Learning to Love the Phone


By Karen Putz, Illinois Hands & Voices

The phone was my enemy when I was growing up.  Even with my earliest memories of using the phone, I don’t remember ever being able to use it with any success. I could hear sounds, but nothing made sense.  The phone was a nightmare for me in high school. I can remember waiting for my father to arrive home and then asking him to make a few phone calls for me.  He tried having me “practice” on the phone many times.  It was always so puzzling to him that I could follow whole conversations face-to-face, but when it came to phone calls, I couldn’t understand a thing.

I had several close friends who would make phone calls to the guys I dated in high school.  Most of them didn’t mind, but it sure wasn’t any fun relaying my thoughts through a close friend and then waiting anxiously to see what was being said on the other end.

In college, I was introduced to the TTY, a machine similar to a small typewriter that displayed text.  I could call another TTY user directly or call a hearing person via a relay service.  The relay service was slow and cumbersome.  It was not unusual for an operator to type, “sounds frustrated,” when describing the person on the other end of the relay services.

Along came the captioned phone and I thought I was in heaven.  With the captioned phone, I could talk directly to the other party and have their responses typed back to me.  While I could hear the other person talking on the phone, it was frustrating to sit by and wait for the words to catch up after the person stopped talking. Some days the lag time was minimal, on other days it was so great that people would sometimes hang up on me.

Just over two years ago, I discovered videophones with the ability to use my own voice to talk directly to the other person. Watching an interpreter on the screen, I could keep up with conversations with amazing speed. The first time that I called my cousin in Missouri, she couldn’t believe we could carry a conversation over the phone with such ease. Our call had no perceptible lag time, and we were even able to interrupt each other.

When I was down in Florida recently for training for a new job with a videophone company, I was able to talk with my daughter on the videophone while walking around in the backyard and introducing my family to my co-workers, even the ones in the pool. When I was at the airport waiting to go home, I was able to call my mother-in-law using my laptop. After I finished the call, I called a friend and chatted using ASL. When I boarded the plane, I discovered that I could still connect via the airport’s wi-fi so I fired the laptop back up and continued my chat.

For years, I feared the phone and was frustrated with the access. How ironic is it that today I spend nearly all day on the videophone working and chatting away.  ~

Editor’s note: Karen Putz blogs at http://deafmomworld.com.


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