I used to work in a school for blind, deaf and multi-handicapped children. I was a contract Occupational Therapist Assistant and had been there for approximately a month. One of the first things handy to know when you’re working with deaf people is sign language (oh wow, Laura, really?? Duh! LOL). Anyway, my middle-aged brain was slowly picking up on it. At least my poor kids weren’t giving me those quizzical looks anymore so I was feeling a bit more confident and definitely relieved because it was always stressful to have my head spinning and my hands flailing trying to pull off the right response.

And so came the day that I was hurrying across campus to get to my next classroom on time and I bumped into two high school students. Now these boys were the big men on campus, tall, athletic, good looking and very popular. They started signing to me and I managed to recognize the word “run” amidst their rather animated faces and gesticulating. “Oooh” I thought to myself, “I actually know how to respond to this one!” and I signed “I’m working, I’m working!! I’m tired!” Their faces changed and their eyes got big so I thought they were impressed at how well I was picking up sign language.

Feeling rather proud of myself I walked in to see my next student which was in what we called “the gray house” where students learned independent living skills. The two ladies who taught there were loads of fun and I always looked forward to seeing them. As I bounced in the door smiling brightly they said “Well, Miss Laura, what’s got you so chipper today?” “Well, ladies” I answered “I just successfully signed a conversation with James and Avery” and I went on to show them what I had said. All of a sudden Miss Tomeka fell out of her chair she was laughing so hard and Miss Mary couldn’t catch her breath. My stomach was in my throat. “Oh I bet you’re tired, Miss Laura, you must be exhausted from all that ‘working’!” they roared. Turns out that the subtle differences between signs can really get you into trouble, especially when it all goes wrong when signing to teenage boys. Well…my response would have been correct if I worked as, shall we say, a lady of the night!!! Can you imagine??? Now, whoever invented the sign for working and the sign for f@#king as two that can be so easily confused was having a real laugh!!

So the moral of the story is be careful what you sign, people! You’d best believe I took the long way around any sightings of those two boys for as long as I possibly could until the inevitable moment our paths met and they asked me if I was tired.