There is an old phrase, I think it was at first Native American that goes something like this:
Never judge a person, until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
I also believe the original was moccasins, but that, of course, is not the point.Â I had an interesting experience this weekend, starting on Friday afternoon, to be specific, which has brought this particular phrase to mind.
I found myself unable to speak without an excruciating amount of pain.Â As a result I took the afternoon off and went home where I would not be forced to talk and, in theory, could heal in peace.
Around 2:30 my son came home from his friends house (it was spring break last week) and the first test of my muteness was at hand.Â We sailed through this, my son and I.Â He would talk (of course) and I would type what I had to say to him in WordPerfect.Â My son was a champ and very patient, thanks buddy!!Â It helped that I type most of the day at work and even more socially, so he did not have to wait too long for the words to form on the page.
After that it began to get more interesting.Â We went to a movie Friday afternoon (what better way to enjoy time together while not talking!!).Â He did the ordering, I did the paying, and the clerk took his role of looking at us strangely very seriously, especially when I tipped my cap to him in thanks.Â Oh well, it was just a teen anyway, right?Â Off we went to have our tickets torn, another teen was at the station so I prepared to get odd looks again.Â Instead I got anger (not to my face, but in comments after I had passed) about how I was “too good” to speak to them.Â I did smile, and I did tip my cap.Â Hmmm.
We then decided to grab a bite to eat.Â We chose the Chinese place adjacent to the theater for our meal (the food was fantastic).Â More strange, inquisitive looks as we began the “conversation”.Â The lad ordered for me, because he knew what I wanted, I paid, smiled and tipped my hat again (apparently this does not carry the same meaning it once did).Â In return I got an awkward look and a smile.Â To her credit, our waitress recovered between then and when the food arrived, and was outstanding the rest of the way, giving no indication that anyone even remotely different was at the table.Â But, there was still that first bit of “introduction”.
We then headed home, my son had an overnight with a friend, I had a date with my kitchen and laundry room (yep, two dates in one night… that’s how I roll!!!).Â Fast forward to lunch on Saturday, again eating out… cause… I’m made of money I guess. We decide to go to a restaurant that is a family favorite, we probably eat here at least twice a month, frequently more often than that.Â We sit down and the waitress takes our order, once again, my son doing the dirty work, me smiling and nodding (no cap to tip today… that experiment failed!).Â She instantly begins to ignore me, talking only to my son, and doing so in a very raised voice, the purpose of which I have yet to identify.Â She does not ask me if my food is okay, just asks him if everything is okay.Â At one point in my “conversation” with my son, I am making a point to him using sweeping motions with my arms and she literally ran over to ask (him) if everything was okay with me.Â Complete panic on her face.Â When paying, more anger from the clerk at the register at my lack of words, despite profuse smiling and nodding.Â Hmmm.
We then went to the Vitamin Shoppe (I love them, so I’m going to mention them by name) to pick up some meds, stuff to fix my mouth.Â To save time, and perhaps shift the attention back to myself, I took out my phone and wrote a text message “can you help me find XXXXX, please” and handed the phone across the counter for them to read.Â The young lady behind the counter sprung into action, clearly overjoyed to be helping.Â She took me directly to the product, showed me which was the best of the brands (did not say the words, just looked me in the face and mouthed them) and took her leave of me.Â Clearly she is experienced in dealing with the hearing impaired.Â When I checked out, she used sign language to thank me.Â She was absolutely fantastic, she was respectful, enthusiastic and helpful.Â Her diagnosis was wrong (that or my assumption that she assumed me to be deaf was wrong), but that was not important.
However, I still had to “deal with” the fact that I was not treated like just anyone off the street.Â I received “special treatment”, and by this point in my weekend, I did not want it.Â I had been receiving “special treatment” in one form or another all weekend.Â There were puzzled looks (probably the most honest and worthy of appreciation), angry looks, helpful looks and looks of pity.Â There were so many looks, and actions, that by Saturday afternoon all I wanted to do was go home, grab a book and not leave the house until I was back to talking normally again.Â This all took place in a span of roughly 24 hours, of which I slept for seven, was alone at home for eight, and in a movie theater for two.Â In other words, in seven hours of “exposure” I had been significantly effected by the way I was treated.
Breaking through the barrier of not being able to talk was easy, there are dozens of solutions for that.Â Breaking through the barrier constructed by the people I interacted with was a much more difficult row to hoe.Â This was exactly the opposite of what I imagined the case would be. From the angry ticket tearer, to the wonderful vitamin clerk… all had taken a toll on me.
Today I woke up and went to work.Â My ability to talk is not fully restored, but is to the point where I can function and speak for myself (preferably in very short bursts).Â Thankfully, I do not have to live with this on a day to day basis or over a protracted period of time.Â However, I have a greater respect for the people who do.Â The people who have the courage to face, not the world, but the inhabitants of the world, on a day to day basis, while being without all of the “normal” tools for doing so.Â I have a whole new view of what some people deal with on a daily basis, and I only took about two steps in those moccasins…