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Deaf Peddler: Chapter Three

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Soon after he arrived, he took me along to watch him peddle at a nearby McDonald’s. His method was to swiftly pass out a card to each customer, then circulate again in a few minutes and pick up money. In five minutes he made $15. He instructed, “Have some guts, go into a restaurant, pass out the cards, collect the money, get out, and then go to another restaurant and do it all over again!” Simple.

Don had to continue on to California, so I soon found myself on my own again. It was easy, though, to remember his coaching. My first stop was a cafeteria-style restaurant. I followed Don’s advice and made $38 in the first thirty minutes. I was amazed.

The next day, a Saturday, I went to the Crossroads Mall in Boulder and peddled for eight hours. I earned $280 and I was not only amazed, I was hooked.

I tried to come up with an even better area to peddle, and realized the best place would be one where the customer base changed regularly over a period of several hours. The airport! Four hours peddling there the next day earned me $300.

I’d always worked full time while I was a student at Gallaudet--that was the only way I knew how to make money. But now I’d discovered another way, and when I went back to school for my senior year, I peddled on weekends for my living expenses.

By the spring of 1986, graduation was approaching. I received several job offers but turned them all down; Don and I had made other plans. We were going to work together as a team, peddling across the country and making big money. He was waiting for me in Florida, so I headed south as soon as graduation was over. I owned a full-sized van, and we planned to live out of it as we traveled. But things didn’t quite turn out that way.

Once I arrived in Florida I discovered that Don had acquired a new girlfriend. He no longer wanted to go on the road. After looking forward to this trip for a long time and turning down three solid job offers, all with good pay, I was being informed that the whole thing was off. Just like that. You might say I was upset, although freaked out would be a more accurate description! Don’s change of heart felt exactly like a punch in the face.

I stayed in Florida for a while, getting used to the change of plans and figuring out what I wanted to do with myself. While I was there, Don introduced me to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). As a deaf person, I was apparently automatically eligible for SSDI.

Don explained that people who apply for Social Security benefits are always asked, “Do you want to apply for SSI?” Many applicants learn through the grapevine to enter “no,” so they will then be considered as applicants for SSDI. The program isn’t as strict as SSI and it usually provides a higher benefit. I had never learned about SSDI, and had always just checked the box for SSI, not knowing I was missing the opportunity to get higher benefits.

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