A failure to communicate

September 1, 2017 | By More

There is always something so refreshing about a new school year. Maybe it’s the feeling of autumn on its way in or the organization of getting back to a steady routine, but I relish in the back to school hubbub.

My son entered the third grade this year, and although he isn’t excited about having to wake up early once again, he is elated to see his school mates after a long summer break. I am very thankful that Raff loves school and that he especially loves to read. He enjoys checking out books from the school library quite often.

He has recently become more interested in non-fiction books and over the summer he picked up quite a few biographies from the city library. They have a great collection of non-fiction books for kids around his age. He says he wants to be an inventor when he grows up, so his first choice was the biography of Thomas Edison. He read most of the biographies the city library had to offer with in the first few weeks of summer.

When the school year began once more, he was thrilled to discover the library at his elementary school had the same line of biographies for kids. This particular kind is geared toward children and simply outlines the major life accomplishments of the person about which the biography is written.

One of the first books of the school year he read was a short biography about Helen Keller. He was immediately engrossed in Helen’s story and sympathetic to her plight. He was amazed at how sign language worked and that people communicated by only using their hands. He requested a sign language book for Christmas, although it was several months out. He began to communicate with his own made up hand gestures. These gestures were not always so easy to decipher but were quite comical.

One Sunday afternoon, I took Raff to lunch at our favorite Mexican place. The waiter directed us to our table in the back of the restaurant. He took our order and quickly returned with our drinks, a basket of tortilla chips, and a bowl brimming with salsa. A couple of tables down from ours, a woman who seemed hearing impaired was trying to communicate with her waiter.

She was asking a lot of questions about what kind of oil the restaurant used. I assumed she had some sort of food allergy. The woman spoke considerably louder than most people when addressing the waiter and had a slight speech impediment, similar to a person with very limited hearing.

It seemed as if the woman was having trouble communicating with the waiter and she became frustrated.

“Can you come back in a few minutes?” The woman loudly asked the waiter.

“I’m sorry…?” The waiter replied, as a confused look spread across his face. The two of them were having trouble understanding one another.

“I’m having trouble reading yours lips, and my husband will be here momentarily, can you come back in a few minutes?” The woman asked, even louder.

“I’m sorry…?” The waiter replied again.

The woman sighed.

“I’m deaf!” The woman said, nearly at a shouting voice level.

“Can you come back in a minute?”

“Yes, ok, I’ll be right back!” The waiter exclaimed. He either finally realized what she was asking for or her loud bellow scared him into the kitchen.

Raff had also been observing their raucous exchange, and as I was about to instruct him not to stare, he turned to me with wide eyes and loudly declared, “Oh My Gosh Mom! That’s Helen Keller over there!”

I nearly choked on my chip. Several heads at other tables swiveled in our direction.

I pretended not to notice.

“Raff,” I started, “ that’s not —”

Quicker than I could finish my sentence, Raff was digging furiously through my purse.

“What are you looking for?” I asked puzzled.

“A pen!” Raff exclaimed and let out a frustrated sigh.

“Found one! Hurry! I need a napkin!” He said.

I handed him the napkin my silverware was set upon and before I could ask any questions he was headed to the woman’s table.

I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks as I saw him chatting with the woman, his arms flinging wildly about and his fingers making odd shapes. It suddenly occurred to me that he was trying to communicate with her by using his own version of sign language!

Raff returned to our table a couple of minutes later, and plopped in his chair, pen and napkin still in hand.

“How’d it go?” I asked.

“Good. She was really nice, but…” he looked down at the napkin, face down on the table and shrugged, seemingly unfazed.

“I asked for her autograph but instead she told me to love some woman.”

“What?” I asked, puzzled.

Just then our waiter sat hot plates of delicious Mexican food down in front of us. Raff dove right in, and with a mouthful of rice, nodded to the napkin on the table as to answer my question.

I had to stifle my giggle when I read what was written on the napkin.

“Love, Sharon.” 

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Category: Every Day Life

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