Yes, We Can – And Yes, We Did
By Monette Benoit
Copyright by Monette Benoit, All Rights Reserved.
Recently I was out of state on business far from home when I encountered another “memory moment” (deaf term) that will stay with me. I work as a court reporter, court reporting instructor, tutor and coach. Of this I know to be true: if more of us could truly hear and see what’s around us, we would change the world as we know it – one person, one “moment” at a time. Yes, we can, and yes, we did.
After a long day, early evening, I stopped at a hardware store. I needed a few items. On a long (single) line in the busy store with my cart, I heard a familiar sound. I tilted my chin up. “Ahhhhahh,” a woman was pointing a man to another counter. I blinked knowingly. I smiled, she looked away.
I then debated: Could I? Should I? The line wasn’t moving as I leaned on my cart.
I smiled, quickly gestured upwards with the flick of my wrist – and waited. She looked up. Again I smiled. We looked at each other for a few seconds before I thought, “Oh, what the heck.” I began to sign (ASL) to her.
She watched and did not respond, but she was smiling. I signed that I have worked with deaf people in
My line barely moved toward the cashier. She and I were soon signing (ASL, American Sign Language) and communicating. Children stopped complaining, whining about standing on line in the hardware store. Adults looked stunned, clearly staring, as we laughed, spelled, signed. I had a great time; it felt good to sign again! As I approached the cashier, she nodded a brief good-bye and went back to work.
The cashier smiled. I asked if many deaf people worked there. “No, her husband works here.”
I asked the (hearing) cashier if there were interpreters. “Nope, that lady worked ‘at a deaf place’ and used to come to the store every evening. The boss would say: You don’t have a job. He wasn’t going to pay her. But she continued to show up each night. Soon she began counting the money in each register, and she was very good at it. The owner hired the lady.”
I said, “You know, she’s reading lips, communicating with others; no one’s interpreting for her. She’s very smart. Trust me.”
As I left, I turned and waved good-bye to the deaf lady. The boss arrived at her register with more money, she smiled, I nodded … off I went … or so I thought.
My car would not start. The lights turned on, but not the engine. It was now dark; I was in an unfamiliar city and stores were closing.
I strolled back into that store, flicked my wrist and signed, “Me car broke.”
The lady immediately signed to her husband, who sprinted out to my car.
Four men who worked with the couple appeared. One man moved his truck and popped our hoods to “jump” the battery. No one spoke to me; they were busy.
Within minutes, six men were in and out of my car: “What the hell’s this? What does this go to?”
They popped fuse boxes, flipped switches. I was stunned. When I looked up, the deaf lady was signing, “You no worry. My husband. You OK.”
The men fervently worked; I turned my back on my car. It was too painful to watch and no one was answering my questions; they were busy.
She and I signed and signed and signed, laughing, enjoying the nice breezes.
When my car was “fixed,” I was diagnosed with a neutral safety switch problem. Each man who had worked on my car quickly vanished into the dark.
I yelled “thanks” to their backs as they silently left.
As I turned to get into my car, the husband asked, “Do you have someplace to stay tonight?” I paused. He asked again. Standing under the street lamp, alone, stores closed, I hesitated.
Then I heard the deaf lady yelling, signing, “You OK. He my husband. You safe.” I laughed, answered his questions, and we signed for the lady, his wife.
She then signed, “Firestone. You go tomorrow.”
I started to think this would make a great SNL, Saturday Night Live, skit clip. She’s standing next to her car four spots away, signing to me. Her husband is next to me signing into the air, so she can “hear,” and I’m trying to remember all the signs my rusty fingers used to know.
I asked, “What are your names?” His reply, “Go to Firestone. Tell them Mike and the deaf lady sent you.”
“What is her name?” I asked. He said, “They just know her as the deaf lady. They’ll know who you mean.”
The third time, I asked slowly, “What is her name? What do ‘you’ call her?”
He smiled and said, “I’m Mike. She’s Millie. We work at Johnny’s.” And he continued to sign (interpret) our conversation.
I signed up into the air, “Nice meet you, Millie.”
She tapped her heart, “You not worry. Go Firestone. You OK.”
I began to giggle when I looked around. People were sitting in their cars in the dark, motionless, viewing this entire scene.
Since my car engine was running, I was afraid to turn it off. Mike continued to stay with me, smiling.
Then I asked Mike what I had signed to Millie in the store. Earlier I’d asked, “Do you watch TV?” She had said that she kept busy. Mike said, “She doesn’t like TV.”
I signed into the air, “Millie’s Big D. Signing her first language. She’s having trouble viewing captioning because too fast. Practice, reading improves.”
Mike agreed that was the reason she did not watch television. “She struggles with reading captions.”
I stopped signing to concentrate and concisely explain how broadcast captioners and CART providers help deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults. I discussed the work I’d shared with many deaf and HOH (hard-of-hearing) groups and a deaf mass since 1993.
I signed across the parking lot, “You watch TV. Captioners help you, better reading.”
Finally, Millie said, “Yes, I watch. I will. Promise. Yes, I can.”
As I left, I thanked God for my new friends and wondered why the only place my car had broken down in 17 years was somewhere I’d just had fun and shared with a new deaf friend.
Mike and Millie at Johnny’s … if only “you” could sign, hear, see, you would shift.
I’m writing about this, yes, we can, and yes, we did because the reactions of court reporters and friends have been interesting.
All deposition court reporters and officials asked, “Why didn’t you just call a tow truck?”
The CART providers and sign interpreters said, “Yeah, I get it.” Another confirmation, to me, of the differences in our consumers and possibly future clients.
I know Mike and Millie will watch captioning. If you could sign, hear and see, you too could feel that your skills are wonderful.
Our court reporting and broadcast captioning profession is a gift to others. We’re not reminded often enough … but my heart knows. It feels so right “in the moment” to communicate, help, sign and laugh.
Mike and Millie confirmed my life path (again); another “sign” from the universe. Come and join us. It’s fun. You’ll meet many people. They’ll appear anywhere during the day, the night, even in a hardware store.
Mike, Millie and I agree … yes, we can. Yes, we can sign, hear and see together as one.
Each time a deaf person taps his or her heart and smiles at me, I have another “memory moment.” It’s mine to keep forever. Do you ever wish you could have these moments? Trust me: yes, you can. Yes, we can.
About the Author:
Monette Benoit, B.B.A., CCR, CRI, CPE, is a JCR Contributing Editor for the National Court Reporters Association, NCRA. She is the author of multiple books to include the national and state RPR, RMR, RDR, CSR ‘Written Knowledge Exam’ Textbook, Workbook, a companion Study Guide, ‘The CRRT WKT’ CD Software Program, Advanced SAT, LSAT, GRE, Real-Time Vocabulary Workbook and ‘CATapult’ Dictionary CD Software Program series.
Books, CDs, private tutoring, mentoring services and articles may be referenced http://www.crrbooks.com/
Monette is an experienced consultant, instructor, realtime court reporter, tutor, life coach, CART provider, columnist.
She teaches, tutors and coaches home-study students, college students, court reporters and professionals. Monette speaks to groups at state, national and international conventions about motivation, technology, expanding skills and Deaf, Oral Deaf, Hard of Hearing.
Monette Benoit, B.B.A., Certified Court Reporter, Certified Reporting Instructor, Certified Program Evaluator, Paralegal, may be reached at: http://www.crrbooks.com/ http://www.catapultdix.com/ and http://www.artcs.com/