Note From Uncle Dale: Born With It!

Hello it’s Uncle Dale.

Hi.  I just guided a recently certified interpreter through a series of breathing exercises and made sure there were no sharp objects in the house.  She had just come face-to-face with one of the true boggarts of the interpreting world, and was having a hard time coping with the full reality of its exsistance.  I’ve been there.  Thus, I showed empathy and understanding, but most of all I think it helped that I confirmed that she was not out of her mind and that her frustrations were, in fact, valid.

She just had her first run in with an interpreter who is “Born With It.”

Ooooh think about it. You know at least one BWI, and on some level; gurrrrrrooohhhhwe hate them so!

Breathe CODAs, because I am not talking about CODAs (though many BWI’s are). I am talking about the interpreter that seems to come with that weird, “factory installed” blanket acceptance by the Deaf community.

Ok! The face that instantly popped into your head? Yeeeaaah, THAT ONE!

The BWI, is the interpreter for whom IT  DOES  NOT  MATTER  IN  THE  SLIGHTEST if they show up at an assignment 27 minutes late, naked, carrying a shotgun; not one Client will complain… or even blink an eye. NOT. ONE.

The BWI has some freakish magic shield that allows her to, with almost wild abandon, do stuff that would END your career or mine.

Case in point, years ago I teamed with a BWI who, I swear to you, when confronted with the word “bi-sexual” for the first time paused, kinda looked heavenward in an attitude of thoughtful contemplation, did not look at me to be fed-though I was ready to feed, and then signed with confidence,

“BASEBALL BAT SWING RIGHT SWING LEFT, KNOW THAT? OK?”

I was… Stunned? Freaked? Ready to throw my body in front of him as a human shield?

BUT the row FULL of Deaf Activists just went:

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Even now I close my eyes and imagine doing the same thing, and all I see is:

Ok! Full disclosure. I don’t know what I would have done if I was in BWI’s place. This was obviously a while ago (to say the least) and bi-sexuality had not been a common topic of public discussion at that point in the history of the profession; I know I had never had occasion to use it before.

While BWI was walking on stage I just happened to observe a discussion between attendees on the proper Sign for bi-sexual. So, truth be told, at the moment BWI might have needed it from me, I had that Sign in my toolbox for maybe 5-7 minutes; making me the expert on all Signs of the “Orientational variety.”

(What is the difference between a Professor and a student at a Community College? One chapter!)

BUT I HAD IT. I had the proper Sign, and he did… that! And… They were fine with it! WHY were they fine with it?

I didn’t want them to be fine with it!

But fine with it they were, because he was that lesser devil, a “Born With It!” (Ok. Not enough? Not convinced? So, one time I teamed with the same BWI and he showed up in a brown flannel shirt with head shaved, SHAVED! He did not do it on purpose, mind you-this was just a brown shirt “just shaved my head” period of his life- BUT, he stood on the stage just in time to interpret, “Welcome everyone to this celebration of the life of Martin Luther King JR…” in a brown shirt… with a shaved head… and no one, Deaf or hearing, winced or even seemed to notice; BWI).

Ok. I will admit, there may have been just the tensiest bit of professional jealousy (very professional, yes, but also quite a generous amount of jealousy in that mix) because… truth? He is a FANTASITC interpreter. To this day one of the best I’ve seen.  He is clear, fluid and comfortable to watch.  He has this cowboy charm, yeah, I know, weird right? Cowboy charm is not a discription you would normally associate with an interpreter-but, well… BWI!  Sigh. What I’m saying is BWI or not, you can’t help but love working with him.

Dang it.

Well, most of the time I love working with him. Except when his BWI powers blast out and scorch the earth around me… and when, that one time, I missed something, looked at him and all I got was a sparkly smile and two thumbs up-‘you’re doin’ great’-NO I’M NOT. THAT IS WHY I LOOKED AT YOU! He is not perfect-which is an oddly comforting and a little petty!

Now, (I looked at my former student) it is irritating enough when the BWI is fully competent and freakishly charming, but it’s much worse when you feel the BWI is objectively just… not… either of those things.  Like when the BWI uses weird handshapes or odd placements or their movement or rhythm is … URGH! Or they randomly initialize or flip back and forth between ASL and English or shoehorn in SEE articles or mouth everything in a wildly exaggerated way or omit like unbelieveable amounts of information! or YOU  KNOW  FOR! A!  FACT!  THEY  JUST MADE  THAT  SIGN  UP! it is NOT a real sign! It’s not! And they say “oh it’s regional” BUT ITS NOT! or “oh, well, I got it from one of the Clients and it’s the Sign they are all expecting me to use… BULL!!! ITS NOT! EVERYTHING THEY DO LOOKS LIKE AN INTERPRETIVE DANCE ABOUT CUED SPEECH WHILE ON FIRE! (Pant, Pant, pant, in through the nose and out through the mouth).

But, the Clients. The Clients j-j-just nod and smile and then ignore you when the appointment is over, but line up to pile “thank yous” on BWI!

My Mentee asked me if I was ok.

Yes

“Ok” she said, “what do I do about it?”

Nothing.

“NOTHING?”

Did you see any violations of the CPC? I don’t just mean odd Sign choices. I mean violating the Clients’ confidentiality or suppressing the Clients’ right to speak or think or act for themselves?

“No.”

Were the Clients’ happy, or at least satisfied with the work produced?

“They seemed to be.”

Anyone go to the morgue? Anyone go to jail?

“No, but…”

Stop. There is no “but” to this. You are a visitor in this world my friend. You don’t get to choose who the Deaf community likes or doesn’t like or accepts or doesn’t accept-anymore that you get to “fix” cultural rules you don’t understand. It’s not your culture, you don’t get any say at all. And if you say “that’s not fair” because you must suffer the smallest taste of the bitterness of not getting to have a say, or feel the slightest sting of the discomfort of having your views discounted-an insult that is served to your Clients in heaping amounts each and every day, just remember that they still get up everyday and navigate a world that is fundamentally unfair! I’m not talking about discrimination (we fight that!) I’m talking about a world geared toward sound as a value so that disparate access is woven into the very fabric of day-to-day life. I mean one thousand and one institutionalized, culturally embedded daily indignities that never can, nor ever will, change; it is unfair. Was. Will be. Forever. Amen.

So, this BWI is more beloved than you, but you don’t think he deserves it?

Thou art not yet as Job! 

You don’t get to choose who or what the Deaf community accepts or supports or even praises.

The world is full of BWIs. But it has just as many “Not Get Away With Its” who eventually get caught and crash and burn, as it has “Born With It’s” who are mysteriously successful.

You ready for the hard truth?

“Yes?”

You aren’t either of them, I’m not either of them. We are working stiffs without magic or malice.  So you and I have to work twice as hard as the BWI to get half the professional respect. That sucks. It does.  But it’s worth it.  Because you get to do this every day, seriously what could be wrong with that?

I may never be known as “a natural.”  I may have to fall back on my charm, wit and my almost uncanny resemblance to Rutherford B. Hayes (you think I’m joking? I get stopped in the street!) but I am willing to ‘out practice’ and ‘out work’ the most natural of naturals and the most magic of magicals if it means they’ll pay me to do this.

So, suck it up. If I can do this -even with my hectic schedule full of requests to appear at events and sign autographs as Rutherford B. Hayes- you can do this too!  Keep working and developing and… if you see a “Born With It,” don’t let it get to you. Just put hot sauce in her Diet Coke.*

*A Uncle Dale is a comedy and satire blog, well it’s funny sometimes, and is not actually advocating the lacing of any person’s drink with ANY chemical substance at any time. Don’t actually do it. Please. Thank you. The Legal Team /rbh/.

Note from Uncle Dale: Mean Rules

Hi! Uncle Dale here!

So, I was chatting with a reader from the U.K. and I mentioned what I call Mean Rules.  He said I should post some. I aim to please!

A little background, like I said, some Rules just come to me fully formed and I send them on to you relatively unvarnished, because that’s how my brain works (for example it’s 1:14 AM and I woke up feeling hungry.  I thought “you know what would taste good? An orange.”  Then I started thinking “when is the last time I ate an orange? It’s been a long time…” Then I thought, “it’s been a long time since I ate a grapefruit too.”  And then, the more I thought about it, I realized that I can’t remember the last time I ate any citrus fruit.  And you know what? I have been feeling like I have a cold coming on the past few days, maybe in need vitamin C? Then, BOOM, I realized I don’t know the symptoms of scurvy. I know it comes from a lack of vitamin C and I know at least three colloquial names for it-Moeller’s Disease, Barlow’s Scourge and Cheadle’s Complaint-but I have no idea why I know those names! I’m guessing it’s “interpreter knowledge” -see Rule 14- but if I know the names then why don’t I know the symptoms?  I could, in fact HAVE scurvy right now, and die from it, while knowing nothing more about the sickness save it be four names for it; three regional monikers, and scurvy.

So I got right up and made microwave popcorn.

Annnd tangent done. Hi. You may want to go back to the last word before this parenthetical. Remember? It’s a parenthetical, see>) other Rules are only half formed when they arrive and I have to ruminate like a Guernsey cow to make them workable.  Some Rules I write as a reaction to what is happening at the moment.  Because of this somewhat unpredictable process I often find Rules I’ve written long ago, hidden in files and boxes, preserved on whatever paper I had with me when the humor hit.

There are Rules I don’t post for various reasons, for example, some I  no longer understand what they mean.  Seriously, I wrote them long ago and I read them now and… no idea.  They were attached to a specific event I can’t remember and the context is gone.

Sometimes… the Rule is just too mean. Funny but mean! But mainly funny.

Mean Rule 001

It probably doesn’t matter that your Client might not know when to use ‘less’ and when to use ‘fewer’ in English, because your TEAM absolutely doesn’t.

(Written on the back of a parking pass from a hotel dated 2012).

Mean Rule 002

Vocabulary will not save you if you refuse to listen or think.

(This was written under the word “Rule” on a paper with feedback for a person named “Meg.”  I have no memory of this event nor of a mentee named Meg- it’s true but it’s not encouraging)

Mean Rule 003

(Maybe this isn’t a Rule… it’s more like a mean Note but it makes me laugh.  I was the head mentor for Interpreters in mainstream classrooms when I wrote this. Emphasis indicates underlining)

“Contrary to your letter, no, you do not use SEE sign at this school. No one else does either. SEE has strict production Rules and Structure. The staff I saw just produced ASLish signs in a mostly English word order, sometimes, and randomly- but not consistently- initialized stuff, and crammed ‘to-be’ English handshapes in whenever they noticed you looking at them.  No one here uses SEE.  They use conceptually inaccurate ASL, and most quite badly.”

(This is my first response to a ‘Letter of Concern’ written to the Superintendent of the school by an “educator” (quotes required) who observed one of my mentoring sessions with an interpreter, and did not believe I was abiding by the school’s “language guide.”  

The Superintendent told me to rewrite it).

The actual written response I submitted:

“Thank you for your concern.  Please forward me all the records of any trainings provided to the teachers, staff and interpreters in the proper use, grammar and structure of SEE.  Please include any certifications that you, or any school personnel possess in SEE instruction or interpretation.  I request this because I observed no actual SEE, or even a reasonable approximation thereof, used at any time during my time at this school. I did observe pervasive poorly executed ASL with initialization shoehorned in.  I has observed this- without exception, from everyone.  Everyone.  Every one.”

Want another one? Same players?

(The educator told me that if I truly understood Oral education I would support it-so she arranged for me to observe the schools “best Oral education teacher” for a day. She wanted my written evaluation of the experience). Here it is:

While observing [the instructor’s] class I saw that at least two students were very proficient in lip-reading as well as, it turns out, interpreting.  The teacher would talk and these students would discretely “interpret” for the other students around them. Though I saw no augmentation devices, at one point the instructor turned out the lights and showed a video, (without captions) and then the teacher stood behind the students making spoken observations on the film.  It is my opinion that [the teacher] is the most devoutly religious person I have ever encountered; spending each day talking to no one but ***self and trusting God to put knowledge in the students’ heads.

(The educator and I did not get along)

Mean Rule 004

(Sometimes Mean versions of Rules get a charm school makeover)

If it “unthawed” that just means it froze again!!!!”

(Written six times in a row under the words New Rule 2011. If it was feedback, that was the only feedback that poor mentee got) In the end that was the start of Rule 9.

Mean Rule 005

You get praise for doing more than expected.  You don’t get praise for not screwing up. Not screwing up is expected.

(The papers around it were from 2005 and 2007.  That actually became an essay I wrote about Pres. Trump after the State of the Union-that’s my other blog)

Mean Rule 006

(Some Rules are written to me)

New Rule! TelePrompters are for looking at!  Its likely the names you are struggling to spell are written right there on it!!! (With three exclamation points. I deserved it).

Mean Rule 007

ELK matters. Don’t show up at an appointment Tabula Rasa, and if you don’t know what “tabula rasa” means you have made my point! (That has been reworked into a more useful version)

Mean Rule 008

Black shirt black pants black socks black shoes? You can’t… (hey, you know what. I like this one!  I’m using it! It will pop up sometime next week)

I promise I’m a nice guy.  Promise!  Right,  Um Hum God of Snark?

YES, AND IF ANYONE SAYS DIFFERENT HE WILL LITERALLY FIGHT YOU! 

Yeah… thanks God of Snark.

Note from Uncle Dale: The Speech 

Hi every one, it’s your Uncle Dale.

Well, the moratorium is over.  It is time again for students or those you mentor who should be attempting certification to, in equal parts, avoid eye contact in case you ask them their testing goals and/or want you to guarantee that if they attempt the test they WILL pass.

FYI, I wont make guarantees for things I can’t control.  I will look at samples of your work and say if you are in the ballpark or not.  I may even tell you if I think you are on the field, in the bleachers, buying  hotdog in the mezzanine or still tailgating in the parking lot.  But, I will not promise that you will produce work at the moment of performance test that meets the expected standards.  That is all on you.

I have given pep-talks to many potential interpreters before the NIC(k-e-y…) as well as state certifications. Like other professors, mentors and supporters I do my very best to make sure each person I helped prepare is as prepared as possible.  I also send them with, what I believe to be, a very important final assignment.  Each one is to call me the minute they finish the testing so that I can give them “The Speech.”

I originally got a version of The Speech from a friend of mine the afternoon of the second day of my Bar exam in Massachusetts.  I gave it to the first student I sent into the breech.  She was fully ready but I thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown when it was over.  And now I give it to you.  Use it well for any applicable situation, not just certification testing.

Ahem. So, you just walked out of the NIC (or State test or other QA)?

Right now you are thinking “Now I wait… ”  Yep, now you wait.

You will next think “what if I screwed up!” Eh, Maybe.

Your heart will start to pound and your palms will sweat and you will tell yourself, “I will just not think about it until I get the results.”

Yes you will.

All the comforting, but self-deluding, thoughts that you “will just put it out of your mind” won’t stop it from plaguing you.

You will worry about it. You know you will.

So, give yourself permission to on your own terms!

Here is what you do, set yourself a time, 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours… it does not matter just set a time, and for that time give yourself permission to totally lose it. Second guess everything you did.

EVERYTHING.

Remember THAT moment.

Cry.

Pick apart your performance.

Beat yourself up over your ASL grammar and English sentence structure.

Be relentless!

And when the alarm goes off, stop.

STOP!

Let the fear and anxiety and self doubt in, let it show you what it’s selling, and then kick it out without buying it.

If you don’t give yourself permission to do this at a time and in a manner you choose, you will still do it. You will just just do it in every quiet moment or sleepless night from the time you walk out to the test until the day the results arrive. The doubt and anxiety will wait for you in quiet hallways and sneak up on you each time you close your eyes.

Do allow the fear and self-doubt to take over at the time you choose, in the place you choose and in the way you choose, and when it tries to creep in you can say, “we’ve already talked about this, still not interested.” When negative talk treats your head like a time-share you can tell it, “I’ve seen what you’re selling. I sat through the whole sales pitch and I did not buy in. Go way.”

Give all that crap a chance to wear itself out and you can own your own mind.

Thus endeth The Speech.

Note from Uncle Dale: Enjoy the Little Things

Hello all! 

Uncle Dale here.  Fair warning-this “Note” is only marginally connected with interpreting. I mean there is interpreting mentioned in it, but no really good interpreting advice; except you’ve got to enjoy the little things in life.  

Last night I took first place in a storytelling competition. This competition happens every year here in Utah near April Fools Day (it’s part of a huge festival held in the summer called the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival).  

The point of the contest is to tell a story that starts out plausible but by the end is so outlandish it can’t be true.  It’s called “Utah’s Biggest Liar.”  This is my fourth year. I took 2nd, 3rd twice (won the audience choice award once… by-the-way the one advantage to taking second or third in a “lying contest” is you can tell everyone you took first. Hey! If they didn’t want me to take advantage of it they shouldn’t have left the obvious loophole!) and finally, last night, I took home the “Golden Shovel” (for realsies). 


This competition is not specifically for ASL storytelling (though come to think of it that could be fun). In the audience last night was this lovely woman:


This is Kristi.  She is one of my favorite people in the world. However, she will be the first to admit, that was not always the case.  Mainly because I was young and arrogant and… well let’s just say it took me a while to figure a lot of things out.  

Her father is a legend in Utah.  He was the man in the Deaf community that fixed things.  Without her Papa we would not have the Deaf Center or any number of the services we have today.  Anyway, I digress. 

This lovely woman and her husband drove over 45 miles in the pouring rain to sit in the front row of the competition and cheer for me. Thank you Kristi!

And now the point.

She requested interpreters. 

  

This is me telling my story. And this is the marvelous and talented interpreter who drew the short straw and had to interpret for me (come on interpreters, admit it, we are just the worst to interpret for!) 

This is Chip.  

Chip and Dale.  

Yep! You really have to enjoy the little things.  

(In answer to a question I received. Yes, my shirt says “I’m probably lying”)

Note from Uncle Dale: The First Rule

Hello everyone,

I just wanted the take a moment and thank everyone for their excitement over the Rules. I have just as much fun making them.  Thank you!

I also wanted to announce my website.

http://www.uncledalesrules.com

It’s a work in progress but will soon be filled with videos, resources, merchandise and all things “uncley” and “Ruley” (unruley?).

People ask me if I come up with each Rule myself. The answer is mostly. I have had over 26 years to collect them in my head.  Some interpreters suggest Rules to me and I have used some suggestions with their permission.

I’ve been asked the “process” I go though to come up with the Rules. I’m not really sure “process” is the right word, but, such as it is, some Rules I have had on scraps of paper, old social media posts or in powerpoints from my workshops for years.  Some new ones come fully formed and you all get the first (and final) draft kind of unfiltered. Some Rules I think about and edit over and over, and recently I have even workshopped a few (Shout out to my Rule testers!!! Well, mostly Cameo).

Finally, someone asked me if Rule 1 was really the first Rule I thought up. No.  But I couldn’t remember what that first Rule was. I remembered when it happened and where and how though. So, I dove into my files and found the original Rule. It was written in the margin of some feedback notes I wrote for a newly certified interpreter that teamed with me (not really unusual, Rule 13 I wrote in the margin of notes from a Carla Mathers workshop).  It said:

Rule #1 if the speaker uses the word “dude” as a part of speech, don’t even bother trying to guess where this presentation is going.

So there it is.  The original Rule 1.

Then, I found Rule 2.  Maybe it should have been this Blog’s Rule 1.  I use it often in workshops and such. In fact I use it so often that I think I forgot it was a “Rule.” I shall therefore post it next in a place of honor…

So… lets see- thank you, website, Q & A… oh! Right! Sorry again about the numbering change, annnd now Rule 73 (the original Rule 2).

Note from Uncle Dale: Numbering Change (with a new post script…)

Hello,

It’s your Uncle Dale.  I just finished a conversation with a follower of the blog regarding numbering of the Rules.  She is absolutely charming and absolutely right;  Rules 61 and 62 are more corollaries to Rule 60 than stand alone Rules.

Thus, I have determined to institute the following change in numbering:

Rule 61 will become Rule 60.1 and Rule 62 will become Rule 60.2 and for structural purposes that means Rule 63 will become Rule 61.

I apologize if this disrupts your day or throws off any on-going discussions or wagering.

Thanks,

UD

ps  Another follower of the blog just pointed out that I also have two Rule 18’s… sigh soooooo all the numbers will change… just a little. so.  How are you?