Monday, June 27, 2005

angry deaf guy

I am often the recipient of a relay phone call from profoundly deaf individuals who are employed by us. One gentleman in particular, named John, seems to be very annoyed every time I talk to him. I believe some of the problem is the communication barrier, I really don't know much sign language beyond "bathroom," "lunch," "break," and other basic words that may or may not relate to work. The first time we talked on the phone it sounded like the relay operator was silently cracking up, I could just hear a muffled phone noise followed by breathing that would indicate laughter suppression. I guess that part of things don't matter because John couldn't hear it anyway. I asked John to come in last week, because I felt we had hit a dead end trying to communicate via the phone.

It was interesting meeting John, as it is meeting anyone I've just emailed or talked to on the phone. I always try to imagine what they look like. I'm sure they do the same with me. John turned out to be a big, stocky red faced guy with a short almost military hair cut, and he is older, in his 40's at least. He talked to me, but it sounded all wheezy and was hard to understand. I was writing things, because I felt that would be the most direct way to communicate, and he didn't have the patience to see what I was writing. I was basically trying to coordinate some paperwork that confirmed his diagnosis, and he didn't understand what element I needed from him. I had to ask him to repeat himself several times. I expressed to me that he can read lips, but it helps if the person speaking speaks slower than I am (I am aware I talk a mile a minute). After a while, we left agreeing on what actions would take place and parted ways on amicable terms.

He called me to follow up at the end of last week, and I haven't received the information I was supposed to get from his previous place of employment. I told him I would call and see if I can hurry it along.

I had to initiate the relay call to John today, to let him know the paperwork I received from the previous employer is insufficient, and needed something else that he has (and I tried to explain to him throught the entire history of our dialogue it would save a lot of headaches if he just faxed me a copy). He seemed pissed that him being profoundly deaf wasn't enough, that we needed additional information. I apologized, and told him this would be easy. I can just see him cursing in his wheezy voice, or shaking his fist in frustration. We'll get it all figured out. I think he's a good guy.

John has the most beautiful handwriting. He writes slowly, but it is perfectly formed, almost as if it is a font being produced from his hand.

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