Gary and Melissa’s Excellent Adventure.

imageI awoke at 5am. I was feeling queasy and a little bloated. I had a big day ahead of me at work and I was also flying out to Sydney to attend the Deaf Sports Australia AGM. I went to the couch to watch some cooking shows on Foxtel. I thought this preferable to tossing and turning and keeping my wife awake. None of them were captioned so I gave up and went back to bed. I slept fitfully.

By 7.30am I knew this was not some small tummy bug. The pain was worsening. I emailed work to let them know that I would not be in. I decided to rest in the hope that things would settle in time for my 4.30pm flight. By 2pm they had not settled but they were no worse. I decided to chance it in the hope that it was a 24 hour bug. I packed my bag and went to the airport.

At the airport I was meeting Melissa, the Prez of Deaf Sport Recreation Victoria. (DSRV) We were both representing DSRV at the AGM. The flight was delayed an hour because there had been storms in Sydney. Not that we actually knew this for sure. It is something I deduced having seen the weather on Sunrise that morning. There was nothing on the airport screens to let us know. If there were any PA announcements we had no access to these either for obvious reasons.

The flight was uneventful. Apart from the fact I was in a bit of pain. Even though my tummy ached my bowel movements had been fairly normal. It was uncomfortable but I endured the journey. Chatting to Melissa helped and then a bit of deep breathing got me over the line.

We landed uneventfully. In fact it was a beautiful landing. Melissa and I agreed that it was one of the softest landings we had ever experienced. It is ironic that from that moment onwards everything became a nightmare.

We were to be trapped in that plane for almost three hours.  Problems caused by the storms earlier had seen an enormous amount of cancelled or delayed flights. Planes were banked up for miles awaiting an opening at the arrivals gate so that passengers could get off. Initially Melissa and I just shrugged and attributed things to the storm.

After an hour we both became a little anxious. We were tired and hungry and I was in a lot of pain. Obviously we had no access to the PA announcements so had no clue as to what was happening and when we might be able to escape the plane. I tried to grab the attention of a flight attendant with no success. I tried lip-reading them as they were talking to passengers in the aisle. In the end I just asked the guy next to me, which I should have done in the first place.

I told him that we were deaf and asked if he could fill us in. He was not an easy guy to lip-read either but he did his best. I managed to get a little of the story. Long queues of planes  that were all waiting for a berth at arrivals and that it was not known how long things would be. The guy was great from then on. If he heard something he would tell us how much time it was going to be before the plane moved on.

Of course, my pain just got steadily worse. I was cramped up in a small seat, never a nice thing for a big guy. I was steadily getting dehydrated too. In short I felt crap. I tried sleeping, deep breathing and rocking. Melissa thought the rocking made me look like a praying Muslimic guy.

Eventually after about two hours I got a flight attendants attention. As luck would have it he was very camp and spoke at 100 miles per hour. Even though I told him I was deaf he must have thought that I was the worlds greatest lip-reader because he yammered on, fluttered his eye lids and gesticulated excessively. About the only thing I understood was that there were lots of planes, we just had to be patient and he had no idea for how long. Come to think of it that’s probably all he did say but in 10 000 words.

So we were stuck in the plane for almost three long, tedious and painful hours. Even when we berthed we had to wait half an hour until they managed to get the plane doors open. But eventually we did get off and I was in a bad way.

Melissa and I decided to catch a train to our destination. We purchased our tickets and headed to the platform. The screens said the train was to arrive in 3 minutes. Half an hour or so later no trains had been sighted. In fact, in that time at least four should have arrived but they did not. I asked a guy what was going on. He had no idea. We checked the screens but there was no information there either. It is apparent that no PA announcements had been made so we were all in the dark. So much for Disability Commissioner, Graeme Innes, suing Rail Corp for the lack of audio announcements for the blind at train stations. Mr Innes was awarded $10 000 and donated this to charity. It seems that the charity is the only entity that benefitted from the whole saga.

I was feeling so bad that I told Melissa we had no option but to catch a taxi. This was going to be expensive because Parramatta is a long way from the airport. Of course there was a long line up for the taxi. Eventually, almost an hour later we got into a taxi. As I do, I told the taxi driver I was deaf and needed to lip read him. He was of Indian or Pakistani origin and impossible to lip-read.

Melissa and I were dog tired. It was past midnight by this time. To our horror the driver was in no hurry to leave. He wanted more people in the cab … Shared cabs are all the rage. He spent ten minutes seeking another passenger. Eventually we took off. The driver then proceeded to talk to Melissa and I from the front seat.  I was dozing in the back and was rudely awoken by Melissa because she could not understand the driver. No matter that we had told him we were deaf, he just spoke to us as per normal.

By this time I was at the end of my tether. I rather tersely told him again that we were deaf, could not understand him, reminded him of the address and told him not to bother talking because we could not understand him. Eventually we arrived at the hotel $122 poorer. Probably more expensive than the actual flight.

By this time I was a wreck. Melissa was also shattered. But the sorry saga was far from over. The guy at reception was of what seemed Filipino origin. And also impossible to lip-read. What is more, he steadfastly refused to write for me to make communicating easier. So after another half hour haggling with him because the room had apparently not been paid for, we eventually got to our room. In a great deal of pain I crashed immediately onto the bed.

After a few hours of trying to get to sleep the pain became unbearable. I got dressed grabbed my wallet and began to look for a taxi out the front of the hotel. Luckily for me there was a nightclub across the road. At they front of of the nightclub was a line up of taxis waiting to ferry drunk patrons home. I approached a taxi and the driver was of Sikh origin, replete with head gear.

Luckily he was not difficult to lip-read. I was in obvious pain and asked the driver to take me to the nearest hospital emergency department. He claimed he did not know where it was, closed the door in my face and drove off. My face, grimacing in severe pain, must have scared him off. I tend to think the driver was just an arsehole.

Eventually and after a bit more messing about I got to the hospital. This was the Westmead Hospital in Parramatta. And I have only the highest praise for them. Of course the nurses and doctors there were not without there comical moments When it came to communicating with me.

To witness Dr Henry throw everything he had into communicating with me was a thing of joy. His miming of diarrhea and projectile vomit were things of absolute comic relief. Henry was probably of Chinese origin and dressed immaculately with a collared shirt and tie. So his pantomime to communicate with me was all the more funny to watch. I made a joke with the other doctors that I preferred Dr Henry because he was walking theatre.

And there was the red head nurse who upon realising I was deaf, shoved his face inches from mine any proceeded to shout at me. I pushed him away and told him that his behaviour did not help the situation. He then proceeded to use passable sign language. He had some deaf friends he said. With over the top behaviour like that I am not sure for how much longer he will have any deaf friends.

Three days on it’s been an adventure, but perhaps not an excellent one. Tomorrow I head to surgery to have my gall bladder removed. An interpreter will be present so hopefully it will all be plain sailing from here on. As for Melissa the rest of her weekend was uneventful. As for me the adventure continues. 😀

IN THIS ARTICLE I HAVE REFERRED TO PEOPLES RACE ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS. NO RACISM IS INTENDED …IT IS WELL KNOWN THAT ACCENTS, PARTICULARLY ASIAN ONES, ARE DIFFICULT FOR  THE DEAF PESON TO LIPREAD.

APOLOGIES FOR ERRORS WITHIN. WRITING IN A DRUGGED STATE IS NOT RECOMMENDED. PARTICULARLY ON AN iPad.

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6 thoughts on “Gary and Melissa’s Excellent Adventure.

  1. Oh Gary, we’re kindred spirits … Three occasion in hospital 1. Heartburn (first time in my life thought I was having a heart attack) 2. Kidney stones — when in immense pain it’s really hard to lip read … Discovered the joys of morphine! Told kidney infection so continued to drive like a bat out if hell from narrabri to Sydney my journey cut short because of pain that winded me … Kidney stones so stayed in this cute little country hospital gunnedah – my first morphine experience! 3. Crashed my car Into a tree (not recommended) had pains in my chest they gave me mirphobe in ambulance and another one on arrival – my friend rushes in and I was amazed how so young looking bit like Snow White! Police officer looked like sex on a stick … 7 hours later nurse ask me anything I need.- pointed to my hand and uttered mirphobe? Nurse sigh and shook her head, dr rounds and I ask why am I experiencing this incredible pain in my chest … He asked did anyone till me within the 7 long hours I said no but that’s because I’m Deaf … He explained with graphical signs and gestures – he ask anything else I looked at him pointed to my hand “morphine?” He looked at the nurse who said no to give me more — she looked annoyed! Your stories as much it was tragic uifts me and I do t feel so alone! Oh the police who looked like sex on a stick turned out to be horribly scary, far from the beautiful image I had! Hmmm

    Craig

  2. oh dear oh dear i have been laughing so hard, my sides are hurting. hope your operation was a success and please get well soon.

  3. “As luck would have it he was very camp and spoke at 100 miles per hour. Even though I told him I was deaf he must have thought that I was the worlds greatest lip-reader because he yammered on, fluttered his eye lids and gesticulated excessively.”

    What a horrendously stereotyped comment to make about a male flight attendant, Gary. This is plain offensive, and disappointing coming from someone who advocates for the rights and respect of people.

    For some (many?) gay people, camp is a pejorative term. And that you needed to reinforce how “camp” this man was by talking about the fluttering of eyelids and excessive gesticulation just wasn’t necessary. And yes, I know you didn’t actually say the flight attendant was gay, but few would suspect you were referring to a straight man. Perhaps check out the antiquated flight attendant Fast Forward skit (with Steve Vizard) on YouTube, and you will get a sense of how prevalent this stereotype was. and still is.

    And the whole point of your piece was to reflect on your at times unfortunate and often discriminatory treatment during a very unpleasant time for you. Discrimination occurs when you negatively and/or stereotypically differentiate another person (even if it is for humorous purposes) because of their gender, disability, race, culture sexual orientation…the list goes on. All in all a funny and good piece. Pity that the drugs brought out your homophobic side.

    • I am sorry you found that part offensive. I have many friends who are Gay . In fact one of the people that helped to set up this site is Gay. The last thing I would want is to cause offense to members of the Gay/Lesbian community.

      I did think hard before using the term. I just wanted to point out that his communication was exaggerated. He did indeed flutter his eye lids so I was trying to be descriptive. I am aware also that ‘camp’ behavior is not solely the domain of people who are Gay . My reasoning at the time was that it I used Gay that was more stereotypical than camp because it implied all people who were Gay behaved in such a way. PC is such a hard thing to do.

      Nevertheless, if I offended I apologize, it was not my intention. In future I will seek Stronger guidance.

      Thankyou for bringing the issue to my attention.

      G

  4. There seems to be an issue with the identity of the complaint because it was written by a anonymous person. You don’t have to give your name, however, anonymous complaints without supporting evidence are more difficult to investigate. Just saying.

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