“Pete Castle” was away from home, and going into freshman year at a community college in Denver. College for him, was a completely new cultural experience. Because of his deafness, much ordinary life skills had passed him by.
Here he was in a laundromat, strange to him, his mother always having done his wash. School had taken up his day, so it was after 7PM and dark at this time of the year.
Pete had learned, long ago not to trust his “deaf” voice. Hearing people found it harsh, and sometimes had trouble understanding the sounds he made, which, of course, he couldn’t hear himself making.
There was only one other person in the laundromat, a young woman of about the same age as Pete, but with obvious competence, as she put paper money into a change machine and picked up the quarters necessary to start the process.
Following her, Pete slipped his dollar in as he had seen her do. The bill kicked back. Again. Again. He wanted to find out what was going wrong. He went over to the girl whose back was to him, came close and put a hand on her shoulder. She screamed and turned, screaming. Her body language mirrored pure terror. He tried to reassure her, but the combination of his coarse, unintelligible voice, his violation of her personal space and his hand on her, brought screams from her that were heard in the street. Soon an assault in progress brought the police – and handcuffs. His incomprehensible explanation brought the use of the Taser.
There was no interpreter at the station house, and no explanation on ether side. Cultural differences were too great. The young man was charged with assault and attempted rape. It was days before an astute judge called in a signing counselor, and the charges were ramped down to a misdemeanor.
Pete lost valuable school time.
Deaf people tend to stand closer to each other than hearing people do. Deaf people tend to use physical means of expression. Seldom is there formal teaching about man-woman relations.
The change machine at the laundromat had been unable to read the codes on the new multicolored bills.