tags at a junkyard?!

Heaving a big sigh, even though I only had a month prior to moving to another state, I got new tags at a DMV.

It took about five weeks for the car to complete its repairs, not to mention a paint job which were already paid by the insurance. The whole time I was holding my breath that the car would be ready before 30 days after the move-in date.

Normally, you have 30 days after moving to another state to obtain new state tags. But I had planned to sell the Nissan, yet it had not completed its repairs till AFTER I moved.

Anxiously, I hoped for the best.

As if it was a miracle, a day BEFORE 30 days were up, someone came and bought the Nissan!

What a quite close call.

To this day, I still have my dad's car, Chevy Monte Carlo, the tenth car.