Today’s recipients were very memorable. After reading this I think that you will agree.
Supporters of the Pittsburgh Steelers know that in almost every city across the United States, and even in some overseas cities, there is a “Steeler bar.” One of these such locations is the Pour House, a no frills multi-level pub near Capitol Hill. My friend Kimon, a former Pittsburgh resident, and I headed over there to watch the Steelers take on the Bengals on Monday Night Football.
We got there about 30 minutes prior to kick-off, but there were virtually no seats left. We headed down a well-traveled staircase into a basement bar that took me back to my college years. It was also full, however, there was a small nook that was open at the far end of the space. It was as if it was contaminated with something awful as no one was sitting there. Our newly claimed land was rather subdued compared to the rest of the joint which was standing room only, not to mention that nearly everyone had on a Steeler jersey, except us.
I decided to take a walk around the bar before halftime. I made my way back up the old wooden staircase and plowed my way through the crowd like a running back determined to get a first down. With less than two minutes left in the half, the Steelers were threatening. They scored right before halftime and the crowd went into a frenzy. The deafening cries from jubilant fans were soothing to my soul and detrimental to my ears.
During all of this madness I saw a couple that looked to be completely unaffected by the chaos. Only after I made my way around some stools and got closer to them did I see that they were speaking in sign language.
A million things, ok probably not a million, but a lot, were going through my head at this point. How the hell am I going to explain to them what the Year of Giving is about? Will they be able to read my lips? Can they speak back to me? Will this be a disaster?
I didn’t really know of any other way than to just go for it. I interrupted them and told them my name. Bryan very quickly responded to me that they were deaf. “Can you read lips,” I asked. He nodded yes. I think he might have been able to hear a little bit as he was using a hearing device.
I tried to explain to them what I was doing. Despite me being nervous approaching them, it was quite a funny scene. I spoke mostly through Bryan since he was able to speak back to me. So I would speak to him and he would sign what I said to his girlfriend Allison. I can only imagine what Bryan was really signing…it probably went something like this.
Me: Hi, my name is Reed and I would like to give you $10. It’s part of a year-long commitment to giving that I have made.
Bryan signing to Allison: This guy is either really drunk or completely crazy. He says that he wants to give us $10.
Well you can imagine how the rest goes.
The irony of it all too is that I could barely hear what Bryan was telling me. The bar was still noisy after the Steeler touchdown. But to them, not being able to hear the other person was second nature…for me it was a struggle.
We managed though. I learned that they had been dating for the past three years and were planning on getting married. Bryan said something to me and pointed to Allison but I didn’t hear. I looked at Allison and she made a motion with her hand close to her tummy that even I knew meant that she was pregnant. I congratulated them and asked if they knew the sex yet. They both shook their head no. “Surprise,” Bryan said.
They met at Gallaudet University. According to the school’s website, Gallaudet is the only university in the world that offers all programs and services specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. It was founded in 1864 by an Act of Congress and their charted was signed by none other than President Abraham Lincoln. They currently have just shy of 2,000 students enrolled.
I understood that Allison was originally from Puerto Rico. As a Spanish speaker, I wondered if she could read lips in both English and Spanish. She was born deaf, whereas Bryan lost his hearing at age two he explained. I am not sure how he lost his hearing. I sent him a follow-up email thanking them for taking time to speak with me and asking a few clarifying questions, but it appears that I might have either taken down the email address incorrectly or they gave me a fake address – that happens fairly often.
Here is a little video from that night. You will see Pittsburgh scoring a touchdown, the bar celebrating and then a special message in sign language from Bryan and Allison to you!
I think what they said is that they will put the $10 toward something for the baby. “It’s expensive,” Bryan told me referring to having a child.
This was a very special experience for me. I was really nervous approaching them. I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable, but I think they were. I wish we would have met some place else, where it was quiet (although again, that probably would have only benefited me) and we could have taken our time to get to know one another. Maybe some other time…it’s a small world, you never know.
The Steelers went on to triumph over the Bengals 27-21. For those of you who only found this post because you are obsessed Steeler fans and you read everything that has something to do with Steeler Nation, you already knew that!