Charlie Swinbourne: Things that only happen to deaf people (part 2)

Posted on July 24, 2012



Whether you’re a signer, a lipreader, a hearing aid wearer or a cochlear implant user, or maybe a bit of each of those (and some other things too), there are some things that truly only happen to a deaf person. Things that simply don’t happen to everyone else. Here’s the second part of my long-held list below (see the first part here). How many have happened to you?

You only realise the doctor has called your name out in the waiting room because everyone else is looking at you, bemused by your lack of response.

Halfway through having a great conversation with a Deaf friend in the pub, you’re bemused when the barman doesn’t understand your drinks order. You then realise you’ve given it to him in sign language.

When the lights go out at home, you spend a split second wondering whether there’s a power cut or whether someone’s just rung the doorbell.

You go to your car in the morning, only to find the alarm blaring. You turn it off, then notice angry looks in your direction from your neighbours. When you find numerous abusive messages tucked under your windscreen, you realise two things: 1. Your car alarm has been going off all night. 2. You may need to move house.

You see an interpreter signing a programme on television, but turn to your partner and comment on their recent haircut, rather than the quality of their signing.

After a party at a deaf house, you realise you spent the entire evening in the kitchen. And so did everyone else.

You have a drawer at home full of free cinema vouchers from all the times you went to a subtitled screening, only to find the subtitles didn’t work.

At a deaf party, you realise that the number of people you once dated outnumber the ones you haven’t.

During long conversations, you notice hearing people getting more and more uncomfortable at how intensely you’re focusing on their lips. You supress a smile and focus even harder.

You argue with your partner as you get on a train, and continue in sign language as you take your seat, even though they’re still standing on the platform. As the train leaves, you look around at everyone else sheepishly. You continue the argument by text.

You notice that some hearing people assume that you are a ‘good’ person when you tell them you’re deaf. You happily let them think that. You later feel disappointed in yourself when they realise you have the same failings as non-deaf people.

You meet a deaf person you’ve never met before, and they instantly ask “are your mother and father deaf?” closely followed by “which deaf school did you go to?”

When you hear people say “sign language is beautiful. I wish I could learn it,” you find it harder and harder not to reply: “well, just learn it then.”

Playing football, you go past five players, go round the keeper and smash the ball into the top corner, only to find that the referee stopped play thirty seconds earlier. He has a red face from furiously blowing his whistle. He books you.

You say goodbye to your friends at the deaf club, then say goodbye again an hour later, because deaf people always have “just one more thing” to talk about. Always.

Tell us about the things that have happened to you below!

Charlie Swinbourne is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and award-winning scriptwriter. He writes for the Guardian and BBC Online, and as a scriptwriter, penned My Song, Coming Out and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.

The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, training and consultancy Deafworks, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Look, Smile Chat campaign, and the National Theatre’s captioned plays.

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

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