A lovely encounter in sign language.

Many, many years ago, before Jade was born, I represented a lot of deaf people in Edmonton as their lawyer and I ended up fluent at about level 1 ASL (which is conversational sign language). I don’t remember much anymore: it’s been over 30 years.

But last night, I was walking my spaniel, Scout. A man sitting on a chair in front of a group home waved me over to see the dog. It was clear he was developmentally disabled and he pointed to himself and signed “deaf” and then petted Scout.

So I patted my leg, which is the sign for “dog” and signed “my dog.” Then, “Hi.”

“You sign?” he asked, and his face almost exploded into a smile. “Hi.”

“A little sign language.” I signed. “Not much. Small words.”

He grabbed my hand and shook it, grinning like a madman and gave me a thumbs up three or four times.

“What’s your name?” I signed, and he showed me his name sign (the sign deaf people are given by other deaf people to identify themselves rather than spelling their names over and over again each time they communicate), and then spelled H-O-W-I-E.

(My name sign is a mixture of the initial P and the signs for legal and powerful, because back then, that’s how I was seen in the deaf community).

Anyway, I signed P-E-G-G-Y and spelled Scout’s name out too. Then I signed that I had to go because Scout needed his walk, but I would see him again later.

Howie shook my hand and gave me several more big thumbs up. He waved goodbye to us as we walked down the street, still smiling at finding someone he could communicate with, even briefly, in his own language.

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2 Responses to A lovely encounter in sign language.

  1. Brian Aguinaga says:

    Very heart warming anecdote. Unfortunately, it reminded me of a news story I read last week of a deaf three-year-old named Hunter in the the States who’s pre-school/daycare is threatening to suspend him if he doesn’t change his sign name: both hands imitating shooting handguns. Apparently it contravenes their zero tolerance policy against weapons. Another case of political correctness trumping common sense.


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