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Patience and Deaf People

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You’ve probably often heard the oft-quoted bit of conversation between two deaf people:
“Let’s go for a walk,”
“Isn’t it Windy?”
“No it’s Thursday.”
“Me too. Let’s go for a drink.”

Charlie had two students on his last sailing course, one deaf and the other an Italian. Italians can be excitable at the best of times but if you mix deaf, sailing, and Italian in the same pot you’ll likely come out with a recipe for disaster. Charlie relayed the story like this:
“OK, bear off the wind,”
“What is bear off?”    
“Turn to port.”
“I no want go back to port”
“No, no, turn to the left.”
“Yes, we have left. I no want go back to port.”
By this time they were in irons. Charlie explained by gestures what happened and how to avoid the situation. Finally they managed to back the jib and all was well.

An hour or so later it was time for reefing practice. It went like this:  Charlie: “Right, imagine a big storm is coming and we’ll have to reef.”
“We’ll hit the reef?!! Where is reef?”
“No, no, we have to reduce sail”
Italian helmsman student to deaf partner: “Big storm coming. Put on life jacket.”
Charlie: ”No, no, we’re practicing, we’re going to reef
Italian helmsman to deaf partner: “Quick, put on life jacket. We’re going to hit the reef in big storm.”
Charlie: “NO! Do not put on life jackets. We’re just practicing.”
Italian student: “You crazy! Not put on life jackets?! We all going to die in big storm on reef.”
Charlie: “Yes, in a real situation we’d all have on life jackets. Now we’re just PRACTICING.”

Charlie was starting to lose it. Then he remembered the latest memo to come down from the head office, ‘The most important attribute of a good instructor is patience.’
On the last day they received their certificates of competence and Charlie waited for his customary gratuity. Italian student: “Here, please. Take all these left over groceries.” He pointed to a soggy mass in the bottom of the fridge. “Thank you so much. You were wonderful.” Charlie smiled politely.

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Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

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