The Return of Super Phony

What’s that thing in the sky? It’s flying around aimlessly. It’s totally lost. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a guy nodding his head. Oh, no. It can’t be. Yes, it’s Super Phony!

Nodding faster than a Sammy Sosa bobblehead doll, deftly fooling thousands of unsuspecting hearing people, Super Phony’s biggest weapons are the word “yes” and a charming smile capable of deceiving anyone.

Super Phony’s amazing powers were harnessed in the early ‘70s. Surrounded by hearing classmates and teachers, he realized that hearing loss was not in vogue. It was cool to wear platform shoes and bell-bottom pants but not a hearing aid. He needed to fit in.

Fitting in took a tremendous amount of skill. Sitting up front. Reading lips. Pretending to take notes. Smiling or laughing at the precise moment hearing people smiled or laughed. Being careful not to ask others to repeat things too often. And above all, nodding and saying “yes” to the most incomprehensible questions.

In the ‘80s, our hapless friend made the jump to superhero status. As did Spiderman, Super Phony emerged from a mishap in a science lab. While Peter Parker got bitten by a radioactive spider, Super Phony got zapped by a high school chemistry teacher.

A double major in science, Super Phony had already completed a physics project for the annual science fair. Meanwhile, he didn’t bother setting up a display for his chemistry class, thinking it was an optional assignment. It was only two days before the big event when he realized the error of his ways.

“You mean we have to do this?” Super Phony asked Erik, a fellow classmate.

“Didn’t you get the assignment?” Erik responded. “Mrs. West asked you to do it two months ago. I could have sworn you said yes.”

Super Phony smacked himself on the head. “I only said yes to get out of her office. Never had a clue what she was talking about. Oh, man. Mighty fine mess we’re in.”

“We?” asked Erik. “What do you mean, we?”

Super Phony flashed a mischievous smile. “Yeah, we. We’re going to make this work. I’m going to need you, Steven, Matt...”

Two days later, a true superhero was born. Faster than a speeding bullet, able to jump over a building in a single bound, and dumb as a plank. Super Phony proudly took his position next to his physics display on the third floor. The chemistry exhibit was on the second floor, as was Mrs. West. But when she took a break and headed upstairs, a sophisticated escape plan went into effect.

“Red alert!” said Erik. Super Phony immediately ducked under a table, crawled out the other end, and headed down the corridor with his comrade. He was immediately replaced at the physics display by Steven, who took over Super Phony’s presentation without missing a beat.

Laying low on the second floor, Super Phony was out of danger for the time being. Until...

“Duck!” He was grabbed from behind by Matt, who quickly pulled him into the boys’ bathroom. One second later Mrs. West walked by, totally oblivious to the perfectly synchronized evasive maneuvers of Team Super Phony.

For the next two hours, Operation Duck West was a tremendous success. Super Phony was a bona fide hero. His physics presentation went off without a hitch. His sidekicks managed to keep him under Mrs. West’s radar. He appeared and disappeared at will.

And, oh yes, he also got a big fat “zero” on his chemistry project.

There would be more Super Phony incidents in the years to come. But when Super Phony enrolled at Gallaudet University his powers suddenly went dormant. He could actually understand what people were saying. There was no need to resort to heroic acts of extreme fakery. He was finally a real person.

Yes, I was Super Phony. I have hung up my cape and no longer play these games. Or do I?

A few years later, I went to a deli and ordered a tuna salad hoagie. The deli guy responded with a question. I didn’t fully understand him but thought he repeated “tuna salad hoagie” just to confirm my order. I smiled and said “yes.”

He went ahead and put together something that did not appear to be what I ordered. Oh, someone else was in line before me, I figured. The deli guy made a few friendly comments as I waited, and I smiled right back. He then handed me two Italian hoagies.

Go ahead, say it three times fast with a deaf voice: tuna salad hoagie, two Italian hoagies.

I took the Italian hoagies and smiled. I felt a sudden surge of phoniness. Could it be? Yes. My powers were baaaaaaaack.

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