At the downtown post office, one of the clerks is a deaf man. He is very tall and heavyset. When he was younger he had a full head of blonde messy hair and he looked like a boyfriend I used to have.
So for years I would stand in line and part of me would hope that a different clerk, a hearing clerk, would say “next” before the deaf clerk motioned to me. But every so often I would get the deaf clerk and he would flip open a notebook full of questions and instructions tucked into protective clear sleeves.
“Hello. I am deaf.”
“How can I help you?”
Depending on what I was mailing, he would flip to a different page. It wouldn’t take any longer than a hearing clerk but it felt like more work, maybe because I would have to look through his book when I needed to find the right question to ask him but mostly the work was to not be an impatient jerk.
Today he had two linked keyboards with screens. He typed, “Hello. I am deaf.” And instead of answering, I handed him my two packages. Then I typed, “I’m glad to see this accommodation.” And he answered, “$1.75 is the cheapest.” And so I nodded and paid. He handed me my change and gave me two thumbs up with a questioning look. I smiled with a thumbs up. Our exchange was over.
When I walked away, I wondered if he saw my cochlear implant receiver on the back of my head. I wanted the message to be ‘I get it about being deaf’ but the truth of the matter is I don’t, not his kind of deafness, not profound, having to do one’s job in customer service for years with nothing but a looseleaf binder kind of deaf. For a moment, I wanted him to see me as a deaf compatriot but he didn’t, because I wasn’t. It was a good thing to think all this. It made me glad I was next in his line.