So, as I’ve said many times before, growing up was very different for me. For example, my mom or dad couldn’t just pick up the phone and call me out sick from school. They would have to use the TTY and relay service that I mentioned in another blog post and call that way. Something that I contemplated many times was calling myself out of school since no one could truly prove that it was me and not my parents. I was always way too scared to do that though, so I was a mostly good kid and went to school.
One experience that I had difficulty with was when I was 17 and in the car with friends when we got into a pretty bad car accident. All my friends were able to call their parents and have them tell the paramedics that they didn’t need to go to the hospital since none of us were badly hurt. However, I couldn’t do that. I had to have my mom actually come to the accident, which luckily was only a mile away from my house. I’ve had a lot of experiences with things like that, where I have to do a lot of explaining that my mom can’t just get on the phone and give permission for something. I remember being really happy that we weren’t far away, and that my mom could easily drive the five minutes to me.
I’ve had a lot of experiences where I have to pose as my mom on the phone because the phone company or whoever I’m talking to for her won’t let me make decisions or changes for her, even though she’s deaf and can’t just get on the phone and authorize something. I definitely understand the reasoning, but at the same time, it can be a hassle. Although my parents being deaf has always been an easy way out of a telemarketer conversation. I would always answer the phone and when they asked for a parent, I’d say they were deaf and I would always get lots of apologies and a quick end to the conversation.
I’ve talked about the TTY, but I wanted to touch on the influence of technology on deaf life. Again, this is just what I grew up around, so obviously not all deaf people may have this exact experience.
Growing up, my parents always had the newest technology before most people that I knew. I remember my parents having pagers to reach each other, but I also remember being way too young to understand what it really was.
The next communication device I remember them having was a T-mobile Sidekick and a Blackberry. I loved the Sidekick. I was that kid that was constantly taking my mom’s phone to play games. I was basically the epitome of “You got games?” This was also the era of flip phones, and I remember feeling extremely cool because my parents had cool and high tech phones and I could do so much on their phones.
My parents moved on to Iphones once they became even more popular, and technology has really helped and also hindered their lives. Once again, referencing one of my favorite comedians, Keith Wann, he mentions how talking has turned into just texting and ignoring real life. This is actually one of my favorite jokes and I share it often with people.
When it comes to home phones, my set up has always been similar to the norm, but with some added accessories. Growing up, we had something called a TTY. It is essentially a keyboard with a tiny screen. There were a few TTY options, and we had one that had a phone attached and one that was just the keyboard.
With the TTY, there’s a few options when it comes to actually calling people. You could either call someone directly from TTY to TTY, or call them through relay. I hate relay. Nothing against the people that worked there, but it was just always strange talking to a stranger pretending to be your mom or dad.
There is also something that I call TTY grammar. With that little screen, it’s hard to figure out when each person is done with their thought, so when you’re done with a thought, you end the sentence with GA, which stands for Go Ahead. But, if you’re the person speaking on the phone to a relay operator, you have to actually say Go Ahead, which again always felt so weird, but typing this out now, I’m getting very distinct flashbacks. And when your conversation is completely over, you end with SKSK. I have absolutely no idea what that stands for and I have never understood why we couldn’t just say bye and hang up, but I went with the flow.
Now, technology has really grown. Instead of keyboards and random operators, we have Video Phones, also called VP. So now, my mom and dad have video phones attached to the TV and they can basically just chat with their friends whenever. And relay has changed as well. Instead of having random people, the operators have to be able to sign so that they can relay the message.
Another thing to point out about the TTY is that it acted as an answering machine if you didn’t answer quick enough. But the noise it would make if you didn’t answer was this terrible high pitched, robotic beep. I hated that noise and I can’t help but cringe just thinking about it.
So, since my parents can’t hear, you might wonder if my brother and I ever complained about them while they were nearby. And mom, if you’re reading this, I apologize in advance because the answer is yes absolutely, all the time. My brother and I learned how to talk without moving our lips and we would do it all the time to complain about typical teenage annoyances about our parents.
The thing is that sometimes, my mom would slightly be able to hear that we were talking, but she wouldn’t actually hear the words, just a muffled noise. And being the terrible and mischievous teenagers that we were, she wouldn’t actually be able to prove that we were talking and we would just tell her, “Mom, no I didn’t say anything. I’m just sitting here.” When really we were complaining to one another. (Again, sorry mom. Love you)
We don’t really do that anymore, but I can still talk without moving my lips. Not quite as good as most ventriloquists, but it’s fairly impressive still. As a CODA, you learn lots of ways to be sneaky, and my brother and I definitely had many sneaky tactics.
A question that I was asked was whether I listened to music when I was younger. I absolutely did, but I will say that discovering music for me was always very different than any of my friends.
A lot of my friends would tell me how their parents showed them music from their childhood and how they love all of the same music that their parents listened to. When I was younger, my parents didn’t really listen to music for obvious reasons. My dad has never really been interested in music and my mom only had a few things she would listen to. The only things we ever listened to in her car were Cher, J.Lo, and a random tape of Italian songs.
I did always have a love for music though and I remember singing everything as loud as I could when my brother wasn’t around since no one else could complain either. I do think that because of my influences growing up, there’s a lot I didn’t listen to just because no one else listened to it around me.
When I hear other people speaking a foreign language in front of me, I’ve wondered if they’re talking trash about me since I never know what is being said. In the case of my family and I, the answer is yes. We’re usually talking trash.
My mom and I were always the ones that would talk the most trash, things like “Oh, that girl has ugly shoes on,” or “What is going on with that outfit?” It’s not nice, but it’s a little funny and exciting.
One of the worst things is when I want to talk trash, but I realize there’s other deaf people around and that’s too forward and mean. An example of that is Deaf Day at Six Flags. When I was younger, we would go to Deaf Day, and it’s literally just a day when the park is basically full of deaf people because it’s a discount day and there are interpreters around the park. I would always want to either say something rude or just say something that I don’t want everyone to know and I wouldn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just say it out loud because there are still hearing people around, and I couldn’t sign because there are too many deaf people around.
My favorite thing is when someone is signing and talking trash about me or just someone around me, and they don’t realize that I understand everything that they’re saying. I can’t help but just laugh, and try to make it obvious that I may understand sign without saying anything.
A lot of people question how I learned to communicate. And I know I’ve already talked about this, but I wanted to go into a little more detail about how I learned to communicate.
I obviously grew up bilingual, but I learned to sign before I ever learned to speak. I started signing before I was a years old, and although I didn’t know know very much, I would sign things like more, milk, and cookie.
Signing is something that I think is extremely important to teach children because they can communicate before they officially learn to speak and I think it’s important to spread another language at a young age. I plan to teach my children sign language and i hope that they will choose to continue to learn as they grow old, but no matter what, sign language is extremely important for communication even with hearing people.
For people that haven’t grown up in a deaf family, you may think that deaf drivers are so safe, since they use sign language to talk and driving requires full attention and use of your hands. To that, I say absolutely not.
I’ve had many situations with my parents where I have to essentially ignore them so that I’m not as worried about them not watching the road. Someone I’ve always related with on this is a comedian that I really enjoy, Keith Wann. He is also a CODA and honestly explains this better than I could even think to. I’ve linked the clip of his show below so that you can really understand what happens in the car. As he says, I also have vivid memories of my mom looking completely away from the road.
Another thing about car rides is that I think most people would assume that car rides are fairly silent since deaf people can’t really hear music. On that, it’s all about the person. My mom has always been more into things like dancing, whereas my dad has never been a very big dancer and is more of the quiet type.
So with my mom, she loves listening to music in the car. That might be a confusing thing to understand. She didn’t always hear all of the music, but she could feel the bass and the beats. That being said, her favorite CD to listen to was a J.Lo CD that I think I’ve heard about a million times, (which isn’t really a bad thing). But with my dad, he hardly ever has his radio on, and if it is on, it’s because I’m in the car.
One thing that most people assume about being a CODA is that I was constantly sneaking out since my parents couldn’t actually hear me. The surprising thing, is that in my experience, it was almost impossible to sneak out. I swear my parents had super sonic powers and knew when I was even thinking about sneaking out. I would just shift positions in my bed and my mom would wake up and feel the need to check on me. It was the same if I came home past curfew. I would still walk in as quiet as I could, as if my parents could hear me, and as soon as I took my shoes off, I could hear my mom yelling at me for being late.
Similarly, I had the same problem when it came to sneaking candy. I had a very big sweet tooth when I was younger. I would try to sneak some chocolate while I was sitting in the back of the car, and my parents wouldn’t even have to turn around and they would just instantly smell it the minute I opened the wrapper.
Most people underestimate how powerful the senses can get when you lose one, so not many people expect that it would actually be hard to sneak around since they couldn’t even hear me. I swear that my mom just felt it in her bones when I was causing trouble, and I honestly could never get away with anything. Although I did manage to sneak out once or twice successfully, but I failed more times than I could ever count.