I grew up in Council Bluffs, Iowa where most everyone can read and speak English. Little did I know that moving to New York City would not only be a culture shock to my system, but it was a language shock as well.
A little background — I was born Deaf and I communicate in Sign Language. If I need to communicate with a Hearing person who does not use Sign, I prefer to use a pad and pencil to write my words. The written word levels the playing field of communication between Deaf and Hearing because each side must make an equal effort to get their point across.
When my husband and I first moved to New York, we were in graduate student housing at Columbia University. We lived a block away from the cathedral of St. John the Divine and right across the street from Tom’s Restaurant (made famous in a Suzanne Vega song of the same name and made even more famous as the coffee shop on NBC’s Seinfeld comedy series).
There’s a place just down the street from Tom’s called College Pizza. Their food is excellent and many Columbia students eat pizza there daily. On one of our first nights in New York, I went into College Pizza alone and I had my pad and pencil in hand to place my order. I wrote down on my pad: “Two pieces of pizza, please” and the guy behind the counter nodded.
I waited and waited. Everyone ahead of me got their pieces of pizza. New people came in and got their pieces of pizza. I waited some more.