Regular columnist, Alexis Borochoff-Kennedy, on the pros and cons of being Deaf when eating out.
“Oh no, these people in the next booth are staring at us… again”
It could be the elderly lady gawking at your table, watching you and your friends rapidly throw your hands around in the air. “Sign language is so beautiful,” she croaks to her husband before resuming watching what she thought was a free show. Or it could be that five-year-old boy who had never seen sign language before in his life. He’ll weasel out of his chair and gingerly walk over to your table to further inspect. It’ll be another few minutes before his parents even notice that their child would fail miserably on the Miss Manners follow-up quiz. But what could you do other than pretend you aren’t seeing this person?
“This side of the restaurant is way too dark for me to see my friend’s lips, should I ask to switch tables or would that be too demanding of me?”
When it comes to dining out, deaf people, especially lip readers have a big priority — finding a well-lit restaurant. But every now and then, you’ll find yourself escorted to the darkest corner of the establishment. It’s so dark that you’re not even sure if bats could see in this oubliette. You’ll strain your eyes trying to see your friend’s lips or signing before debating if you should ask to switch tables or not. Would it be an inconvenience on his part? Even though he already brought out the complimentary bread basket and the water. Would he get annoyed at having to move everything from our table to the new table just for the sake of mine? You’ll either give up or politely ask to move while hoping the server doesn’t end up spitting in your food.
“Hey look at me instead of my hearing friend you jerk!”
“Does she want fries to go with her burger?” the waitress will glance at your hearing friend instead of looking at you. It doesn’t matter if you could speak for yourself, once this particular server finds out that you’re deaf, they will somehow will get the idea that you’re absolutely incapable of ordering anything on your own. You almost feel compelled to yell out “I’m not a two-year-old!” but you’re too nice to do anything but muster out a “thank you” under your breath.
“It’s nice that you’re learning sign language but I really just want to order my food”
We always appreciate it when a hearing person is learning sign language. In fact, we wish more people would make the effort to learn our beautiful language. However, when it comes to ordering in a restaurant, the last thing we want to do is nod along and forcefully give compliments as the waitress excitedly shows off their newly-acquired fingerspelling skills. “A, B, C, D…”, the waiter will continue as your stomach grumbles. Should I cut her off and tell her I want the filet mignon?
Ah, you made it this far, you might as well let this person finish.
“Um… okay yeah sure”
You’ll blindly answer to an unknown question the waitress asked you because after the third time of asking her to repeat the question, you’re too embarrassed to ask the fourth time. The server could be warning you that the dish you ordered was extra spicy and asked if you were okay with it, or the server could be asking you if you wanted to add salmon to your salad for an extra £7.99. You absolutely don’t have a clue what the server is saying to you. So you’ll utter an awkward “yes” or “no” and hope you didn’t make a grave mistake on your order (and let’s be honest, it always is).
“I’m so glad to be deaf”
Every deaf person had this thought in a restaurant at some point in their lives. The reason? You can enjoy your food in blissful silence while a baby shrieks in the next booth and a mariachi band blast “La Bikina”. That moment when your hearing relatives and friends leer over in disapproval to a nearby table full of cackling ladies and guffawing men, you’ll take a bite of your chilaquiles and think, “man, it’s great to be deaf.”
Alexis Borochoff-Kennedy is a freelance writer based in Tallahassee, Florida.