The tips of my fingers touched my lips and I stretched my hand out with my palm outward. My server smiled and acknowledged it as she placed the food down on our table. I had signaled the american sign language for “thank you”.
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At any other restaurant I would have said thanks verbally but here at DeaFined, Vancouver only restaurant with hearing impaired waiters words and sounds were futile. But thanks to the genius design of the restaurant management, things had been set up for smooth communication between the deaf servers and the customers.
Menus had the name of the item, the price, and showed the hand signal one must use to order it. There was a pen and paper at each table in case customers had to communicate special dietary needs or request substitutions. My companion ordered a steak and he even had to specify that he wanted it medium by signing an “M” after placing his initial order.
On each table too were placards with mini lessons on how to sign simple things like “eat” “drink” “please” “thank you” and even how to request the bill. There is even a giant vase with pen and paper beside it where customers can write kudos and kind words of encouragement and positivity to the wait staff.
This experiences made me think about all the relationships I’ve had where we’ve had what appeared to be a handicap but in having that “disability” it heightens other of our senses. Having lived in Argentina several years I have several friends that cannot speak a word of English.
At first glance that may seem like a disadvantage but in reality it forced us to pay attention to each other even more. All of us have had the unpleasant experience of people talking at us instead of to us.
I noticed that with my friends that I had a language and cultural barrier with there was no chance that they would talk at me without truly listening because we had to been engaged with each other to even have a simple conversation. It resulted in relationships with a deeper level of intimacy.
I have other relationships where our “disability” is that we have distance between us and it is impossible to see each other in person. As a result we are forced to use social media and text to bond. And once again it seems as if creating closeness and intimacy is not barred by not being able to see each other in person.
I almost wonder if from dealing with them with text and social media there are now things about them that I can see and am in tuned to that I might not have been able to pick up if I were seeing them all the time in person.
And then I think of relationships where we had all the time in the world, we spoke the same language and yet somehow we were never in tuned. We both spoke English but we weren’t speaking the same language. They were hearing and never listening.
Technically all ingredients should have been there that my other relationships didn’t have but yet something never clicked. Maybe somehow having things “easier” and not having any handicaps kept people from being forced to grow and truly listen and engage with each other.
As I sat there in the restaurant watching the interactions between the waiters and customers I realized how much in relationships can be communicated without using words. A simple smile and a nod. The look in someone’s face when their eyes light up.
Our waitress’s attentiveness to us spoke of care and attention without her hearing or speaking any words. I don’t know about you but I’ve been to restaurants where the waiters can hear perfectly fine but the taste of the food and the body language told me they don’t care!
Watching each of my loved ones grow and flourish in rich relationships with me, I now wonder if all the things I thought were “handicaps” are things that made our relationship grow into what it is.
Whether it would be the language barrier, cultural differences, separation by distance, all these things forced me and my loved ones to engage in a way with me that they might not have had if we would have had things easier.
It won’t be long before I’ll be back in the restaurant, signing my order to my deaf waiter, the expression on my face beaming as I go about defying differences at DeaFined.