"I'm proud of you," deaf man signs to Obama in ASL. "Thank you," president signs back.

[Video Link] From H. Hoover at Distriction blog, a little anecdote about a cool interaction that Stephon, a young man who was "born deaf and justifiably proud," had with the president at a recent event:

Stephon stood just a few feet away from Barack Obama. The president, busy shaking hands, looked right at him. “It was like he was waiting for me to say something,” he said later.

So the 26-year-old Prince George’s Community College student took his cue and spoke to President Obama in his first language: American Sign Language. “I am proud of you,” Stephon signed. The president, almost involuntary, instinctively, immediately signed back.

“Thank you,” Obama replied.

The whole story is a nice little read.

This has nothing to do with the neat story behind this video, but I've always wondered: is being bald and steely-eyed a requirement for Secret Service agents? I mean, is it in the job description? And if they're not already bald, do they make them shave their heads? Because it seems like every one I've seen in real life, and in this video, is a steely-eyed bald guy. Someone please get back to me on that. Thanks.

(via Steve Silberman)


  1. I’m guessing Obama learned how to sign thank you and would have replied that way no matter what the kid said, but the fact that he even did that much is pretty badass. 

    Also, being bald isn’t a requirement (though looking that steely just causes your hair to fall out over time) – but check out their hands, they never let them drop below the waist so they can react as fast as possible to any threat.

      1.  It’s their job to be prepared, intimidating and homogenous.  So, yes.  Kind of like how soldiers get crew cuts.

        1. If your job entails being willing and prepared to step in front of a bullet, you pretty much define bad-ass. 

          So really, plain ol’ “steely-eyed” is kind of trivializing their CV. 

        2. Some men (not just military personnel) shave their heads for the additional intimidation factor.  Most of the military personnel I know wear their hair short because it’s more comfortable under a helmet and easier to keep clean in an austere environment.

    1. I assume they are trained not to get emotionally involved in whatever is going on because they might stop paying attention.  I would also guess that they are staring at everyone’s hands.  Just look where their eyes are focused.

    2. The fellow is lip syncing* along with his signs during the video, and “proud” is an easy one to read from lips.  If Obama knows “I” and “you” that’s all it takes.  Really, I wouldn’t be surprised if many politicians are able to read lips anyway, with that many rallies. 

      As far as the “almost involuntary” or “automatic”, that seems like quite a bit of exaggeration, but he did catch up quite quickly. 

      *(I don’t know the proper term for this in the context of sign language)

      1. It’s fairly easy to tell what “proud” is or at least that it’s positive, but I think we should probably go ahead and give the president props for even noticing that someone was signing, and knowing that it was something positive, and acknowledging him in his own language.

        A language that is at least as American as English is.  :D

        1.  Umm… way more American than English. Americans invented ASL, not so for English. I can’t be the only one annoyed by stuff like this, eh?

          1. You’re annoyed that I’m pointing out that ASL is at least as American as English?  Sheesh!  American English is based on English which is Germanic.  ASL is descended from and closely related to French SL, but it was developed and modified here in the US.  If someone’s being all nationalist, ASL should probably be their first language…

            So anyway, they’re both languages, they’re related in the sense that ASL is full of loanwords and fingerspellings and that English *can* be clumsily signed (essentially transliterated) in ASL, and neither one grew up entirely in a vaccuum here in North America.  Because that’s not usually how language works.


        2. He has given how many speeches during which a translator is simultaneously signing?  More than a thousand by now? Given his intellect, general curiosity, and mindfulness, I don’t find it at all surprising that he has picked up quite a bit. 

          Also, he spent his teenage years in Hawaii, where a major part of every cultural event is a group of beautiful women telling stories in another hand-sign gesture language.

          Unfortunately, in recent years he has also met hundreds of soldiers who have lost hearing due to IED injuries.

          I’m deeply heartwarmed imagining what the honest respect the President showed that young man will mean to so many others in the deaf community.

        3.   Only 30% of words can be lip read. That’s a bit of a myth.

          ASL is based on French Sign Language. English Sign Language is quite different. I think only a quarter of it actually lines up with ASL.

          ASL is not based on English. It is its own, distinct language, with its own distinct sentence structure. If anything, it is more similar to Japanese or other character based languages. So someone can have ASL as their first language, and English as their second. But they don’t have to know English to learn ASL.

          1. Are you arguing with me?  if so, you must have misunderstood me somehow…  ASL is descended from (and closely related to) French SL, but even so, it’s a uniquely American language.  Which is not the same as saying it’s English.

            My sign professor was from France originally.  I had a few people tell me I signed with a French accent.  :)

      2. Justify it how you like, I think it’s a step up from a president who could barely speak English.

    3. And if they’re not already bald, do they make them shave their heads? 

      No but they have to keep their hair really closely cropped so that it can’t be used against them in close quarter combat. (Its hard to grab someone’s by his crew-cut. It’s also not likely to get in your eyes. [The only failing of female Secret Service agents in hand-to-hand combat, though they keep their hair pretty short.])

      1. Bald women are still rare enough that bald female Secret Service agents would stand out too much.

    1. Would you be happier if he had done a Bush and gulped air like a fish out of water while reading The Pet Goat until Cheney got in touch with him and told him what to do?

      Great Idea There.

      Lets fight two wars, now one but two wars, one of which was based on bullshit, bluster and lies*, the other was totally unnecessary**, while shoveling tax revenue collected from the 99%ers, the thousandaires, towards the 1%ers, the millionaires, and the 12,400 really rich, the billionaires.

      We’ll just bury the next generation in debt and bubbles: the Housing bubble, the Banking bubble, the Wall Street bubble. We’ll just clink our champagne flutes and sneer at the protesters from the balcony of the stock exchange.

      If this was France or Italy, you’d be cowering in your basements, knowing that you’d be hanging from meat hooks when we caught you.

      We did to Saddam Hussein what should be done to you.

      *) Bush/Cheney based their justification for a war on Iraq on WMDs which was a complete fabrication. Thousands of Americans died fighting a stupid useless war in the sand.

      **) Afghanistan was a waste of effort because the Taliban, who are not well liked amongst the Muslim, were imperiously demanding that the rets of the world feed them, begging in effect for their survival. That war was entirely a question of impatience by Bush/Cheney.

  2.  I suspect he would have said “Thanks” as the upper poster noted regardless of what was signed. Thanks to Blue’s Clues, I know that sign too and I would have probably defaulted in the same way.
    I wonder if he learned it from the same place, given his daughters’ ages. I guess I should be glad he didn’t tell the guy he was smart too, another sign I learned from that show ;)

    1. “Proud” is another sign most people learn in 101, and possibly from Blue’s Clue’s even, I’m not sure.  It’s also a pretty easy one to guess, I think – the facial expression involved is, well, proud.

      This isn’t a criticism, though.  Signing thank you was an appropriate response; acknowledging the guy as a person and his language as a language means a lot.  Heck, it means a lot to me, and I’m not even Deaf.

  3. The baldness is required.  The reflected light off their heads actually makes it more difficult to use a high powered optical scope.  The polishing is also mandatory.

    1. I thought it was more of an air resistance issue – their bare scalp allows for a faster heroic dive manoeuvre.

  4. Perhaps shiny bald heads makes it easier for them to ID each other from a distance when coordinating actions. And so they don’t shoot each other either.

    1.  Exactly. They could also color co-ordinate their jackets to obtain the same objective. Weird. What are they thinking?

      1. there’s a damn good concept for a Secret Service movie starring Colour Me Bad somewhere in there 

    1.  (Meanwhile, still at the GOP Fundraiser:)

      All these damn foreigners, coming in here with their fancy-smancy sign language. Why don’t they do what Sarah Palin suggested and sod off back to Sign Language Land where they came from?”

    2. Yeah, I can already hear Hannity’s next broadcast – “How do we KNOW that it was American Sign Language, and not SECRET TERRORIST HAND SIGNALS GIVING ORDERS TO KILL EVERY LITTLE CHRISTIAN WHITE GIRL IN THE ROOM ?”

      1. Hannity would bloviate how it was actually hand gestures to rape every God Fearing Christian White woman and enslave their nubile pubescent daughters, while castrating the males.

      2. If you watch it carefully you can clearly see the student sign:  “When will you seize the means of production?”, to which Obama replies “right after the election”.  How can you all not see it!!

      1.  Limbaugh’s next broadcast point: “Betcha that deaf guy isn’t as deaf as he wants us to think he is. That ‘Can’t Hear You’ stuff ? HE’S EXAGGERATING !!!”

      1. Why precisely do you think that would happen?  It doesn’t make sense to me.  I know being able to sign is handy to talk to deaf people or in a very loud room and all, but it’s hardly a secret language and, well, it’s a language, with all the complexity that implies.  Anyone can learn a handful of signs, but the syntax isn’t really anything like English, and there’s a whole gestural grammar…  

        Basically, I can see people co-opting a few signs to create a gestural code, but learning sign language as a security measure doesn’t seem to make sense.  

    1. Maybe they’re just really smart, well-rounded people.

      No, that can’t be true.  That thought seems to threaten the mental insecurities of some people around here.  He certainly just blindly responded with a thank you and had no idea what was signed to him.

      Meanwhile, can you imagine if this had happened to Palin?  She probably would have stared blankly at the man and moved on, or worse, directed her secret service people to tackle him for making “threatening terrorist gestures”.

    1. Yes, and also should remind us that Obama is fucking fantastic compared to what this country could have. I will even say that I think he has been my favorite President. The war mongering and surveillance are parts of machines much larger than one man even though one man takes all of the blame for the policies in America because it makes it easier for the people to understand complicated issues when problems can be simply drawn to one source.

          1. Linking to a laundry list of opinion articles is not a valid comment. And frankly, you’re off-topic anyway.

        1. Failing to cause something to go away is not the same as actively causing something that shouldn’t exist. 

          I am very disappointed in Obama, expected him to be great. 
          Instead he is just so, barely okay. 
          Sadly that still makes him the best president of my lifetime.  
          It’s not a tough contest. 

          And he hasn’t been good enough, we needed “great”.
          I’m hoping in his second term we’ll discover he has some fight in him.
          Or we’re all fucked.

          1.  Not sure we can ever get “great” in a chief executive. The process required to get into office precludes it, I’m afraid. Instead, we get pseudo-CEOs, not leaders.

      1. failing in efforts to resist warmongering and surveillance are one thing, actively participating, planning, and executing murderous plans is something else entirely.

        I don’t care if he can tap dance better than fred astaire and spin rainbows out of his farts. The man is a murderer and a traitor to all who are working for peace, and deserves no admiration whatsoever.

        1. “failing in efforts to resist warmongering and surveillance are one thing,”

          Call me old-fashioned, but it strikes me as reasonable to expect the POTUS to ensure the government complies with the Constitution.

        2. I am sorry but the Office Of The President is just not as powerful as you give it credit for being. He doesn’t have a magic wand to wave and eliminate the problems of the world. I realize that fantasizing about this being the case eliminates the need to think critically about complicated problems but it is counterproductive to speak about these things in the way that you do. Saying, “President is bad, President is wrong, President is a criminal,” is just not good enough. Forgive me though, I know this is the Internet; where unsubstantiated vitriol rules all.

      2. “Yes, and also should remind us that Obama is fucking fantastic compared to what this country could have.”

        Agreed.  Obama is absolutely an improvement over Hitler and Pol Pot.  Even over Stalin.

        1. I was merely pointing out that the OP’s praise of Obama was very faint, and because of that, it didn’t really move the conversation forward very much.

  5. I’ve seen Michelle Obama sign somewhere…and no I’m not talking about the magazine cover. I don’t think it’s all that far-fetched for President Obama to know some ASL too.

    I don’t think any politician would sign “thank you” to someone without knowing what they’re saying since they could be saying something awful. That’s a mess waiting to happen.

    1. Exactly. I’m no big fan of Obama, i.e., his policies and actions, but why all the doubt that he understood what was signed to him?

      1. The dude has let it slip that he enjoys Urdu poetry. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if he could muster an eloquent response to a constituent who addressed him in Klingon.

    2. At the link Xeni provided is a short clip of Michelle signing, and she’s clearly fluent in it, if that’s the appropriate term, crisply signing conversation with another woman.

  6. the shaved head is required it prevents the enemy from grabbing their head from behind and then cutting their throat.

      1. They distract you with a smouldering glance then knee you in the balls. Plus, a pony tail is somewhere you can keep a garrote.

    1.  I was gonna guess the same! Well… the grabbing the hair part in a fight, not the cutting… and it makes it harder to set their heads on fire! The attacker cannot use hairs natural tendency to catch fire, but need to apply some substance first… giving the agent time to rip the attackers legs and arms off first! Yep!

  7. The secret service guys have been cloned so often they all have alopecia and webbed toes. Sometimes they come out with gills, but they go to the Navy

  8. A shaved head means your opponent has one less thing to grab onto in a fist fight. You’ll see some Secret Service agents with hair but it’ll always be something like a crew cut.

    1. I don’t think a fist fight is exactly what those guys are preparing for here… I’m guessing those awkwardly placed hands are centimeters from the sort of gun that makes gun nuts use all caps.

      Then again what do I know, I live in San Francisco and still think bb guns are bad ass.

      As far as Obama knowing what was signed to him, if he didn’t know, he’s even smoother than I gave him credit for. Having to play out these quick little interactions with so many people so many times a day under these really weird circumstances must be brutal, but he looks like he almost likes it…

      1. A rather long time ago Smith & Wesson accidentally shipped one of their handguns to my father when he’d ordered a fairly common .45 ACP. He spoke about that gun in all caps for years afterwards.

      2. The guns the secret service guys use are not all that badass. They are negotiated via government contract and it’s more about which company is sucking up to the official who makes the decision to buy than about what is best for their intended use.

        1. SEALs get the guns they want, I’m pretty sure the Secret Service do to. They don’t just protect the President, VP and their families, they also protect candidates and other politicians, so it’s in Everyone’s best interest that they get all the gear they ask for. Skimping on that kind of stuff just isn’t going to happen.

        2. During the Reagan assassination attempt,  30 years ago, an UZI suddenly appeared from nowhere. Your definition may vary, but I consider an UZI to be on the badass end of the spectrum

          You can clearly see it here, at about 19-21 seconds:

  9. Yes, he probably did a little guess work; no, he’s probably not a sign language whiz, but can you imagine anyone else at that level having even a clue as to what it was all about? Mitt Romney would have thought it was buy/sell signal from the stock floor.

    1.  So the fact that Michelle also knows a bit of ASL doesn’t twig you to the possibility that they learned a bit during their community organiser days as a way of reaching more people?

    1. Yeah, what are the odds that a head of state who meets literally thousands of constituents every single week would eventually encounter a deaf person? You’re all sheeple!!!

    1. Egg-zackly, Colin.

      Maybe he should have signed: “I’m ashamed of your murders and warmongering”.

      Or of Obama’s role in crushing democracy in Yemen. Like, in his own express calling for the illegal imprisonment of a journalist writing uncomfortable things about the US was machine:


      I can understand the person in the video is proud, but alas, Obama the president does little to deserve it.

      1. You realize this isn’t a monarchy, and the president isn’t responsible for absolutely everything that happens in this country, and that he inherited an absolutely insane situation from the previous administration, and fully half of the government has made it their entire mission to make him look bad at all costs, right?

        1. Well, do read Greenwald’s piece!

          Obama has not had to continue the policy of killing civilians with drone attacks, he has chosen to do so.  Obama has not had to insist on the jailing of a Yemeni journalist, he has chosen to do so. Obama has not had to block any and all prosecution of Bush-era top brass for war crimes in Iraq and torture on Guantanamo, he has chosen to do so. The Obama administration has not had to throw Bradley Manning in prison and more or less throw away the key while subjecting him to dehumanizing torture, it has chosen to do so. Obama has not, however, chosen to reinstate habeas corpus even though he promised to do so. He has also not closed down Guantanamo, even though he promised to do so.

          What was there to be proud of, again?

          1. I agree with you, but don’t make your argument weaker, there are things that he could never have done, because of the congress, like closing Guantanamo, so that is a flaw in the argument.
            Focus, instead on what the he has chosen to do and to neglect, stuff that depend only on the President’s office. We have seen how valid points are ignored, so in any case, weak or strong argument, is not going to make a difference with some people.

          2.  In reply to Guido: I don’t agree. Setting up Gitmo did not require legislation, and closing it down would also not require legislation. As president, Obama could thus have closed it and freed its prisoners, prosecuting those guilty of crimes in a court of law, freeing all others, granting political asylum in the US to all innocent prisoners if they can’t return to their home country.

            He could have done this if he wanted. He has chosen not to.

          3. bah. Greenwald has never met a situation he wouldn’t spin into dire shrieks of impending doom and blame. the guy’s unhinged, especially when it comes to Obama.

            “He has also not closed down Guantanamo, even though he promised to do so.”

            he has done everything in his power to close Guantanamo. Congress has prevented him from actually implementing it.

        2.  wrybread:

          Fair enough.

          Does that mean Bush is likewise absolved from his government invading Iraq on flimsy evidence, introducing torture as a regular practice, bailing out Wall Street gamblers, and so on and so forth?

  10. I like how people just cant accept Obama is simply an intelligent, emphatic individual. His communication skills are better than any other american president I’ve ever seen; he always appears relaxed, has  a superior command of narrative and gravitas when required and not afraid to slip in the odd joke if it helps oil  the cogs of office. A truly international president much appreciated in Europe.

      1. That’s an interesting choice of countries. So Obama is responsible for a mound of corpses in Libya because the US did invade, or because it didn’t, or because it acted too late, or not fast enough? I think we all agree that Afghanistan is a disaster, but having invaded, what should the US do? Drop everything and leave immediately, or try to rebuild some sort of secure society first? And Pakistan, with strong evidence that it provides support (read arms) to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and nuclear capability, must surely have potential for invasion by the US. Meanwhile, Syria is left to wage war against itself, without US intervention.

        I’m not saying the US (or anyone else) should or shouldn’t invade or occupy any of these countries. But it is not simple, and the list of countries you selected is confusing. Unless you believe the US should never act outside US soil, I don’t understand how those three can be simultaneously bad?

      2.  I’m going to say this now, but I feel like I’m going to be saying this for a long time to come. Afghanistan is not Vietnam. Stop acting like we are having a retread of my parents’ fight. These are different times. Afghanistan is the war America should have been focused on while they were busy invading Iraq for oil. That’s why you’re stuck there.
        If you want to be angry at Obama fine. Just remember that the people in the alternative party are having debates on if women should be allowed to use birth control.

  11. is being bald and steely-eyed a requirement for Secret Service agents? 
    yes it is – they tried comb-overs and cow eyes but the result just didn’t deliver.

  12. I grew up in PG County. This makes me tear up with pride for all concerned. Yet I can hear Fox now, accusing him of pandering to deaf voters.

  13. Steely-eyed bald secret service agents appear to be the norm because they are the publicly presented ones we’re all being trained to notice.

    It’s the short fat hippies with laughing eyes who take you out without your having noticed ’em.  They are the gals you gotta watch.

  14. In my professional experience I think that the black-haired secret service agents all get assigned to EX-presidents, possibly until their hair falls out. That may be a sign that they’re ready for proper presidential duty?

  15. Secret service guys are supposed to avoid getting on camera at all costs. It goes without saying that if you are bald cameras will shy away from you almost automatically!

    (Speaking as someone who started losing my hair in my teens (Beatles and Stones era, FFS!) I have really enjoyed all the rib-tickling allusions to hairlessness. One or two I’ve never heard before (chortle chortle!) Wow, nothing gives me a warmer glow than some guy in a pub calling me ‘Curly’ or pretending to polish my head. My, how I laugh. But better that than going down the Elton John route.)

    No, seriously, I’m over it now. (The pain of seeing clumps of hair in the plughole at the same time as watching John Lennon’s hair getting longer with every record. I can deal with it now that I’m so old I’m invisible anyway.) Bitter? No no no no. No no no.

    1. I know you’re joking, but the one secret service guy I know is bald and steely-eyed, but certainly doesn’t hide his job. If you search his name on google, the first hit is his LinkedIn profile listing him as a special agent. He does presidential and candidate protection. The thing I learned was that those guys travel to the events then go away. It’s not like there’s a steady team of guys per protectee. I think a week or two ago he had Romney, then Santorum, then Barack and then Michelle Obama and the kids, all at different things all over the place.

      1.  Does he know of any vacancies? I am puny and can’t handle a gun but i’ve got the shiny pate.

  16. Regarding the baldness: that’s the style across the spectrum of law enforcement. All the staties and local cops here in NJ (and the governor of Florida, among others) suffering premature hair loss shave their heads for that tough, neo-nazi skinhead appearance that says” I am a figure of authority”.  I think they feel hair loss is a sign of weakness, or loss of  macho, so they go with the shiny penis-dome look.

    1. I think they feel hair loss is a sign of weakness, or loss of  macho, so they go with the shiny penis-dome look.

      On the contrary, male baldness is a sign that the man in question is brimming over with so much testosterone that it’s burned a hole right through the roof.

  17. “Thank you,” president signs back. I actually read “president sings back”. Now that would have been a hoot!

    1.  I think he’s saving up his public singing moments, that could go wrong real fast if he bursts into song every time he leaves the house. Got a half-way decent voice though

  18. I think it’s merely a style thing.  Look at photographs from other eras, the 1980’s for example. (Reagan being shot)  They all had typical 1980’s hair.

  19. What an elitist!

    Compare this to Bush mocking a blind man for wearing sunglasses while talking to the president.

    …I know, I know, Bush is not Obama and Obama is not Bush.

  20. I met a few secret service agents in Seattle in ’08 during the campaign. They were protecting Joe Biden. I was hanging out with them in a kitchen of a hotel waiting for Joe to finish a speech. At first they were all business, but after a while waiting to meet Joe, I was getting antsy so I started joking around with them. They seemed bored too and lightened up a bunch. I asked them if it was fun work, and one guy admitted it was but the agents working for the McCain campaign didn’t have as much fun. Apparently Ms. McCain can be quite the tyrant. 

    I ran into that guy again in the bar of another hotel later on that night. I offered to buy him a drink, but he was still working. I bought it for him anyway and drank his too.

  21. Not all Secret Service agents are bald.  Some years ago I was standing outside a restaurant, waiting for some friends to arrive.  This was in Palo Alto near Stanford, so I wasn’t surprised to see a college-age kid in a fleece pullover also waiting outside.  However after a few minutes, I noticed him SPEAKING INTO HIS COLLAR.  Shortly after that my friends arrived and as I was telling them about it, one of them pointed out that Chelsea Clinton was in the restaurant sitting at our usual table!  I don’t know how many of the other kids at her table were agents vs. friends, and I didn’t watch them long enough to catch any of them speaking into their collars.

  22. Hummmmm….. nobody thinks this is the least bit odd that the deaf student has only a first name? Most dependable newspaper reports give the first and last name of a person that is the center of the item. Odd. 

    1. Good point. The deaf guy in the video is clearly made up. Probably some kind of robot plant, programmed to create public empathy for Illuminati political figureheads.

      (Also, where did this political blog claim to be a “newspaper?”)

        1. weren’t you just upthread throwing a tantum over someone arguably (but not actually) comparing the candidates to dictators…. but you comparing them to actual inhuman soulless automatons is fair play? Okay, thanks for that!

  23. I imagine being bald and steely eyed may be a requirement for the SS agents that are meant to be the highly visible and instantly recognizable as such. There’s probably quite a few that are chosen to blend in rather than stand out.

  24. A couple of years ago, Obama was here, giving a speech. A friend and I rode downtown to see it, and we went through the security checkpoints about a block from where he was going to give the speech.

    I carry a small machined aluminum pill bottle on my keychain that I keep filled with a mixture of ground hot peppers, in case the restaurant I’m at doesn’t have any hot sauce. Habaneros, Serranos and a few others. As we were going through the checkpoint, I was distracted by my friend and stopped paying attention to the Secret Service agent who was going over our belongings, and I looked back at her just in time to see her lift the opened pill bottle to her nostrils.
    I said, a little TOO loudly, “STOP!” She instantly set the keys down, neatly and without spilling a flake of the peppers, and at the same time assumed the 1/4 stance to me and put her hand on her firearm, but, didn’t draw it. Behind her sunglasses I could see her eyes lock on me like a hawk. Out of the corners of my eyes, I caught two guys in sunglasses moving to my 4:00 and 7:00 positions, and it was all happening so fast and smooth that I think that the four of us were the only people even aware that something was happening.

    I gently put my hands at about even height with my head, and said ” It’s hot peppers – I didn’t want you to breathe them in too deeply.” She didn’t move, just saw her eyes flicker to the two other guys. I asked, “Can I show you ?” and she thought about it for few seconds before giving a nod. People were starting to notice now. I gingerly picked up the keys with one hand, wet my fingertip and stuck it in the pill bottle, letting her see that I had a good dollop on my fingertip, and stuck it in my mouth. She watched me as I turned red and the tears started to well up and the sweat popped out on my forehead.

    After watching me for a few more seconds, she handed the cap to the pill bottle back to me and said “Have a nice day, sir” in the flattest monotone I’ve ever heard. The other two guys melted into the crowd, people were staring at me and at the agent and whispering to each other, I grabbed my stuff and went through the rest of the line and found the nearest water vendor.

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