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There’s an older deaf man who has been coming into my library for quite a while to use the computer.  At first, he always seemed annoyed with me and other staff because he had a hard time signing on.  When you sign on to our login system, you have to key in your 16 digit card number and last name exactly as we have it in our computer system.  Since his last name is St. ____, he has to put in both the period and the space, which kept tripping him up.

He spends his time online watching videos of car races.  Since he’s deaf, he frequently wouldn’t realize that the sound was on, and the normally quiet(ish) reference area would fill with the sounds of vrooming and squealing tires.  Then one of us would have to go over, tap him on the shoulder, and indicate that he needs to turn it down.  Since he can’t speak at all, when he needs help, he makes honking sounds and waves you over in an impatient way.

It didn’t take long before a lot of us got annoyed with the waving over, because we dislike being summoned like servants, but then something changed.  I was showing him how to sign in one day, and through a series of exaggerated movements, shrugs and occasional scribblings on a piece of paper, we were actually communicating.  He got over his annoyance and impatience, and I showed him how to do things for himself.  After that, we were totally bff.  When he came in, he’d wave hello, we’d communicate through a series of shrugs and thumbs up and seemed to always be on the same page.  I felt like I’d turned this once taciturn man into a happier human being through the power of teaching.

Then I got this email from a co-worker:

Turns out our deaf friend is also a paranoid schizophrenic. He threatened to kill his brother and burn down his house. There were 2 police, 3 EMTs, and a translator. He was very agitated and I felt really bad for him, even if I don’t care for his habit of barking at you when he needs assistance. I guess they took him in for observation

So there you go, it’s always the ones that I seem to connect with who end up being actually crazy.  I’m worried about him though, and he certainly never acted as crazy as most of our patrons who are not diagnosed schizophrenics.

My deaf friend, this is for you: