Sixteen minutes ago I received a reply regarding:
The reply was from Marissa who wrote:
It’s someday, I’m asking about the lawyer that refused to pay…with the happy ending.
In the middle of the post I attached above there is and asterisk. The asterisk refers to a “post-script” in which I promised that I had a story with a happy ending that I would “someday” tell.
Marissa is right. It is someday. So here you go Marissa.
Many many years ago when I was a young interpreter (shortly after the earth cooled and carnivorous Thunder Lizards were still a common problem with the morning commute) I got a call from an attorney’s office.
This office was seeking, “a person to use Sign Language for a potential client.” The lawyer (I was in fact talking directly to the lawyer that first time) made a point of telling me, “I don’t think this case is going anywhere, but this hearing impaired guy won’t calm down about it.”
I got the date and time and then said, “You understand that I charge $10.00 per hour with a two hour minimum” (not a joke. It was the going rate).
“Uh-Huh,” the lawyer replied.
And just like that I had scheduled one of my first freelance appointments.
On the agreed day and time I showed up at the attorney’s office and interpreted for a little under an hour and a half.
I went home and sent my bill. About six days later I got a letter from the Attorney’s office which contained only my bill with the word REJECTED written across the length of it, corner to corner, in red marker.
So I called the lawyer and asked him what he was playing at.
“We never agreed on Terms of payment,” he said, “we had no ‘meeting of the minds.’
I was confused. I said, “we agreed on $10.00 per hour with a two hour minimum.”
“No,” the attorney replied, “you asked me if I understood that that is how much you charged and I acknowledged that I understood. I never agreed to pay it.”
I had to admit, he was right.
I was about to argue anyway, but he said, “son, if you think you are going to argue this point with me remember I’m a lawyer, I do this for a living, take the lesson and walk away.”
So I did. I walked away a little poorer, but wiser.
But then, three weeks later, my phone rang.
It was the lawyer’s assistant. She informed me that the Deaf Client’s case, rather than being nothing, had turned into something. Something BIG.
They had to secure a sworn statement from the Client and have it file by 5 o’clock that day. There would be a person coming to take the Client’s statement in about an hour. She also told me that the Deaf Client was insisting on the same interpreter for this as I was already familiar with the subject matter and facts.
They wanted to schedule an appointment with me!
I pondered that for a second. Then I asked to speak to the lawyer. She told me he was very busy. I told her I was too, but I had taken the time to answer when she called to bother me.
She did not like that.
I then informed her that I planned to yell at someone. I had nothing against her personally, she seemed to be great at her job and appeared to be good with people, but I intended to complain. Loudly. Angrily, and without regard to the niceties. She could choose to be the target of what was shaping up to be a very ugly half hour to an hour of her life, or she could connect me with the person at whom I really wished to yell and avoid all that unpleasantness in her day.
She asked me to hold please.
In less than thirty-seconds the lawyer answered the phone, fully tuned-up:
L: ARE YOU THREATENING MY ASSISTANT.
UD: Yes. Thank you I’m glad she felt threatened. Means’ I did it right!
(That stopped him)
L: My assistant will schedule you and…
UD: That’s not why I’m talking with you. So listen carefully, you want me there this afternoon. Yes?
UD: Then this is what will happen. Payment for today will be set in the same manner I explained previously; Ten dollars per hour, with a two hour minimum. Do you agree to these Terms?
L: (you could hear the smile right through the phone) Very good. You learned. Yes, I agree to those Terms as you stated them.
UD: When I walk in to your office there will be two envelopes on the receptionist desk, both will have my name on them and the first will be identified with a number one and the second with a number two. Are we agreed on the Terms thus far?
UD: Inside the envelope marked number one will be a Bank Cheque or cash in the amount of $20.00. This will pay for our previous appointment.
L: Son that is dead and gone…
UD: And miraculously it will rise again, in an envelope on your receptionists desk, in a little over one hour’s time. Do we understand each other.
UD: Do you agree to all Terms as I have stated them?
L: And if I don’t?
UD: Then find yourself another boy. You have about an hour. Good luck.
L: You know you have me over a barrel.
UD: I learned from the best. Do you agree to all the Terms thus far as I have stated them?
UD: Good. Now in the second envelope will be a Bank Cheque or cash in the amount of $20.00 to cover the two hour minimum for today’s appointment.
L: But what if taking the statement requires more than two hours?
UD: When I arrive I will pick up the envelope marked “One” and put it in my pocket. I will leave envelope number “Two” in the receptionist desk. At the conclusion of today’s meeting, if it is less than two hours, I will take the second envelope with my payment inside and leave. If it goes past the two hour mark I will charge, and you agree that you will pay, $10.00 per hour (beyond the two hour minimum you have already agreed to pay) divided into quarter hour increments. Before I leave your office you will either: secure a new Bank Cheque for the proper amount to pay me in full for today’s appointment; or, you will pay me the difference between the payment held in envelope “Two” and the amount I’m owed in cash. Do you agree to all the Terms as I have stated them?
L: I’m not comfortable with the second envelope.
UD: I am not negotiating, I am laying out Terms. It’s take it or leave it time. So. Do you accept all the Terms as I have stated them?
UD: Good. Then I will be on my way.
So I drove to the Attorney’s office and on the receptionists desk was one envelope with my name on it and the date of the previous appointment.
I picked it up, I put it in my pocket and I left.
This was in the days before cell phones. So when I got home there were already a couple of messages from the receptionist and the phone on the wall in my kitchen was ringing.
When I answered the phone the lawyer was already yelling and demanding to know where I was.
UD: You cancelled today’s appointment.
L: Who cancelled it?
UD: You did. When I walked into your office there was only on envelope. You violated the Terms of our agreement so you cancelled the appointment.
L: I never agreed to that!
UD: But you also never added your own Terms. I just said that I was not negotiating my Terms. I never said you could not insert your own. Had you wanted a clarification of the results of any person’s violation you could have inserted it.
L: Will you please come back I will have the second envelope ready…
UD: You mean along with the new envelope, let’s call it envelope “Three”?
L: I don’t follow?
UD: The payment for today’s second appointment. I came to the first appointment and, if you remember, you agreed to a two hour minimum. Meaning when you cancelled the appointment you still owed me for showing up. So the envelope from today’s first appointment (number two) and the envelope containing the payment for the appointment you are currently asking me to come to your office and interpret. That is a new appointment.
L: You learn fast
UD: Take a lesson old man.
When I got to the lawyers office there were two envelopes.
I worked the entire case under the same Terms.
When I applied for law school the attorney wrote me a letter of recommendation.
There you go Marissa. Enjoy.
You learn a great deal about medical interpreting by being a patient.
The same must be true about interpreting for the police, but don’t.
When a Doctor’s Office tells a Deaf person, “you have to bring your own interpreter,” I just want to ask the name of the wheelchair user they required to build that wheelchair-ramp in front of their building.
Things Uncle Dale may have done that you probably should not (on-going):
Not ten seconds on the scene…
Police Officer: We’re just going to arrest them all and let them sort it out at the station. I don’t think we need you to interpret any of this.
UD: I don’t think you need arrest any of these people, but in the end we are both destined to disappoint the other.
Police Officer: (stern look) *blink* *blink*
UD: Where are my Clients?
Dateline Hartford CT.
The play ended Saturday night! I am happy to have NAD/RID Region I this week or I would be totally depressed. Playing Snoopy was more fun than I have given myself permission to have in a long time! A group of my students.
Ready? My Psychiatrist. For real. The man who first told me I had ADHD and helped me through testing, medication adjusting to life without all the “coping strategies” Aunt SuperTam and I had developed. His son is Deaf and his wife is a POWERHOUSE of a legislative activist. I love them!
Where was I? OH YEAH! NAD/RID Region I in Hartford.
After the flight was delayed out of Chicago I arrived last night (this morning?) and finally got to bed at about 4 am. Four in the morning of the 31st anniversary of the day Aunt SuperTam and I met (our true anniversary).
At 7 am, on the dot, a jackhammer started pounding away outside my hotel window… they put me in a “Deaf” room!
DeafGain! Never doubt it!
So as sleep was obviously out of the question I got up and wandered over to the Convention Center.
First off, its wicked hot in New England. Like honored guest at the lobstah boil hot.
Second, it’s beautiful here. I came through Hartford very briefly years ago when I spent a summer at the National Theatre of the Deaf. I remember seeing the river then and wishing I had time to walk the riverfront. I took the time this morning and wow! I will never regret that.
The conventions begin in earnest tomorrow.
I finished the night hanging out in the lobby of the Hartford Marriott catching up with old friends and making new ones.
LAST MINUTE EDIT!!!!
The first action taken at this conference is a big one and it portents of important discussions to come:
I’m going to bed because the long days start tomorrow.
You know when you hear the story of an event over and over, or tell the story of that event as an example or to support your point over and over, but you have never actually met any of the players involved.
And then you meet one of them.
Meeting the person you have talked about for what feels like your whole life, having that person is right there in front of you, it’s a weird feeling.
If the reason you tell the story is highly significant to your work or culture or personal interests, but not to people in general, it’s hard to explain to the “uninitiated” why you are so excited to meet a person they may never have heard of. They just don’t get it.
It’s like trying to explain a meme to your grandma.
So, this happened yesterday:
If you do not know who this is, you should. It was a moment where two of my great passions, Deafness and the Law, came together.
This is Amy June Rowley.
I have said her name and told her story easily a thousand times in classrooms and court rooms for the past 20 years.
Now, like I said, if you don’t recognize the name, as an interpreter or a member of the Deaf community, you should. Take a minute and read this.
I’m an advocate. I was born that way. My mother encouraged my journey down that road. This case has always made my blood boil.
I disagree with the decision. I disagree with the reasoning for it.
But, I have always loved the idea of Amy Rowley. She has always occupied the same place in my mind as Linda Brown (who recently passed away).
I can’t think of one without the other. Proud and strong little girls standing up before a system that is ultimately unfair to proud and strong little girls who stand up to the system.
When I thought of Amy Rowley I saw this iconic image in my head:
But now I will see this:
I will see a brilliant and strong woman who, unlike Linda Brown who was vindicated by nine white men, was disappointed by nine hearing justices but did not allow that moment to define who she is.
That is the most important thing I learned from meeting Amy Rowley, Board of Educ. v. Rowley, is part of her history but is not who she is.
That is when Amy Rowley changed in my mind from a character in a story to a real live hero.
Amy June Rowley is a hero not because she and her parents stood up against impossible odds and lost. Amy June Rowley is a hero because the best revenge is a good life and she has done just that!
She is a proud and strong mother who is Deaf of proud and strong children who are Deaf. She is a hero because “Dr. Amy June Rowley is the Coordinator of the American Sign Language Program in Modern Languages and Literatures department. She completed her dissertation in 2014 in Second Language Education in Urban Education from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee which focused on American SignLanguage Advanced Studies Programs: Implementation Procedures and Identifying Empowering Practices. She holds a professional level certification inAmerican Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA). Her research interests are systemic and hierarchal structure of American Sign Language programs in postsecondary institutions; and relationships between students/interpreters and the Deaf community. She has published articles related to Audism, oppression and special education experiences. Prior to coming to Cal State- East Bay, she was the coordinator of the American Sign Language Program at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee for nine years” (from her bio).
Just as the Supreme Court had the chance to clean up its own mess in Plessy v. Ferguson with its decision in Brown v. Board of Education it took a positive step in redeeming itself for Board of ed. v. Rowley with is recent decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County.
It’s nowhere near enough, but it’s a start.
If you get a chance to attend a lecture or presentation by Dr. Rowley don’t miss it. Afterward please shake her hand and let her know she is the hero we all need. Not because she stood up to injustice and was knocked down, but because she got up and became the person she is without the permission of history.
That is what a hero does.