I wasn’t cool in high school. I was just Russ, nothing more, nothing less. I was just Russ. It’s nice for us non cool people to feel like we’re cool once in a while.
“I don’t understand what you’re looking for,” the man at the register said.
I could hear the store owner’s voice clear across the room. I was in my own little world, paying little attention to what was going on around me, though. My ears were hearing the sounds of the store owner’s voice, but since I was at the back of a very long line, my brain wasn’t paying attention to what my ears were picking up. I did nothing.
“Are you wanting the bigger ones or the smaller ones?” the store owner said.
For some reason the sound finally resonated in my conscious mind. I knew that tone of voice. It was loud, but it wasn’t angry. It was the sound of someone trying to communicate with a deaf individual. For some reason people think that if they talk louder, the deaf guy is going to understand what they’re saying. I knew that sound because at that time I was working my way through college by taking care of a deaf guy with special needs.
“I think I can help,” I said, walking to the front of the line.
I could see a piece of paper on the counter where the two were trying to work their situation out with a pen. They weren’t succeeding. I wasn’t completely fluent in American Sign Language, but I knew enough to get by and I was confident that I could communicate easily enough with this guy to solve their problem.
I let my hands do the talking and in no time we got everything sorted out. Sure enough, he wanted the bigger speakers. I know a lot of people would wonder what on earth he was doing in a stereo shop buying speakers since he was deaf, but those deaf people love their music. They don’t listen to it the same way we do with our ears. They listen with their body, feeling the beat. They love their techno music especially since it has heavy beats. Little speakers wouldn’t do them any good.
“Thanks so much,” the shop keeper said before I made my way back to my place at the end of the line.
I was feeling pretty cool at the time. Like I said, I’m not fluent in sign language, but I am proficient enough to communicate, even if I do have to spell words out with my fingers more than fluent people do. I stood in line contemplating the thought that I got a taste for how cool people must feel on a regular basis.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand you,” I could hear the shop owner saying once again.
This time there was no deaf guy at the front of the line. I glanced back up toward the front of the line and saw that the very next person in line was having a similar problem. His eardrums worked just fine, but his English was almost non-existent.
“I can help. I speak fluent Spanish,” I told the man working the register.
It took me even less time to figure out what the little Mexican guy wanted than it did with the deaf guy. Yup, I was feeling pretty cool at the time. I wasn’t cool in high school, but I was cool in that stereo shop. Maybe I wasn’t cool in high school because I only spoke one language back then. I hurried and paid for my things before some Russian speaking customer come through the line because, hey, I wouldn’t have been any help. True story.