Lessons: It’s not clever if it’s offensive.

5 Nov

Wednesday I stopped in Walgreen’s to pick up an Iced Tea to take back to my hotel room. (I was in Chicago for work.) As I approached the counter, I saw two clerks making fairly broad hand gestures at each other.

“What’s this? A sign language lesson?” I asked with a smirk, thinking myself witty for teasing them.

And that’s when the male clerk spoke in a voice that clearly identified him as hearing-impaired. “Yes,” he said. “I’m teaching her to sign.” His hands moved as he talked. My smirk disappeared.

The other clerk, an Asian girl, smiled. “He was just teaching me to say ‘thank you.'” She showed me.

I looked at the guy so he could see my lips. “The only sign language I know is this…” and I started signing the alphabet, which I had picked up off a bookmark in the sixth grade.

He nodded encouragingly and smiled. “That is very good!”

I felt a flush of pride – even though it was only the alphabet, I was glad I could establish some common ground to show that I wasn’t a complete ass.

After I finished paying, I grabbed my bag, then freed up my hands. “Is this how it goes?” I asked, making the gesture for “thank you” to them.

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