On Monday evening, May 14th, David Walters of Bel Air, MD, pulled a fire alarm in a crowded theater. He was issued a criminal summons the following day and faces a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in jail. You can read about the story HERE. More on the story HERE.
It seems David was upset that the movie was open captioned for patrons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Specific movies (identified at the ticketing counter) allow people with hearing loss to enjoy newly released movies on the big screen. It allows equal access. Sure… we can purchase the movie later after it goes to DVD and watch it at home. But who wants to miss out on the buttery popcorn, movie candy, cherry Icee‘s and being with friends and family at the theater? Nothing beats the big screen! David marches out and complains – evidently loudly. He is offered a refund which he refuses. He goes back in to finish the movie. When finished he comes out again and loudly complains – now demanding a refund. When denied (because he went back into the movie), he gets angry and pulls the fire alarm. This shuts down all the theater’s screens and panics movie goers.
This is a special kind of S.T.U.P.I.D. When I first read about this story, I have to admit. I had some “AVENGER” feelings going on in my own heart and mind for this idiot. I thought, “Wow. If he could live one day in my shoes. It would be poetic justice for him to lose his hearing someday!”
Deaf For A Day
Because I live with both deafness and a balance disorder, I can tell you honestly that really? I wouldn’t wish deafness on anyone. Yeah. This jerk probably deserves it, but hopefully what he’ll get is justice. I hope because he endangered so many people that they make an example of him. I hope everything was done correctly in his arrest so that he doesn’t get off on some kind of technicality.
Each year I ask my students in my ASL1 class to voluntarily participate in a “Deaf For a Day” assignment. Later, they write about it. Most “get it”. They understand what the assignment was about and why they are asked to participate. Each year, however, I have either a student or two, or a parent or two, very disgruntled about the assignment. In the follow-up writing assignment, some disclose how poor of attitudes family members had because they were unable to communicate with their student in a “normal” way.
I like to think that should something happen to their child and they lost their hearing, these parents would do all that they could do to be supportive and loving in the transition to a new way of communicating. They may not use ASL even, but technology is not a 100% fix. Even cochlear implant surgery is not 100%. I’m bi-modal (both cochlear implant and hearing aid) and although I hear really well, I still am considered a person with hearing loss. There are times I have to ask for a repeat, or ask someone to follow me to a quieter location.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Before you think to yourself that you would never be this “special kind of stupid”, consider this.
Have you ever parked in a handicapped space to save time because you were only running into the Post Office for 5 minutes?
Have you ever sat at a table clearly marked for handicapped patrons at a local fast food place because there were no free tables, and then failed to keep a look-out for anyone coming into the establishment that may need that table?
Have you ever reached to pet a service dog without requesting permission of it’s owner?
Ever felt exasperated (and let it show) while waiting in line behind a mom with a child with autism or other special needs who was having a meltdown?
Have you ever felt impatient as someone with mobility issues that fumbles and drops items while you are waiting in line at the cashier?
Ever see someone stumble or walk funny and immediately think they’ve been drinking instead of thinking they may have a balance disorder?
Ever honked your horn and grimaced at an elderly driver who cautiously entered a very busy intersection during peak rush hour?
Not understanding what chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or Lyme disease actually are, have you inwardly cringed and rolled your eyes while listening to a seemingly endless list of complaints about pain from a co-worker, fellow church member, or acquaintance?
Ever see someone mistreating a homeless person or person with mental illness and not intervened?
Ever stepped into a handicapped stall in a public restroom because the others were full? Exactly how are you going to know someone is there who needs it when you are actually in there doing “business”?
You may not be pulling fire alarms and endangering hundreds of people, but you are still choosing to be a part of this special kind of stupid group. I’ll admit that I’ve made some of these mistakes myself. We all have.
I’m asking that all of us take a minute, however, to think about how we can do better. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a special kind of stupid.
Let’s love our fellow man, offer a helping hand when we can, and smile at someone just because it’s Monday. Buy a cup of coffee for the next person in line. Hold the door for someone.
it will be contagious.
© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal