Deaf in the Drive-Thru

drive thruDrive-thrus are one of the least politically correct institutions, when you think about it. A purely sound driven procedure, the Squawk Box processional does not have a single visual cue until you reach the window to complete the transaction. And if you’re deaf and enjoy this type of challenge, who knows what’s happened up until that point. If the deaf person has bypassed the box and waited until reaching the window to place the order, what kind of proverbial wrench does it throw into the system? Does the surprise at the person’s arrival at the window come from the fact that it turns out they’re deaf or at that point, is the cashier merely wondering, “Who is this?”

So for a deaf person, there’s a certain amount of stress that accompanies these little jaunts, no matter how cool anyone acts about it. Personally, I feel a bit like a fraud. Like I just don’t belong there! Lots of deaf people avoid them when they can. And why not? We get out of the car, get a little pre-frappa-what-so exercise and chalk it up to our way of doing things. Myself included until … the kiddies came along.

Yes, like the hearing mamas with sleeping babies in the backseat, I appreciate being able to drive-thru my errands. In a single nap time I can hit a store for milk, the bank, the pharmacy and of course a coffee house. The latter is what gives me the most anxiety, both because of being sleep deprived and because it’s essentially a blind test of your mettle.

Nevertheless, after my daughter was born I decided to buck up. And, I will tell you, each time I do manage to get coffee. Even breakfast to go with sometimes. My experience is pretty varied actually.

So if you’re feeling adventurous, here are some approaches you may wish to test drive for yourself:

Try your best to hear and speak to the squawk box.

Pros: Excellent chance of getting a free drink card when the first one is wrong. If you do manage to respond accurately, the cashier will believe deaf have super powers to read lips they can’t see.

Cons: If there’s a gardener with a leaf blower in the area, good luck with that!

When you reach the squawk box, count to 10.  Then shout, “Hi I’m deaf! I want a medium skinny chai – dirty! Thank you!” Proceed to the window.

Pros: If it’s timed right and they hear the whole order, you’re in business.

Cons: If it’s not timed right, you’ll need to repeat and wait at the window. By then you may also feel pretty silly.

Ignore the squawk box, proceed directly to the window to give the order to the cashier.

Pros: You get your order exactly the way you like it.

Cons: The cars behind you may resemble a stalled parade with the commotion caused by their honking/yelling/flashing their lights at you. Remember this a “teachable moment” when you stick your head out the window to respond.

Admittedly, my imagination goes wild with the “what-ifs” or hearing people’s perceptions in some situations like this, but usually it’s really no big deal in the drive-thru no matter how I order. Deaf people do in fact, have every right to be there as a paying customer. Stating what you need goes a long way in getting the service you want and even further towards awareness in the community.

So, buck up (and enjoy)!

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2 thoughts on “Deaf in the Drive-Thru

  1. This is interesting! Never thought about it before (I’m hoh, not Deaf). My bank now has a video in the drive through which would be very helpful to you…..if the teller knew sign language. Or maybe help with lip reading.
    When you do get to the window of the coffee shop, do you have your order written out to be sure you get what your want?
    Thanks!

  2. Thanks Marilyn! I do wing it a lot, using a combo of these methods. This is the one place that I admit I feel AWKWARD being there because it’s so clearly designed for hearing people. But I should have it written out and just keep using the same note over and over. That would be the most efficient. Maybe have it laminated! Haha.

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