Back in the late 60's and the beginning of the 70's I worked in a supermarket with a giu that could neither hear nor speak. Back then the term for him was deaf-mute which was actually a pretty accurate of his situation and back then it was not demeaning. It was simply the truth and had the man been able to hear us use the term he would not have been offended.
Now I was in the grocery department then and a lot of the work we did was after hours so there were no customers to deal with. We stocked shelves all night and the guy who I will call Vinnie had the responsibility for stocing the two aisles next to mine.
He was pretty good at his job and I guess he had a young wife and a kid. He also did something else when he was not working at the market but I do not know what that was. I believe he and his wife has some business enterprise going somehwere.
The fact that he could not hear wasn't too much of an annoyance and the fact that he could not speak wasn't too bad, either. Because he had his own responsibilities there really wasn't a whole lot of need for communication. We all took to carrying a pad and pencil with us for the few times we had to communicate.
He did a good job and was respected, and although every once in a while someone would mutter something about how it was occasionally aggravating not to be able to communicate with him, nobody thought any less of him for his disabilities.
He asked for no special favors and got none. In all respects he was an equal.
The electronic ordering in the aisles was in its infancy back then and the machine was almost as big as a shopping cart and had a thing on it that looked like an adding machine. It was a damned difficult thing to learn how to use and the grocery manager generally ran it. He had learned to run it by having one of the company bigwigs spend about a week teaching him. The manual was about a foot thick and the only one that knew how to run the damned thing was the grocery manager.
In an exchange of notes with the grocery manager Vinnie asked to learn how to run it but was flatly refused because of both the time it would take and the difficulty in communication but then the grocery manager on a gut instinct had a change of heart.
The grocery manager simply handed Vinnie the manual and told him to study it carefully and if Vinnie felt he could run the thing the grocery manager would train him, figuring that if Vinnie learned enough out of the book there really wouldn't be a whole lot of teaching.
Vinnie took the manual home and pored over it and practically memorized it and after an exceptionally brief class taught by the grocery manager he was permitted to order merchandise for his own aisle.
Of course, like most early electronic systems the new technology was prone to failure and it wasn't long until it broke down. The grocery manager was running it at the time. He was pretty upset and went to call someone to get it fixed which most likely meant waking someone up at the ungodly hour we were working.
WHen he came back to the aisle, he saw that Vinnie had seen that the machine was down and had already taken it apart. He got worried to say the least and because I was a known radio guy at the time I got called over to look at the machine. I knew nothing about it, but I saw Vinnie was pretty confident and in a minute he was putting it back together. He knew that machine like a pro and a minute later it worked like a charm.
The grocery manager was impressed and asked rhetorically where Vinnie had learned to fix the machine.
Tactlessly I said, "You were taught to run it by a couple of guys. Vinnie probably memorized the whole manual so he could learn to run it because he had to teach himself."
The grocery manager turned red, but he was a fair man. "You're right," he said. "I have never gone through that damned manual because it is written in some engineer's language. I couldn't understand a word of it."
Vinnie had taken his disability, overcome it and turned a disability into an asset. He simply HAD to learn to read that manual and he did. As a result he immediately became the go-to guy for the machine. Every time it didn't run right they sent for Vinnie.
Today, of course, such a person would be considered to be hearing empaired and orally challenged or some such crap and be given a disability and not have to do anything but sit around and drink beer all day collecting from our beloved Federal government.
What a waste of talent!
People like him do not belong stuffed away sucking on the government tit at taxpayers expense, they belong on the work force like everyone else.
Someone ought to sue the feds for making disability so easy to get on on the basis that it cheats the disabled out of the dignity of doing an honest day's work.
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