Simple Silence; Have ‘You’ Ever Heard Sound; Oral Deaf Friends Meet; Silence is All I Know…

Simple Silence; Have ‘You’ Ever Heard Sound; Oral Deaf Friends Meet; Silence is All I Know…                                 

~~  Originally published in my column “Beyond The Comfort Zone” within NCRA’s Journal of Court Reporting, JCR

By Monette Benoit, All Rights Reserved.


I want to plant a seed; simple silence.  Silence is powerful. I have Deaf friends (their term) who would not change their deafness. They embrace their world.

A special memory was created when I introduced two people who have been deaf since childhood.

I met each through my CART, communication access real-time translation, captioning work. They did not know each other and wanted to meet.

I met my friends for Sunday morning lunch (I called it ‘breaking bread together’) at a golf country club.  I was a club visitor.  Separately, each spent much time on the golf courses with their families.  This was a comfortable environment for them.

While ordering food at the counter (which was then delivered), one friend stood with his hands tucked in his khaki pants pockets, shoulders back and down. He was reading our lips.

My other friend, the young lady, had her hands on the counter, and was reading the menu and watching our lips.

She and I were signing (ASL, American Sign Language). He does not sign; refuses to learn; he is oral deaf. I knew sign language before she –and taught young lady first signs before she enrolled in ASL classes.

Because he refuses to learn ‘any’ sign language and is vocal (yes) about this – (very professional job, technical work) -, she and I signed – to each other – playfully, no verbal communication.  Friends (can) do that… Yes. And we did.  She and I laughed.  He did not… which made ‘it’ that much funnier. Great culture, rich deep – it ‘was’ funny, for us – soon, he was laughing, too.

My male friend said, voice a tad louder than might have been for the Sunday country club, “Have you ever heard sound?”

I stepped back to watch this communication.

The young dude taking our order gasped; golfers stepped away.

She voiced, “I don’t think so.  I don’t know.”

My friends looked to me, paused, and smiled ‘ear to ear’.

My male friend paused, his two hands in his pockets, “I have no sound.  Nothing!  Never heard sound.  Did you?”

She, still signing to me, voiced, “Maybe. I might have. I do not remember.”

Within the restaurant and outdoor patio, mature “bruncher” (my term) adults were seated at little round tables wearing tennis and golfing outfits.

Individuals now were ‘frozen’ (similar to within a photograph) – their food and fork suspended midair. Everyone clearly heard this conversation about sound.

Everyone, many with raised eyebrows, waited. No one – and I mean ‘no one’ – moved. I softly giggled and returned my attention to my friends.

My friends wrapped up the conversation, “I wonder what sound is like.  Silence is good.  It’s all I know.”

The counter-dude had not spoken to my friends while they ordered their lunch. He – as too many – spoke to me, asking me what they wanted – after my friends had spoken their order – yes – to counter-dude.

Yes, I worked to change that.  My friends handled the situation. How?  Per their request, I ordered. They gave me ‘that’ look; each stepped back – eyes cast downward for a moment.  Then, new friends, they began a new new conversation.

I glanced behind me one more time.  (Court reporter reaction, perhaps?)

People were now eating; yet there was no conversation in the room or patio.  There was complete silence.

People worked to avoid eye contact with us.  I remember the moment well.  And I ordered a glass of wine (just before noon on Sunday), which I slowly sipped, watching the moments unfold in real-time as my two friends shared, confided, laughed, and we each enjoyed this time together.

Why am I sharing this special memory?  I believe court reporters are sensitive to sound.  It is, after all, our bread and butter.  Deaf friends have asked, “Is there technology to accurately help me do what you do?”

I slowly shake my head with a smile, “Ummmm, I don’t think so.”

The reply, always, “Me neither; I just wanted to know.”  I am surprised how often this conversation evolves.

Another conversation evolves with court reporters and students while I coach and tutor, help students and professionals prep for national and state written court reporting examinations with Purple Books.  I am repeatedly asked, “What are you listening to?”

When I inquire why this is being asked, I hear, “You are very quiet when I speak. Do you have your computer on?  Are you doing something else?  Do you have music playing?” I am surprised how often I hear these words.

I reply, “When I work – court, depo or CART – I am listening.  When I am teaching, coaching, I am listening.  This is what we do well. My computer is not on, so I may focus. There’s no music.”

Then I pause for the follow-up, which is sure to follow:  “What do you have in the background? Fish tank?  Fountain?  What do you have for sound?”

I reply, “Silence.  I have birdfeeders outside. Truly, that’s it.”

Individuals with severe hearing loss (there are degrees) or profound deafness may not have sound.

Silence is powerful.

Is that one reason we are comforted walking into church? Close church doors, and you may not hear external sounds.  Open those doors, and the world instantly changes.

When people arrive at my office or home often silence is a topic.  Adults pause, “What is that?  No sound?  It’s so silent.  I can’t do that in my world or home.”

And some add, “I hate to leave; it’s peaceful, quiet here.

Teens comment, “What?  No TV, music?  What’s up with that? It’s too quiet. Why?” Teens shrug, hands in the air, gesturing their thoughts on ‘no sound’.

Frequently, in the next sentence, individuals say, “I like it; it feels good” – or – they say the complete opposite, “I need something in the background; I could never do that.”  (There’s not much middle ground on this.)

Again, the topic of sound – or lack thereof – is introduced.

In 1993, when I opened my CART captioning “headquarters” within a sign interpreter’s business, I feng shui-ed my office to see if it would generate more revenue.

Hearing and deaf trolled through and parked in chairs, sharing, “It feels peaceful.”

Maybe having been surrounded by music and sound as a child and adult created an opportunity for my choice.

My mother, a special education elementary instructor (certified in two states) and music teacher with an associate’s degree in opera, plays approximately seven instruments.  She always played an instrument or brought one home to practice for class lessons.

Her mother, my grandmother, was a piano prodigy who formed her own orchestra in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Each musician had to play a minimum of four instruments. My grandmother was also a court stenographer.

I grew up with a lot of sound.  The day that astronauts landed on the moon, my family was traveling and camping in a pop-up tent trailer.  We were in El Paso, Texas.  My memory is brutally hot – no air conditioning or TV.

That day, my youngest brother, Kevin Drue, bought a (cheap) guitar.

In that heat El Paso (with no trees in sight), Kevin sat on a barbecue table.  I listened as he taught himself to play guitar in that unbelievable heat.

Several hours later Kevin was pretty darn good.

And I married a man who played guitar – a lot.

The younger generation?   Yes, music (and video games) are played – a lot.

Often court reporters have had music lessons prior to entering our profession. This talent can be a plus for students.

Walking into stores now, typically music is now blaring.  Studies reveal that people shop longer (with the air conditioning cranked up – even in cooler weather) when music is heard.

While reading e-mails today as I finished this article on sound, I read that several sign interpreting friends were commenting about a new, just-released CD they are purchasing.

One deaf friend wrote, “What is it?  Country?  Rock?  ‘Sounds’ good!  Ha-ha.”

Silence, in my opinion, is powerful. This is a conversation I have had with many friends who cannot hear sounds.  (Watching – actually staring at – people who “sign” is considered to be eavesdropping as shared with me by the deaf community.) Friends, of all ages who are Deaf, deaf, oral deaf, are my teachers on the subject of sound.

Court reporters, CART captioners, students and instructors are accustomed to listening to rapid-fire, back-to-back words in talk-over conversations.

Often we think, “When are ‘they’ going to inhale?  How long can this pace continue?”

We know people are talking faster in depositions, court, and on TV.  The subject has been documented.

As we round the corner for holidays, adding tasks to busy schedules, I want to remind you to listen to simple silence.  

The seed I am planting here – silence – as gifted by my deaf friends is “hearing the sound of sound.”  I seek to resonate this moment within you.  This is my simple silent wish.

—- Monette, named the Court Reporting Whisperer by students, may be reached:

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Monette Benoit, B. B.A., CCR, CRI, CPE, Paralegal, CART Captioner, Instructor, Consultant, Columnist

Since 1990: Multiple Title Author of Books & Purple Books Test Prep for the Court Reporting, CART Captioning Profession

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About Monette Benoit:    As a 30+ year court reporter, CART captioner, author of NCRA and State test-prep material, instructor, public speaker, Monette Benoit has taught multiple theories, academics, all speed classes, and 225-homeroom within NCRA-approved schools and a community college. She understands challenges many adults face in our industry.

In 1993, she began to CART caption to a large screen for a Deaf mass, San Antonio, Texas.  Wonderful opportunities then presented from Big D, Little D, Oral Deaf, HOH consumers -each with special moments.

Monette Benoit has worked with thousands of professionals, court reporters, CART captioners, students, instructors. She has helped to create new court reporting training programs, worked with federal grants, and assisted instructors in developing curriculum for both in-class and at-home students.

Her one-on-one tutoring, private coaching, has assisted thousands of students, novice and experienced professionals to reach the next level.

Monette’s Musings is an informative, motivational, and funny blog for busy professionals and students who seek to create their success and who seek to enjoy this special path.

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