Hands Speaking Up
This conversation has stuck in my head for many years. The set up: a persuasive paper in composition writing class that was an argument in favor of making sign language classes fulfill the foreign language requirement. At that time that is how it was at that school. At the beginning of this paper I wrote a scene about a deaf woman who is sitting at a large dinner table and even though three of her dinner mates have advanced degrees: one has a master in social work, one is an MD and another is a lawyer, she still has to rely on her sister for communicating even the most basic of things like “please pass the salt”. As I sat in class the Professor for this comp class was helping people revise their papers, by talking to them one by one about them. This is how that went:
Teach: “Um, over all pretty good I just need you to change the intro like the note I wrote here says and correct those few grammar issues and then you’re done. Ok?
Me: “Ok, uh I need to ask you though about the intro how am I supposed to change it? I thought using a story was supposed to be good.
Teach: “Sure, but that story just isn’t believable so you should tweak it a bit or just take it out. Ok?
Me: “I’m sorry, maybe I’m confused. I’m willing to correct the paper but I’m having trouble with changing the intro, you see that is something that actually happened to me, it’s a real life story not just something I made up so I can’t just change it to make it more believable, it seems wrong to me, like I would be lying if I did that.
Teach: “That’s a true story?
Teach: “How so?
Me: “Well, it’s what I see at Thanksgiving every year that I wrote about. The deaf woman is my grandmothers sister, grandma knows sign but isn’t deaf, the three who have advanced degrees are my aunt the social worker, another aunt who is a lawyer, and my uncle who is a doctor. I’m not sure how I can change what’s already reality to make it more believable. Which part is unbelievable?
Me: “Yeah, well the one hasn’t passed the bar yet, so technically she isn’t yet but yes that’s my family.
Teach: “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.
Me: “It’s ok, there’s no need to apologize. I’m not offended at all, I was just shocked that you saw it that way.
Teach: “I called your family unbelievable. That really isn’t ok. I apologize.
Me: “Well of course I already had realized that those people in one place is unusual but, it seems so normal to me, like mundane even, I guess it just kinda threw me for a loop that someone would actually think it wasn’t possible. I really was more confused by it than anything.” I was laughing at this point. You know how too serious a mood just demands a laugh to lighten it.
Teach: “Huh, ok. Would you mind if I showed this to some of the faculty here? I think there is talk of changing things and maybe even a proposal to have the requirement filled by ASL like you said here. I’m not sure about that. I’d like to show it to the ASL professor, maybe others, would that be alright?
Me: “Yeah, that’s fine. I have it on disk so I don’t need the paper back.
I learned something about comp from all that, sure: if you have a story that applies go with it. All of the very reasonable arguments that I had come up with were trumped by a simple truth. Would it have been shown to others if I hadn’t included a story? Probably not. I really was struck by just how much different my environment might have been than that of others. It’s the clash of perspectives that makes this stick in my mind. I have often wondered exactly what in the Professors mind put the story over the line between believable and unbelievable. It’s a good thing that my natural snarky smartass streak was suppressed by being genuinely in shock because I would have said something like um, just tweak reality heh? Sure, I’ll get right on that, right after I make pigs fly.
The idea of tweaking reality stuck with me though ever since. I think oh just what would I change if I could change reality? I wouldn’t stop at making one situation more believable, oh no, I would go for the very nature of how the world works. First, I would do away with all sickness of any kind, no more cancer or asthma or diabetes not even colds and flu. I have asthma so that’s a personal vendetta to do away with that, but I want all people to be free of such awful soul sapping crap, not just me. Second idea: an impenetrable force field that is activated both on demand and automatically while unconscious, this would stop most violence and therefore injuries. There is a chance this idea might become problematic if made real. I’m imagining a spate of people flinging themselves out of airplanes without bothering to have parachutes because after all they can’t be injured with the force field in place. Third, definitely get rid of mosquitoes, I think most would agree with that right? Why do they exist anyway? That’s all of the improvements I have in mind so far. More later to be sure.