Two haircuts ago a girl cut my hair who was apparently hard of hearing, but not seriously so. An adorable bird too, I must add. I did not know if she had been raised entirely by the vocal method or if she had any sign language in her background at all, or what. I was loathe to broach the subject and risk offending her as she was clearly passing as hearing and doing very well at it besides. 

She cut my hair again. Quietest haircut I ever had. None of this smalltalk bullshit. None at all. Still, what communication was necessary wasn't all that smooth. A lot of repetition, a lot of face-directly-to-face lipreading going on. A few communication mistakes. 

At last she asked me how I wanted my sideburns. I vocalized, "short." She proceeded to trim them but she was leaving them long. I realized that she probably thought I said, "sure" and not "short." So I brought out one hand from underneath the barber cape and with the other hand still under the cape I took a risk at possible offense and signed the two-handed word for "short."  A single sign, but you can see it is an incomplete sign because one of my hands was covered by the cape. She knew the word. She stopped immediately what she was doing, turned from my side to face me directly, looked straight at my lips and asked, "How do you know sign language?" Deaf people always ask me that. With my exposed hand I gave my stock answer, a flat hand parallel to the floor lifted up, indicating that I grew up with it, and shrugged.  That never fails to satisfy the question, but this hairdresser probed. "Is someone in your family deaf?" At any rate, we bonded immediately and that opened a floodgate of questions. I continued to vocalize in English because that is what we had been doing, but I persisted in using sign language to help buttress the specifics. For instance, at one point, she asked what kind of dog it was that I once had, and then asked what a Belgian Sheepdog looks like. All that was facilitated with some spelling and a few signs. She understood all my fingerspelling and all my signed words flawlessly, but she never once through all that used any sign language back to me.

She mentioned that she used to have a small placard at her station that explained she was hard of hearing, but took it down. "People will figure it out on their own eventually, anyway." 

I mentioned I encountered a fellow in my building wearing white earbuds. I greeted him but he ignored me. I mumbled under my breath, "Fine, carry on with your iPod, you rude asshole." Then, inside the elevator he chirped cheerfully "Are you enjoying the beautiful day outside today?" In a strained voice that indicated to me he is deaf. His earbuds were to a hearing aid, not an iPod. It totally faked me out. Kelly giggled like a little girl. She said she has just such a hearing aid and loves it because people assume it's an iPod. I said, "Yes, but I assumed he was being rude to me. " Kelly goes, "Hahahahaha, people think I'm rude too." 

I'm an idiot. 

Eventually she asked me if I had a sign language name. I answered affirmatively. She asked me to show her so I did. She asked me to explain it, so I elaborated. She said she too has a sign name and showed me. It was perfectly ordinary. Her given name is Kelly so her sign name is a K placed at the heart. It resembles the word for "cop" which is a C placed where a badge would be on a policeman's uniform, which is how I locked in automatically the mnemonic association.  Then she said that her new deaf friends decided her regular sign name is too ordinary so they devised a new name for her: two Ks placed at the head near the ears and flicked. So it's a two-handed name that requires lifting up both arms. Not the most convenient or eloquent of signs. The Ks are similar to two scissors cutting hair. Cute. I'll bet her friends are fun. 

It is now quite impossible for me to forget Kelly's name, her first sign name and her amusing second sign name.  

That was all the signing she did to me until the very end when we walked together to the receptionist and she said "thank you" and "goodbye" in sign, smiling broadly, she lit up the entrance. I also said "thank you for the haircut"  in sign. Then vocalizing right in front of a small group of men between us but with her attention focused directly on me, she asked in English, "How do you say, You're welcome? See? I don't even know how to say you're welcome!" I showed her the sign, it's a very basic sign that one learns right off, and then I thought, "Jesus Christ, get me, I'm showing a deaf person how to say words in sign language over here. That's a first. Until this moment it's always been the other way around. " 

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