Stuttering in 35G

As I’ve said before, I’m a very social person — who’s stuck with this stuttering thing. If I don’t have to introduce myself (or start off with a random witty comment), I can usually chat people up without too many issues. Of course there’s still stuttering, but the lingering effects of an introduction don’t cloud the air as much.

Since I work in Saudi, I have to make some long flights back home — like the one I took a few days ago so I can go to the NSA conference. On the first flight, I had all three seats on the side to myself. (This was pretty nice, but I still have a hard time sleeping on airplanes.)

From London to Philly, however, a young lady sat next to me. This is about a 7+ hour flight.

So the considerations begin. Not only are there stuttering considerations, but general, “don’t by creepy” considerations. You definitely don’t want things to be awkward for the next 7 hours.

The stuttering, of course, starts right off the bat — I usually open with, “so …. where are you going?” If I’m not feeling that at all (the ‘w’ in ‘where’ being the sticking point) I might try to be more specific — “so … are you from Philly?” This one is also pretty tough because after the “so” comes out, there’s a horrid pause, and then no sound as I try to eek out a word that starts with a vowel. Sometimes I feel bad because they’re just sitting there. Staring at me. They can’t go anywhere. Captive audience! Ha!

Despite this, I always do try to initiate conversation if they’re not going to. I’m curious! They might be a friend of a friend of a friend! Maybe they work somewhere interesting or went to the same school I did. I need to know! I’ll never see them again for the rest of my life, but I need to know!

The main issue are those ‘w’ words: What do you do? Where are you going? When are you leaving to go home? Stutter, stutter and stutter.

The plane can be a really tricky place to try to talk because there are so many variables. First there’s trying to find something good to say. Then trying to find the right words that I won’t stutter on. Then when I’m ready to say them, making sure there’s not an announcement being made. Or someone else walking by saying “excuse me,” and getting my seatmate’s attention. Or maybe they’re still on their phone or getting a call while we’re at the gate. They might drop something and be distracted. Most of these things seem to happen as I’m trying to get a few words out. “I’m sorry, did you say something?” Eh … let me try to repeat myself.

Other horrid parts of the flight include having to give a drink order when I’m at the window seat. Why do I always feel like the flight attendant is in a hurry? Where are they going to go? But then I’m trying to say “diet coke” while my seatmate stares at me and while the flight attendant looks on indifferently. All that for 6 oz. Sometimes I’ll just say I’m fine and not ask for anything.

Assuming things get going in conversation, it’s important to stay away from being creepy and overly friendly. Keep things short and to the point. Try not to set up elaborate jokes. If you find out they’re much younger, there’s no need to delve into the daily actives of your three children.

The nice thing is that most people will understand the “um,” and then a point toward the back of the plane as the universal sign of, “move, so I can go to the bathroom. Please?”

Alternatively, there’s this.

I wonder if people don’t do these to me when they start to hear that I stutter …


  1. Geraint Isitt says:

    Pesky vowel words. I hates them I do (imagine Gollum saying this). Not a comment about stuttering, but I can’t sleep on planes either. Never been able to.

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