A Special Kind of “Stupid”


On Monday evening, May 14th, David Walters of Bel Air, MD, pulled a fire alarm in  a crowded theater. He was issued a criminal summons the following day and faces a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in jail. You can read about the story HERE. More on the story HERE.

It seems David was upset that the movie was open captioned for patrons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Specific movies (identified at the ticketing counter) allow people with hearing loss to enjoy newly released movies on the big screen. It allows equal access. Sure… we can purchase the movie later after it goes to DVD and watch it at home. But who wants to miss out on the buttery popcorn, movie candy, cherry Icee‘s and being with friends and family at the theater? Nothing beats the big screen! David marches out and complains – evidently loudly. He is offered a refund which he refuses. He goes back in to finish the movie. When finished he comes out again and loudly complains – now demanding a refund. When denied (because he went back into the movie), he gets angry and pulls the fire alarm. This shuts down all the theater’s screens and panics movie goers.

This is a special kind of S.T.U.P.I.D. When I first read about this story, I have to admit. I had some “AVENGER” feelings going on in my own heart and mind for this idiot. I thought, “Wow. If he could live one day in my shoes. It would be poetic justice for him to lose his hearing someday!”

Deaf For A Day

Because I live with both deafness and a balance disorder, I can tell you honestly that really? I wouldn’t wish deafness on anyone. Yeah. This jerk probably deserves it, but hopefully what he’ll get is justice. I hope because he endangered so many people that they make an example of him. I hope everything was done correctly in his arrest so that he doesn’t get off on some kind of technicality.

Each year I ask my students in my ASL1 class to voluntarily participate in a “Deaf For a Day” assignment. Later, they write about it. Most “get it”. They understand what the assignment was about and why they are asked to participate. Each year, however, I have either a student or two, or a parent or two, very disgruntled about the assignment. In the follow-up writing assignment, some disclose how poor of attitudes family members had because they were unable to communicate with their student in a “normal” way.


I like to think that should something happen to their child and they lost their hearing, these parents would do all that they could do to be supportive and loving in the transition to a new way of communicating. They may not use ASL even, but technology is not a 100% fix. Even cochlear implant surgery is not 100%. I’m bi-modal (both cochlear implant and hearing aid) and although I hear really well, I still am considered a person with hearing loss. There are times I have to ask for a repeat, or ask someone to follow me to a quieter location.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Before you think to yourself that you would never be this “special kind of stupid”, consider this.

Have you ever parked in a handicapped space to save time because you were only running into the Post Office for 5 minutes?

Have you ever sat at a table clearly marked for handicapped patrons at a local fast food place because there were no free tables, and then failed to keep a look-out for anyone coming into the establishment that may need that table?

Have you ever reached to pet a service dog without requesting permission of it’s owner?

Ever felt exasperated (and let it show) while waiting in line behind a mom with a child with autism or other special needs who was having a meltdown?

Have you ever felt impatient as someone with mobility issues that fumbles and drops items while you are waiting in line at the cashier?

Ever see someone stumble or walk funny and immediately think they’ve been drinking instead of thinking they may have a balance disorder?

Ever honked your horn and grimaced at an elderly driver who cautiously entered a very busy intersection during peak rush hour?

Not understanding what chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or Lyme disease actually are, have you inwardly cringed and rolled your eyes while listening to a seemingly endless list of complaints about pain from a co-worker, fellow church member, or acquaintance?

Ever see someone mistreating a homeless person or person with mental illness and not intervened?

Ever stepped into a handicapped stall in a public restroom because the others were full? Exactly how are you going to know someone is there who needs it when you are actually in there doing “business”?

You may not be pulling fire alarms and endangering hundreds of people, but you are still choosing to be a part of this special kind of stupid group. I’ll admit that I’ve made some of these mistakes myself. We all have.

I’m asking that all of us take a minute, however, to think about how we can do better. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a special kind of stupid.


Let’s love our fellow man, offer a helping hand when we can, and smile at someone just because it’s Monday. Buy a cup of coffee for the next person in line. Hold the door for someone.


Just maybe…

it will be contagious.

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

It is Easier to Act Your Way into Feeling…

Things will get better…

Our pastor at Weem’s Creek has been going through the story of Elijah. Interesting guy, this old testament prophet, Elijah. Through him, God shut off the rain for a long period of time. He put the false prophets of Baal to shame by having his own sacrifice (soaked in water) eaten up by fire called down from Heaven. But… Elijah could be a whiner.

Not only could the man whine, but he could exaggerate as well. After a particularly spectacular display of God’s might – working through Elijah – he claimed to be all alone and the last of his kind (a prophet). Neither were true. Elijah became depressed. God decided to force him into action, and it eventually changed his outlook.

Pastor Orr used a quote, “It is easier to act your way into a feeling, than to feel your way into an action”. I looked all over the Internet for who actually said that. Although I found plenty of examples of people USING the quote, I was unable to actually find who said it “first”.

This quote really hit home for me. I was contacted this last week by a man who follows my blog. I asked his permission to share part of that email.

“I can know that I need to change my attitude about my disability, but knowing and doing are two different things. How do you get to where you know your life is not over after acquiring a disability when you are stuck on thinking your life is over?”

I’ve been very open about my own struggles with depression. Would I have struggled with depression had I not begun to lose my hearing at the age of 25-years-old? Very possibly. But I do know know that there is a correlation between depression and disability. Research has shown that the degree of depression in people with disabilities is directly connected to their own personal acceptance of their disability (Townend, Tinson, Kwan, Sharpe, 2010). You need to accept your “new normal”. I DO realize it is easy to say, but there really IS life after disability.

I realize we all struggle with different things. Some chronic illnesses and disabilities impact important life functions such as mobility, independence, and quality of life. Being late-deafened is minor to having Meniere’s disease in my own life. As a matter of fact, my husband noted recently that Chloe does just as many balance-related tasks as she does hearing alerts (if not more) – and she is a certified hearing assistance dog. When we have a major weather system stall out over the top of us (my main vertigo trigger) I can really struggle to even get up the nerve to leave the bed in the morning. And let me tell you… it can require nerves. A recent fall left me black and blue from shoulder to hip, with an anxious husband trying to decide whether or not to call 9-1-1 as I kept losing consciousness. (Life with Denise can be exciting – grin). However, when the sun shines, my balance related symptoms are minor. I’m very aware there are courageous (and inspiring) people who do not get “sunny days”. They do not have a break in the degree of disability that directly influences the quality of their lives. Acceptance for them is different and I acknowledge may be more difficult. Regardless, one does have to accept where they are in terms of a “new normal”.

Did you know that acceptance of your “new normal” can not only influence depression, but being depressed can actually worsen your disability? I have personal experience with worsening hearing, balance and vertigo when I happen to also be in a downward spiral in depression. Karp, Skidmore, Lotz, Lenze, Dew, and Reynolds (2009), found that symptoms of specific disabilities actually worsen when the individual is also depressed, stressing that depression needs to be taken seriously and treated. I have a number of red flags that I have set up to determine if I am becoming depressed. I know and have experienced the dangers of depression. Having a “blue” day or two is different than depression. Having lived with it, I know what it “looks” like and stay on the look out for specific clues that tell me I need to seek help.

Living with “It”

One really CAN live within a “new normal”. This may mean a acceptance of a  change in your health. Perhaps you are single when you thought it would be “til death do us part”. Death may have indeed parted you from someone you counted on emotionally and physically. So how do you accept where you ARE, and move on to living a victorious life? I truly believe we have to simply take action. Our “feelers” cannot really be trusted. Don’t get me wrong. I believe compassion, mercy, and love are important. But our hearts – our “feeler” – cannot provide a new, healthier way of acceptance.

What kind of actions can we take? Many of us become involved in organizations that provide support for a specific disability we may have. Within these types of organizations, there are numerous ways to get involved. The Internet makes this connection simple. There are a number of community service projects that can use the help of volunteers. Even small communities have opportunities for service. Some people with disabilities prefer to be involved in areas of service that are not directly related to their disability. If you want to take action and get involved in helping others – LOOK. The opportunities are there. Giving back to others is a primary way in which people feel valued and useful. Getting active in giving back to our communities may actually change the way you FEEL about your own disability. We need a purpose.

Leo Rosten

“I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” —Leo C. Rosten

Denise Portis

©2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Karp, J., Skidmore, E., Lotz, M., Lenze, E., Dew, M., & Reynolds, C. (2009). Use of the Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument to assess disability in major depression. Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society, 57(9), 1612-1619. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2009.02398.x

Townend, E., Tinson, D., Kwan, J., & Sharpe, M. (2010). ‘Feeling sad and useless’: an investigation into personal acceptance of disability and its association with depression following stroke. Clinical Rehabilitation, 24(6), 555-564.