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

7 thoughts on “A Special Kind of “Stupid”

  1. How does the “deaf for a day” assignment work? I work on assistive technologies and my lab is always looking for ways that we can learn more about what it’s like to have the issues we’re looking to help. I’d love to know more about how you do this. I’ve worn ear plugs before and that’s really just hard of hearing. I don’t know how you would do something like deafness. I love when teachers find ways to help their students learn what it’s really like to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I think this is a brilliant idea.

  2. These are all good thoughts. You are on top of ir, I like the kindness attitude you have. Yes there are some jersks that pop up sometimes I don’t think they truly realize the damage they can do for a good cause. I like the open the door, buy someone a cup of coffee, or just give some a big smile and nice compliment, Come on Make Their Day. Sharon

  3. Marcus theaters have a very interesting way for CC. Often I use cc at home with BBC programming because accents are hard for me to understand, except German accents because I spoke some German before my hearing loss.
    But really burns me is that health insurance won’t help in purchasing hearing aids.

  4. What I would like is for these TV broadcasters to (a) turn down the music on programs so you can hear what’s being said…really we don’t need music to get drama!; and (b) turn the ads volume down. They should not be any louder than the show they’re sponsoring, and I don’t buy from blaring sponsors. One news caster here found it rather amusing that people were complaining about this. You would think being in the broadcast business he’d have some common sense. I guess not, and I may well boycott the particular station. I’m already hearing impaired, but I have to mute the TV because ads are way too loud, and some stations are louder than others.

  5. I hope there is justice in this case too. This guy isn’t a just a special kind of stupid, he’s rude, and disrespectful!

    I read through your list and thought…I’m good….until the last one. Yes, I will use the handicapped stall, but I have some GI issues and sometimes I have to go! So I can’t wait. And often there is only one or two stalls where I frequent. If someone is handicapped, do they need to get in the stall any faster than someone else…especially someone who may be having issues? If there are a lot of stalls and only one handicapped I will try hard not to use it, but if there is only 2, I think, If I were in need of that stall I wouldn’t want someone to wait just because I may come in there.

    But I’ve never lived a day in their shoes, so I don’t know. Living a day deaf, I’ve done that…and can easily do it now. (should be getting my cochlear implant within a month!) Some other handicaps I understand, but some I really don’t know what special things they need. I never would have thought the person in front of me who doesn’t move when I say excuse me, may be deaf. I used to think they were rude.
    It’s hard not to assume most people are healthy…..until you aren’t, and even then, it’s hard to recognize some things as being unhealthy or is the person just rude….there is so much rudeness in the world.

    I do try to never assume, and always be kind.
    I open doors, even when I’m using my walker.
    I smile and try to help.
    I want people to have a good day….every day.

    I agree, let’s all try to do a bit more, and perhaps we can be less stupid.

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