Monday, September 27, 2010

D.A.D.D. (Daughters Against Deaf Driving). By Jemina

Ah, the family road trip. Nothing sparks more feelings of nostalgia than packing up the car for an exciting new adventure and location. Like most married couples who are contraceptively challenged, our deaf parents (Phil and Syl) considered air travel a frivolous expenditure for our large family and opted to drive anywhere and everywhere they deemed vacation-worthy. We were told that spending five out of seven vacation days in our 1989 red and white striped Ford Club Wagon was part of the adventure instead of a penny-pinching tactic, and camping in the great outdoors was much more enjoyable than sleeping in a stodgy old hotel room. Phil and Syl stretched their dollars even further by ensuring that our trips coincided with the closest Baptist tent revival or bible camp.

No destination was ever within an eight hour radius of our house since everyone knows outdoor Baptist worship events must be held in a godforsaken part of the Catskill Mountains. Therefore, Boyd Family road trips consisted of extremely long hours in the car with Syl carrying on lively one-sided conversations in order to keep Phil awake while he drove. More often than not, we children fell asleep in the back of the van after hours of watching Syl gesticulate wildly to Phil as he tried to both watch her and the road. Syl’s entertaining rants most often began as thinly veiled concerns over various church members’ spiritual growth then moved into the far more unproven rumors surrounding each member.

“I am worried about Sue Flemming- we haven’t seen her in Sunday School for a few weeks. Did you know that she once smoked the marijuana and was so high off her gourd that she crashed into her friend’s fence?” Syl would sign. “Anyways, she may not have taken it so well when I suggested that she was addicted to the marijuana and that the Lord looks unfavorably upon recreational drug use. I hope we see her next week- I’ll pray about it.”
While Phil pulled double-duty as driver and listener, the gentle swaying of the van rocked me to sleep as our fearless driver always managed to swerve out of harm’s way at the last moment.

At some point during our many road trips, blue lights would start flashing behind the Club Wagon and Phil would get pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving. In hindsight I suppose every police officer stopping the giant Ford Club Wagon careening down the highway thought it must be the result of an erratic drunkard behind the wheel instead of a deaf man watching his wife sign, but it perturbed our parents nonetheless.

On one such occasion I was chosen as the interpreter between Phil and the very large, menacing policeman rapidly approaching the driver’s side. Normally a duty assigned to one of my older siblings, I felt a surge of pride as Phil designated me the official keep-your-father-out-of-jail ambassador. Officer Menace peered into the Club Wagon with purpose as he began his discourse of, "Sir, do you know why I pulled you over? Have you been drinking tonight?" while I climbed up to the front of the van near Phil’s window. "Officer Menace, perhaps I can explain; my parents aren't drunk. They're just deaf,” I offered helpfully, smiling with glee at being the chosen mouthpiece of the family.

The officer looked surprised to see a chubby nine year old with smudged glasses and a bowl cut addressing him with such familiarity. His drunk-driving suspicions appeared plausible as long as Phil remained mute. Strengthened by his suspicions, the officer bellowed "SIR, DO YOU KNOW WHY I PULLED YOU OVER? HELLO? SIR, ANSWER ME! DO. YOU. KNOW. WHY. I. PULLED. YOU. OVER???!”

Ever the pragmatists, Phil and Syl knew that while they communicated with hearing people on a daily basis, doing so now wasn’t going to help their cause. They looked at me with affected befuddlement while I explained to Officer Menace that my forty year old father was not suffering from premature hearing loss like an octogenarian, but was entirely deaf. This revelation led Officer Menace to stop looking at my parents as irresponsible simpletons and more like two people who could have him fired for screaming at the Deaf. After the color drained out of his face, the policeman muttered an apology and scurried back to his patrol car.

An unwanted brush with the law makes most people more cautious while driving, but Phil’s righteous indignation at being mistakenly screamed at made him feel like he could speed away on a sort of victory lap back onto the highway. Both parents praised me for what they assumed was excellent interpreting as Phil did not receive a ticket and/or go to jail, and I went back to dozing in the back seat. Before my eyes shut I felt a calmness wash over me as Phil and Syl picked back up where they left off with their conversation, our van barreling towards the great outdoors and the Great Commission of soul saving.


  1. Well I have to say that I was very amused and enjoyed reading this. It is a glimpse into you family and I appreciated the mental image of it all. I have been on many long road trips with my parents when I was young and can really identify with the whole scenario (other than the deafness) My dad was a smoker and I always sat behind him. He would use the cigarette lighter to light up and that took 2 hands and I would cringe as he tried to maneuver steering. The worst part besides the second hand smoke was the flicking of the ashes which would land in my eyes or mouth ,being downwind. My mother was always giving my dad directions and warnings to "slow down Joe!" I was hoping he would go faster! Sometimes he would oblige us and speed up grinning and my mom would tell him off. The times we got pulled over were because we were singing and happy and thus were not keeping in the lane well. I recently was stopped for exceeding the speed limit and, in my defense, said that I was singing and didn't notice how fast I was going but that I am very careful to obey the speed limits and am often passed by impatient drivers who speed all the time. I am awaiting the judges reply but I think she will dismiss the ticket due to an error the police officer made with my name. He wrote Irene J. Hart and so I said if he can't get my name right then how can we be sure he got my speed right? Thanks for the entertaining essay. Keep writing. You can write a book and make a movie!

  2. when i m reading this i forget all things.very nice article..keep writing..m agreed with u Janette Hart..she can make a movie on this.and also a book :) happy writing.keep it up