I was standing outside the office smoking with a few colleagues talking about this, that and everything, as you do when you're forced to be out in the cold. OK, I know that nobody forced us to stand out there, we had all chosen it, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, as we were standing there I see a girl about a 100 meters away walking with a clear purpose in our direction. I thought that she maybe was going to visit somebody in the building, or more likely wanted to ask for a cigarette. As she came closer I could tell that she probably wasn't going to visit the office. She was a bit too young for that, but still too old to be anybody's daughter (yes we're a young company).

Still I was completely thrown when she walked right up to us and said "I'm deaf, can you help me?" waving a mobile phone and a small credit card like piece of plastic or paper. We looked at each other with confused expressions. I turned back to the girl and said "Sorry?" It was not that I hadn't heard her the first time. It was rather a kneejerk reaction to the fact that here I was being asked to help somebody whom I wasn't sure I would be able to communicate with. I know that isn't true and just prejudiced, but still a part of my mind froze with fear. Like a deer in headlights.

She repeated "Can you help me?" and held the phone and the card out to me. I looked at it and realised that it was one of those pre-paid mobile phones and a calling balance upgrade card. I asked my colleagues if they knew how to do it, but none of us had any idea, the problem of always having had a company phone.

When I shrugged and said "I don't know how" she sighed loudly and turned and started to walk away. I said "wait!" but she just continued. I realised that she couldn't hear me. I ran past her so that she could see me, waved my arms and said "wait!" again. This time it worked much better.

I took her mobile phone and the upgrade card and read the instructions. It was fairly easy. All you had to do was scratch of the silver colored strip on the card, phone a special number and follow voice prompts where you enter your phone number and the 14 digit code printed on the card. That's child's play, but only with the assumption you can hear.

When I got back to my colleagues, one of them said "But why would a deaf person want a mobile phone in the first place? They can't hear the person on the other end." To that I only smiled and said "SMS."

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