In high school I took two years of American Sign Language in place of the choices available for my foreign language requirement, which were either Spanish or French. Considering the typical setup of an American classroom already makes it difficult for me to hear the teacher, trying to hear the teacher in a foreign language was just not working out for me. (I still remember attempting to learn some Spanish in middle school and how utterly frustrated I was. What I thought I was hearing was not what I should be saying, if I could even figure out what the teacher was saying behind a meaningless jumble of vowels and consonants.)
Anyway, I adored my American Sign Language classes. I loved the ability to communicate in a way that did not necessitate me staring at a person's lips and struggling to hear their voice. I could put my already evolved knowledge of body language and expression to use in a way that told me so much more than it does in a typical conversation. Learning about Deaf culture opened new worlds to me, and flexing the muscles of my fingers and hands made me feel skilled and special at a particular task.
That said, I unfortunately haven't had the chance to use ASL much since 2004. Like any other language, my knowledge has slowly degraded from disuse. I do of course still know my alphabet, though my motions moving through A through Z are no longer smooth and practiced. I remember a few simple words and signs I've taught Scotty so that we can communicate easily when I have my aids out or in a loud situation. I want to learn more - I just haven't had the chance, and don't know the right people to keep the knowledge fresh in my mind.
Occasionally I meet people who do sign. Not Deaf people but hearing people who know ASL. At least... that's the positive side. I meet people who see my aids, and start fingerspelling names or adding small signs in as they speak words. It's nice that they are acknowledging my hearing loss in this subtle way. However, most of the time it serves to distract me from what I really need to pay attention to, the sounds they are making. Signing one word out of a sentence is not going to help. I do appreciate the consideration, though.
And then I've met the people who just... honestly, I have no idea what runs through their heads. I have had people come up to me, ask me if I am hearing impaired and then begin to flail their hands and arms around aimlessly. Even though I haven't used ASL in almost six years I can easily tell this is not ASL. Nor is it any kind of actual signing. It's just utterly random movements with no predictability and no flow to them.
So I've been trying lately to figure out why they are doing it. Are they simply a little bit crazy? Do they misunderstand what ASL really is and honestly think it's just flailing about? Do they feel self-conscious, like they have to sign to me, so they put up this silly stereotype of sign that does nothing but just be embarassing? Or is there a perfectly logical reason behind their flailing? It always makes me feel uncomfortable and a little bad for them. The last person who did this to me refused to speak to me and just flailed his hands around. I thought he himself might be hearing impaired until I heard him speaking perfectly well and calmly to another person. I won't lie. That made me angry and feel pretty helpless.
If someone refuses to communicate meaningfully with you, what do you do...?