Sunday 20 November 2011

Read Lips?

                                       Angelina Jolie's Big Lip

Last night, at about 10pm, a booking came in to pick someone at E3 taxi stand at China Square. I headed straight there to honour my appointment with my promised lead time of 5 minutes. As usual, to ensure that I do not end up with a "No Show", I called my potential customer but there was no answer. Nonetheless, I continued driving to the pick up point and arrived punctually.  

A Chinese lady with a brief case was waiting alone at the taxi stand. She opened my front door and sat beside me. She was dressed in something that looks like an office attire, dark blue jacket over a white shirt and a black blouse, like a lawyer. She was quite nice looking in her late twenties. I was surprised that she chose to sit beside me because apart from China National, most locals would prefer to sit at the back. She told me in perfect English to drop her at Amber Park Condominium and then said something that sent me into bewilderment. She told me she was deaf and if I wanted to say anything to her, I should look at her so she could see and read my lips. Wow. it was something that really caught me by surprise!. And made me realized why she chose to sit beside me.

Although she was deaf, she spoke in a normal-sounding voice with a slight American accent. She probably acquired the accent from an overseas university education. I haven't had a lot of experience with the deaf, though I've a friends who is both deaf and dump. My friend use sign language when he speaks to people with similar handicap and he had a noticeable speech impediment. But this lady spoke in excellent English and therefore, I was curious to find out more about her peculiar condition. I decided to give it a test.

I looked away from her and asked in a loud voice, "How was your day?" There was no response. So I knew that she was deaf like a door nail because there was no way she wouldn't have heard me.

I've seem documentaries and read articles of people who could read lips but I've never met anyone in my life who has this ability. It was indeed a rare opportunity to have her as my passenger.  So I decided to start a conversation with her to see how well she could read my lips. She was amazingly skillful and this was what I found out about her.

She was not born deaf but only been losing her hearing gradually over the last few years, which is why she can speak in a normal voice. Her condition is not genetic because her siblings are normal. Doctor says her condition is probably due to a damaged nerve in her ear and there is no cure. She said she may have injured her ear from a sports injury or from exposure to loud music, but no one knows for sure.

Her amazing lip reading ability is a skill she picked up out of necessity. She never attend lip reading or sign language classes but intends to do so soon. Nobody would know she is deaf if she chose not to reveal it. She is just a nice looking lady going home after work.

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