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Deaf Peddler
Confessions of an Inside Man

by Dennis Buck

Chapter Three: Early Days on the Road

As the doctor predicted, my first few months back at Gallaudet were difficult. Everything was new because I had to learn ways to accommodate my disability. I lost all of my friends from the year before, especially the football players, we just ran out of things to talk about, we didn't seem to have anything in common anymore.

I worked full-time for the collection agency in Virginia the first two years, and took a full courseload as well. It was physically and mentally exhausting. In 1983, I decided to take a short break in my studies and accepted a one-semester internship at IBM.

Slowly, I figured out ways to compensate for being paralyzed. I started going out, being more active socially, and even began dating again. It was wonderful to realize I could get back into the swing of things. I often thought of Rafael, who'd finally left the hospital and gone back to Puerto Rico to be with his family. His parents had planned to sue me for his injuries, but he wouldn't let them. I wondered if his life was knitting back together, as mine was.

By the end of the fall semester, I was ready to start studying again. I registered for classes for spring, and was browsing through the campus bookstore when I ran into an old acquaintance. I had tutored Don in pre-calculus my freshman year, but we hadn't seen each other since the accident. He was looking for a roommate for the spring semester, and I readily agreed. Don was a lot of fun and we had always enjoyed one other's company. Because of my disability, we were assigned to a newly-renovated dorm, in a large room with a private bathroom.

As Don was unpacking his things the day we moved in, I noticed his peddling cards. I had never seen peddling cards before and, for that matter, I had never even heard of deaf peddling. When I asked about them, he told me what they were for and explained how he peddled. He said he made a good deal of money selling his pamphlets. "They go like crazy!" he said, telling me that on good days he could earn $170 in four hours.

Looking at his pamphlet (shown in figure 1), I found that hard to believe. It was nothing more than a small yellow brochure with an eagle and a flag imprinted on the cover, along with the words, "Hello! I am a deaf person. I am selling this Deaf Education System Book to support my college expenses. Would you kindly buy one? Pay any price you wish! Thank you for your donation!" The inside pages illustrated the manual alphabet and some basic signs. On the final inside page was a list of suggestions for learning sign language. Don must be nuts, I thought, to think he could make money off such an item. But then he did always seem to be jetting off here and there, despite the fact he didn't have a regular job. Despite his enthusiasm, I quickly forgot all about this sideline of his.

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