Saturday, July 22, 2006

Baffled - Can you drive?

Starting this winter/spring I started bringing my dogs in to the pet store to have them washed. For one, we only have cold water outside and I get completely soaked which does not feel too nice when it is 50 degrees or less outside. Yet most importantly, my balance has deteriorated to the point that it is challenging to bathe them and can be dangerous for me if I fall.

Last time I tried to take them upstairs in the shower (winter) did not work out real well. Seeing we only had a working shower faucet that was not the kind you can take off the wall and spray around, I had to lift each dog onto their hind legs to rinse off their belly and chest area. Needless to say I was pretty bruised up the next day (especially my feet from being stepped on).

On Sundays and Mondays is a special deal and they clip the nails and brush their teeth too. I was thinking in the summer I would try to wash them myself outside but they like being washed at the pet store and the dogs never let me brush their teeth anyhow. Thus I determined for the convenience, the included teeth brushing and nail clipping, the time and hassle I save, for my safety, and for such a great price I would continue to take them in and have them bathed.

Back to my bafflement......when I returned to pick them up the ladies communicated to me via paper and pen. I make a habit of bringing writing pads with me when I go places. They are ALWAYS nice to me but clearly I may well be the first deaf client they have had. While one lady was busy grooming (trimming) a small dog, the other girl working there would write to me what she was saying or asking.

The girl wrote to me "Can you drive?". I was not sure if I understood the question correctly. There was a pause in my response which I am sure was awkward for them. During that time I was confused why they would ask me such a question. I thought back in my brain "Did I tell them I have NF2 and that yes I was sick sometimes and I could not drive". No I don't remember telling them that. So then I dug deeper into my memory and recalled that I told them about my balance problem and that is why I took the dogs in to have them washed. But why would that prohibit me from driving? Then I thought that I must be having a really off day and maybe I am stumbling around as if I am drunk! What a horrid thought! I was thinking how in the heck did they think I got the dogs there. Maybe they thought I walked them but I had mentioned when I came in that I was a few minutes late due to all the road construction on Redmond/Fall City road. Gosh I must be stumbling around and they think something is wrong with me!!!!!

In all these scenarios I schemed up in my head, I NEVER thought the question was posed because I am deaf. In the two years I have been deaf and the 4 years prior to that when my hearing digressed and I was HOH (hard of hearing), the question has never been asked.

After my pause and look of confusion I questioned "Yeah. Why wouldn't I be able to drive?" Uncomfortably the other girl translated on paper that the other woman thought I could not drive because of my hearing. Shocked and taken by surprise (I really was not prepared for this kind of question) I defensively retorted "It is not illegal you know!". I have to admit that my protective wall immediately went up and proactivity was on its way out the window.

I imagine that my facial expression exhibited the feeling of being offended. I just was not sure how to react. Perhaps they read my face and questioning look of "WTF?" and so the woman went on to inquire what she meant was how do I hear sirens or know that a cop is behind me. My response was "How is it any different than someone blaring their car stereo and cannot hear the sirens?" I then realized this was an innocent inquiry and not an attack on deafness. Therefore it was my responsibility to educate. I informed them that my world is very visual and while driving everything is visual so we SEE the lights instead of hearing them. I think maybe this bit of information hit home as they informed me it was something they were just wondering about it.

Later I had an instant messenger conversation with one of my good friends who also has NF2. He has been deaf for 8 years and lives in a much bigger city than I do. Interestingly he informed me that he has been asked this question countless times. He even feared he would loose his driver's license once he became deaf. I don't recall ever thinking about losing my license due to deafness.

He also went on to tell me that a study implemented found deaf drivers to be safer drivers because they were more cautious and visually in tune to their surroundings.
(Click the link in the post title above to find out how deaf people get along without sound)

Contrary to popular belief, "Deaf people are among the best drivers."
"Deaf people make better drivers than people with normal hearing -- and they could be the world's safest motorists, a fascinating new study shows. "That's because they compensate for their disability by concentrating on watching the road, the research showed. "'They've got it all over us hearing people when it comes to driving," said a spokesman for the National Association of Driver Educators for the Disabled. "'They've always taken in everything with their eyes and as a result they tend to see everything when they're at the wheel." "And not being able to hear ambulance and other emergency sirens doesn't make deaf drivers unsafe at all. The study found that deaf drivers check their rear view mirrors frequently and can tell immediately if they should pull to the side of the road." -- Weekly World News, Lantaria, FL, April 25, 1995.

The things you may have never thought of!


Steven said...

I was worried that I would lose me license once I became completely deaf as well. But then I went to lunch with my ASL instructor at college, and he had a red Jeep convertible. He said there was no reason to lose your license if you're deaf, and had never had a problem.

He also liked to play the radio in the Jeep so loud that he could feel the vibrations. This was in a convertible Jeep with no windows, so the music was so loud that my eyes crossed! ;)

Rebecca said...

Steven can you feel vibrations? It has taken much practice and visual cues to notice vibrations. If Harley leaves the stereo on in the truck I generally do not realize it until I come to a complete stop at a stop sign or light. Thus I go thumping around and have no idea! LOL People must be kind of confused because they here a loud stereo but I am not singing or bobbing my head!

Yesterday Harley started up his motorcycle (a Harley Davidson) and I could actually feel it 10 feet away with my back turned to the motorcycle! I was completely impressed as my awareness of something like that was very dull or numbed last summer.

Steven said...

Oh yeah, somethng like a Harley I could feel in my chest (or back.) Since I still have half of my hearing, including the low range, I'm not as attuned to vibrations as you probably are, but sometimes notice the vibrations before the sound.

It's the mid-range stuff that I can't hear, which doesn't have the "bass" to make much vibration in any case. It's all the little electronic things that surround us now that I can't hear, and things like phones and doorbells. I have a standing comment on my account at - "Hard of hearing: KNOCK LOUDLY" :D

When I know a delivery is coming, and I'm at home, I put a little index card with "HARD OF HEARING KNOCK LOUDLY" on it. Sometimes they knock so loud they scare the crap out of me!