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Deaf Man Responds To Video “A Day Without Barriers” And Why I Only Partially Agree

March 17, 2015

Initially when I blogged about this video yesterday, I had said that I wished for something like this for my hearing impaired friends. I should have been more specific. I don’t like the fact that the deaf person is surprised by the “niceness” of corporate advertising. I like the fact that Samsung has set up a call center for the hearing impaired–it’s about time, and I am going to savor that victory.

I remember a time when a phone call with my hearing impaired friend included a small typing device, and we had to try to type our thoughts to one another, plugged in through the phone line. How provincial. How very like e-mail, but without the connection. It’s hard to get expression from someone’s typing skills. It’s there, but it’s masked, or sometimes, if you are 13 and not the best typist, maybe it’s not there. Maybe it can’t be, and maybe as you try to struggle through the rough realities of your friend knowing people are talking about her through clenched teeth, because she could read lips, maybe you can forgive yourself for being 13 and not being able to communicate through a typing device.

Maybe, later, when call centers became popular, as in, you respond in voice to someone who types to your friend, you will forgive yourself for being less than honest, because let’s face it, even having an “interpreter” hear what you have to say inserts a third person into the conversation, and even if they have to supposedly be objective, they can’t be, because they are people, too. You might even forgive yourself for getting angry or getting off the phone when you felt judgment from said interpreter for not being able to express yourself while someone else typed it to your friend with a hearing impairment.

You should forgive yourself, because another 15 years later, after three marriages and a divorce between you, when your friend shows up in town with her children to visit you with her children again, after visiting her shortly after the birth of her first child (whose entrance signaled first husband’s departure for her), after visiting at a local agricultural fair to coo over gorgeous, blonde male horses and dodge piles of poop,  after her second marriage and two more children goes south, you might still reconnect for hours, and while you text, you might still be happy for her when her world gets a bit easier. Don’t feel guilty, and don’t let the fact that while Samsung makes money off of this, it’s still a service that the hearing impaired community deserves. Be happy for them.

There is a response video to the Samsung marketing video, entitled: “My Reaction to Samsung Turkey Advertisement-Subtitled.” The video is linked below. It’s not that I don’t agree with some of what he says, but I don’t agree with all of it. Jesse Conrad asserts that the only reason the people in the video learned sign language is to pat themselves on the back. Jesse Conrad asserts that it is only the hearing community that erects barriers to communication, and that is simply not true.

It’s true that sign language, like any language, is complicated. I learned to sign most with signing the alphabet. It’s tough for me to sign without my hands hurting because I have a growth on the nerve in my wrist, but I didn’t learn sign because I wanted to feel good about myself. I learned sign because I wanted to communicate, and I have a friend that I value. We communicate in our own way, including sign.

My daughter has taken a sign language class, not because she wants to feel good about herself, but because she met my friend and wants to communicate, too. It’s not about some self-aggrandizing notion of altruism, but that there is a deep human drive to communicate with one another. Jesse Conrad is missing what is important to people–that connection, the drive to communicate with one another in meaningful ways.

The Samsung video isn’t about meaningful conversation, except the “good morning” comment, and even that, coming from a stranger might not be construed as meaningful, but it’s about little encounters during the day that fill that need we all share to to feel “connected” with one another.

Interestingly enough, I found evidence of this on a site for people going through divorce, and the blogger, whom I feel is gifted not just with insight, but with the ability to express it, terms that desire for connection as being open to “encounters.” Encounters, as I understand them to her, are those same moments of connection with others that make us feel good, with no strings attached, goodness just there for us to enjoy.

My trip to LA lasted for exactly 48 hours.  In that time-frame I had dozens of encounters.  Goodness, at LAX this afternoon I had 5 meaningful encounters alone.  That doesn’t include the encounter with a woman last night who had lost her ticket to the concert (I had an extra – got massive karma points for that.), or the man who stepped in as I mangled my photo ops, taking my phone and saying, “You are missing too much of this show trying to futz with your camera.  May I?”

“Yes, you may.”

Or the encounter with the cab driver who brought me back to my hotel after the concert. We made each other laugh, and when we said goodbye we looked deep into each others eyes and smiled a big, warm, glittery smile that said, Thanks for making me feel special even though I am just a fare, I am just your cabbie.  I think of him now and get teary eyed.

Honestly, drought areas should bring me in for emergency water supply.

These encounters are different compared to those I had before The Pocket Call, back when I was in a relationship.  I was more dismissive then.  Polite, yes, but not so interested in a connection, more closed off.  I didn’t value the power of an encounter.  I didn’t give people (nature, animals) credit for being able to impact me in a way that was life-changing, memorable, rich, in the space of a moment or a few.  I expected to get that from The Genius and our circle of family and friends, but I didn’t honor what a brief encounter could gift to me.

Spouses, lovers, family, friends – these are relationships that develop over time, morph and shift.  They have beginnings, middles and ends, mainly as defined by us.  We value them, and we also take them for granted sometimes.  We push and pull them, we support, we use, we utilize, we trash ‘em, and we rebuild ‘em.

Encounters may often go unnoticed.  Yet they are so ripe with opportunity for growth and joy that I feel compelled to sing their praises. 

Encounters like these are what Samsung tried to mimic, to show what the hearing impaired community might not experience in their daily lives. It’s one dimensional, true, because we don’t know what encounters the man in the Samsung advertisement has without a camera attached. The man in the video in Turkey isn’t “saved” by these constructed encounters, but neither is he destroyed. Maybe the people in the video are seeking an encounter similar to the one in which they learn to play a role. Maybe we are all seeking encounters that connect us, make us feel good, not just to pat ourselves on the back but because we require them.

I do think the Samsung video is a marketing gimmick, but I can see that, even though I am not hearing impaired. I can rejoice in a service making live a little bit easier for the hearing impaired, and I can celebrate that all while knowing it’s a marketing gimmick. For now, though, I will spread the word, the video, and I have posted the response below, but I still can’t help but think of my friend and be so happy that she has a way to make her life just a little bit simpler, even if it’s in sorting out her cell phone bill, because that is complicated enough…



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