I have a lot of anxiety around technology, as they put it these days. (Used to be, we were just afraid of stuff.) Buying a computer is not fun for me—it feels risky and expensive—and there's nothing those shiny Apple employees can do to make it better. They can, however, make it worse.
Recently I finally broke down and replaced my 2007 wood-burning Mac, which had gotten so slow in recent years that it was either buy a new computer or dust off the old typewriter.
At Apple, with my wife in tow (strictly for moral support, as she is a techno-imbecile as well) I had my hand pumped by the goofball greeter, who asked me my name and my business and briskly took me to a salesperson who would walk me through the options. "This is Josh," she said, as I shook the hand of the young guy with facial fuzz. "Josh is deaf."
I'm as big a guy as Larry David, and so I can admit that my very first thought was not more elaborate than, "Shit, why did I have to get the deaf guy?"
Harder to acknowledge than my preference for communicating with the hearing is my next thought, which I surreptitiously voiced to my wife while Josh fiddled with his Mac-pod-pad-thingy. I don't remember my exact words, just her response: "What—you don't think deaf people should have jobs?"
I asked the young man if he read lips. He read them well enough to laugh, shrug, and shake his head no. He pointed to a Mac-pad-pod, and indicated that we would communicate about this $1,500 purchase by trading notes back and forth.
Djaou you know the diffa6rence bwtween memory and operati7ng system?
Memfory is like the brain. The operating styxtem is lkike the nervous system.
Sorry Ifm the wurst typer LOL!
And then he squared up to his little iPas thing and hunkered down, presumably to recklessly type out Macs for Dummies in its entirety, just for me.
I quickly pointed to the middle-priced of the three choices, and gave Josh the thumbs up.
Immediately, Josh fetched a deal-closer and money-taker who was hearing, and took over from that point.
I'm not going to say deaf people shouldn't work at the Apple store. Goddamnit, they should. And though I was completely polite to Josh, and Josh got his commission (and quick!)—people ought to deal with this sort of thing with far more patience and inner calm than I managed. But they're not gonna—and lots of people probably manage to be even less cool with it than I was. Had I truly wanted to have a detailed conversation with a salesperson, I'd either have been there all afternoon with Josh, or I would have had to request a hearing person. Which would have been painful, for everyone involved.
Good for Apple for employing Josh. I do, however, hope they (and Josh) think a lot about how to handle inevitable awkwardness, and not take it seriously.
Well, I guess Josh probably thinks about that every single customer he takes, every single day.
Shame on me.