Judging the Majority

After struggling with this vocal cord thing for months, I’m finally surrendering and I’m going to remain completely silent for 10 days which was the doctor’s only helpful suggestion.

After much prayer about this issue, I felt God leading me to consider this a time of “fasting” from speech. Like fasting from food, this has a physical component (resting my vocal cords) as well as a spiritual and emotional component. I’m open to whatever you want to show me through this time, God. I’m opening myself up to you in my silence. I’m asking that as my voice is stilled, my soul will be as well. I pray that in this silence, I can hear things I could not (perhaps would not) before.

It’s only been a few hours now, and I’m already wondering if I’ve been walking through life with my fingers in my ears going “LA LA LA!” At the top of my voice…to PURPOSELY keep your voice covered, God. Certainly not ALL the time…but I’m wondering if I’ve done that far more frequently…regularly…as a matter of habit…than I would have thought.

I think it’s true.

One thing I’ve discovered already: People think you’re an idiot when you don’t/can’t speak. This morning, I wrote the following on a yellow pad, and showed it to the barista at Starbuck’s: “May I please have a 16oz. caramel Breve? Thank you.”

She politely read it, said “o.k.”, turned, and began working on my drink. After a moment, she turned back to me holding a container of caramel sauce, she then wordlessly began gesturing with the container, a pitiful, apologetic look on her face. Because the “caramel breve” is a regular drink for me, I’ve discovered all the secret inner workings of this species of coffee drink. You know what I mean, right?

Coffee drinkers have their Drink (proper noun)…like a pet…and they have come to understand all the nuances, subtleties and variations in their favorite caffeinated beverage. They know how to order it at Starbuck’s. They know how to order it at a “new” place where the barista might not be familiar with all the possible iterations, pitfalls and foibles possible with their particular Drink. They might even know how to make their own at home.

Some coffee drinkers are snobs. They treat people (especially poor baristas) with great contempt when they discover that the rest of the world is un-familiar with all the exciting and immutable details of their Pet. Preparing their Drink correctly is a moral issue for them.

Imagine if you will, an upwardly mobile, urbane Whippet owner walking her dog in the park. Now, imagine her stopping for a moment as she’s distracted by the sight of two squirrels on a tree branch mating (she watches it like a car accident..”EWWWW! How…biological!) and she unconsciously lets the spring-reeled leash play out to its full length, with her prized Whippet on the end of it.

Now imagine her face, as with a shudder, she turns her disgusted gaze away from the scene of hot-squirrel-love, only to see here prized Whippet being madly humped by the nastiest, dirtiest snarling mongrel she could imagine. And this dog is GOING AT IT! If this dog were human he’d be shouting YAHOOOOOO! and swinging his arm over his head “rodeo-style”. Can you picture that dog owner’s face at that moment?

That’s how some people look when they realize the barista doesn’t understand their Drink.

Well, I don’t feel that way when people don’t understand MY drink…I’ve come to know that with my particular drink, one of the reasonable and logical questions concerning it is: “Do you want caramel SAUCE or caramel SYRUP?” A Perfectly logical and frankly edifying question. My barista cares!

This was, in fact, the question being asked of me this morning by this thoughtful Starbuck’s employee…only she wasn’t asking me. She was gesturing with the bottle of caramel sauce. SHOCKINGLY…she could no longer speak either! She also adopted a very gentle, almost apologetic facial expression. She bowed slightly, lowered her head and looked up from beneath her own eyebrows at me (apparently not wanting to inadvertently frighten me somehow). I felt like a child who had been raised by wolves being coaxed out from under a stump by some well meaning anthropologist. She slowly moved the bottle back and forth as she bobbed her head up and down just a little, (Boy want sticky-sugar-goo? Ummmm good in tummy!) and for a split second it occurred to me that she might be asking if I wanted any poured on me!?


That thought only lasted a moment. (insert rapid back and forth head shaking with cartoon sound effect here)

Then it hit me that she wasn’t sure I would understand what she was asking. She was concerned that, me  being a Whippet owner, might view the unwanted addition of caramel syrup to my Drink like a profound boffing from a junk-yard hound…and she didn’t want to do THAT to me.

So on one level – I’m touched, and I feel valued. On another level, I feel completely patronized and looked down upon…like I’m an idiot (now I know why the word DUMB was used to describe the mute) simply because I can’t speak. On yet a third level…I feel terribly sorry for this poor lady. She rarely if EVER has had to deal with a mute person, I’m sure. How is SHE supposed to know how to act? She does everything she can to make me feel welcomed, to meet the needs that I brought to her, and when she doesn’t understand me…when her legitimate self-conciseness rubs up against my unique circumstance…I resent it. I judge her. I return her kindness by looking down on her.

Crap. I’m the one in this scenario who is supposed to have the RIGHT to be offended! I’m the minority! I’m the disabled person! The proud, misunderstood aborigine! Why can’t I just cross my arms in proud defiance…in stout resolution against the patronizing pity of the majority!?

Because she tried.

Because living the gospel of Jesus Christ means living out the truth… ALL of the truth, ALL the time…and the truth is, I knew what motivated this lady. The truth is while her message partially came across as patronizing, after only a split-second of thinking about HER rather than myself, I realized that she was scared, and she didn’t know what to do. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt me in any way. She wanted to make sure I was served well, and the truth is…how could I POSSIBLY expect her to know exactly how to deal with someone like me?. Is that her fault?

She tried  Thank you, barista lady for thinking of me. Forgive me for that moment in which I did not think of you first. Forgive me Jesus, for judging the majority.

4 thoughts on “Judging the Majority

  1. She probably didn’t speak because she thought you were deaf.

    Once I was working in a deli and a customer wrote her order down just like that. When our transaction was done, I used one of the few signs I knew to say “thank you”. She signed back. Next time she came in, she started signing her order, and of course I had no clue. She had to make the line wait while she went to get her kid from outside to come back in and translate. Mortifying for both of us.

    1. I think you’re exactly right.
      It’s the “mortifying for both us” part that surprises me about we humans.
      Even when we’re being kind to each other, we get mixed up somehow.

      BTW..have you ever examined the deaf culture in the West? Fascinating.

      1. A little. When I was a kid, there was a neighbor kid who was deaf. All the neighborhood kids learned to sign a little. He was later at Gallaudet University when they made national news protesting the hiring of a hearing university president. When I was a Boy Scout, we’d go on trips with another troop from a deaf school. But that was a long time ago.

        The most flamboyant mannerisms I ever saw were two deaf gay guys talking on the bus.

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