In a message dated 5/19/2015 11:14:31 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
"John" (not his real name) (who works at a restaurant) sends in the following joke:
A husband, and his bitter wife were heading home from a recent
family visit to their son's house. While driving, the man
inadvertently began speeding as he was distracted from his wife's
incessant nagging. Moments later, a cop pulled them over, approached
the car, and asked the man if he knew why he had pulled him over.
Without having a chance to respond, the mans wife interrupted with,
"Whaaa'd he saaay?!" The husband then loudly relayed the cops words
to his wife, then replied to the cop saying that he apologizes for
speeding as he was on his way home to New York from a recent outing.
The cop smiled, let the husband off with a warning, and then told
the husband how he had lived there briefly as a child and his only
memory was of a mean, nasty old woman who lived across the street
from him. Again the nagging wife interrupted saying, "Whaaa'd he
saaaay?!" to which the husband smiled and responded, "He said he
thinks he remembers you."
If you have a couple minutes, I'll share my story.
I am not deaf, nor do I have any immediate family that are deaf,
however I did learn finger-spelling in high school. Not through a
course, but because the smart girls used to finger-spell behind the
teachers back during class, and I just had to know what they were
saying. They didn't think anyone could understand what they were
talking about, until right in the middle of some juicy gossip one of
the girls noticed me staring at them, to which I replied H-I, oh..
if you could have seen her face!
I own a restaurant in rural Virginia, and I have a couple deaf
customers who frequent us every so often. After their visit I've
always felt awful for not being able to communicate with them like I
do with all my other customers. Usually they would just write their
orders on a slip of paper, and hand it to the server. Our
communications consisted of smiles, slowly spoken words (for lip
reading) and me giving a thumbs up, as if asking if everything was
good, or indicating that I was happy that they enjoyed their meal.
(which I now realize was signing the number 10 haha) I've always
made a mental note that as soon as I had available time, I would
learn how to at least do some basic signs so their experience would
be higher in quality.
Well, that available time started last week, and less than 7 days
later, I am completely confident in being able to effectively
communicate, and take there orders, without pen and paper! I had the
impression that it would be really hard to learn a new language, but
I believe the key is your website. And the explanations of each
sign, the extra info, is great.. it really helped my understanding
and recall, and I cannot wait until they come in to eat again :) I
think it will be a great experience for me, and a nice surprise for
them. I also plan to fully learn the language, so that I can offer
more to them, and any future deaf customers that might walk in. You
made it easy for me, thanks again.
- John _______
P.S. I decided to replace the thumbs up, with the sign for
COOL/SWELL! much more effective :)
The joke is funny, sure, but it has a dark side.
Before I mention that dark side, please know that I APPRECIATE you
sending it and I appreciate you letting me share a few thoughts on
Okay, here we go:
Put yourself in the shoes of the "wife."
Suppose you are Deaf and cannot hear what is being said.
Suppose you are not into "texting or social media," you have not yet
learned sign language, and those around you do not know sign
You then have two choices:
1. Live in a world of silence, become a social hermit, and become
2. Be proactive in requesting communication and be labeled as "mean
Oh, sure, I get it that the wife could have been patient and waited
until later to be clued in to what was said. The problem with that?
Often (very, very often) there is no "later." The information gets
forgotten, pooh-poohed, or minimized. Seriously many non-signing
deaf people go through life only getting the "trailer" and never the
full "movie." Often though, they don't even get the trailer --
rather they only get the poorly remembered "gag" reel cobbled
together from the memory of people who watched the movie and are
tired of playing "communication facilitator."
Oh sure, I get it that perhaps the woman is "mean and nasty" totally
separate from her being "deaf." However, the joke doesn't make that
The joke causes me to want to encourage people to reflect upon why
the woman is bitter. I suspect it is because she is indeed trapped
in a world of silence, her husband makes fun of her, and the family
reunion she just left was, for her, a communication desert.
If everyone in her family took the time and made the effort to learn
sign language and include her in the communication she would likely
be a lot less bitter.
Again, thanks for sending the joke. Someday I'll
probably post it on a "humor and the Deaf" page discussing the
difference between "Deaf Humor" (what is funny to Deaf people) and
Hearing Humor (making fun of Deaf people).
I am glad you are learning sign language so that your restaurant
customers won't become like the "wife" in the joke.
- Dr. Bill
you see how I feel like I'm on the fence, like I'm pretending to
fit into both worlds and not feeling that I fit into anything?"
Spurlock, a Deaf man who killed himself in 2005
(Beckner, Chrisanne, Thursday, June 08, 2006) "Can You Hear Me
Now?" Sacramento News and Review. Retrieved 6/20/2006 <http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/Content?oid=oid%3A60673>
John then writes:
Perspective is a wonderful thing we all can learn from. Thanks for
the insight. Perhaps in my haste to share comedy with others I
failed to consider all the ramifications of the joke itself. It was
not my intention to offend the deaf by any means, perhaps I could
have gave more detail of the bitter old woman, to indicate she had
been that way her whole life before acquiring a hearing deficiency.
I believe a better solution is to just bury the joke, the last thing
I would want to do is offend a subset of individuals I'm proactively
seeking to help. This is a hearing joke, and I am a bit upset with
myself that my judgement on this one was poor. I guess I assumed
that it was comical to me, so it should be comical to all, not
realizing some could be sensitive to it... but with a closer look
and your explanation.. I do realize this is not a "laughing with"
but rather a "laughing at" type of joke. In the future, Ill try to
be more understanding of the situation that may have led to "the
bitter old woman" instead of taking it for face value.
Again, all apologies,
Good job...you hit the phrase I was getting at in my previous email:
"at" vs "with." Exactly! Bravo!
No need for apologies (to me). I swim in this stuff every day and I
recognize a "seeker" such as yourself when I see one.
- Dr. Bill
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