Stuttering and Searching

Things are going well here regarding the move within the Kingdom. Making progress, but it’s been a little rough, speech-wise.

What happens is that my company gives me a list of compounds with phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Some work, some don’t.

So what I’m left doing is driving to the compounds. This involves pulling up to the gate, and then … opening my mouth. And explaining what I need. It’s simple, really. To talk to the manager. Is he here? I need to ask about housing availability.

Yeah. Lots of words. To someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language. And from the inside of a car that’s several feet away from the gate. And sometimes there’s a random person standing nearby watching this all happen. And sometimes there’s a car behind me, itching to get in. Plenty of fun stresses to add up.

Since I drove around on a Saturday (weekends are Fri-Sat here) some managers were in, most were out. So I got a bunch of phone numbers to call (mobile numbers … more fun). I did talk to a few managers (or their lackeys) in person. Most of them said, no, we’re full right now. Thanks!

But I’m pushing through. Just sucking it up, stuttering, stammering, bumbling, stumbling, getting numbers and looking for things to follow up with. I’ve got a good lead on something now, so hopefully it’ll work out, and this part will be done.

Fortunately I’ve been able to do this solo — the family is out of Kingdom. I can’t imagine how much more stressful it’d be with a car full of kids …

Stuttering for Gifts

Since I was raised as a Muslim, we obviously didn’t celebrate Christmas. Which means I didn’t have to ask for gifts. Which, more importantly, meant I didn’t have to confront Santa at the mall and tell him what I wanted.

Now that I’m older and I see him at the mall, though, I think that had I been in that situation, I would have had to do a lot of research on a lot of toys — just to find one that I could reliably say. Because seriously, there’s a lot of pressure with Santa — mom’s got the camera, there’s a long line of rowdy kids, there are elves standing around bored, and there are people milling about at the mall trying to do their holiday shopping. Oh, and I have to pee.

No, wait. Thinking about it more, aren’t you supposed to give him a list? Yes! That’s perfect. Nevermind. I could just write down a list, and he’d have to read it out loud. And maybe if made it long enough, he couldn’t interrogate me about a specific item. You see, the problem with coveting just one big, magical toy is that Santa would probably ask you to justify it. Sorry buddy. I can send that in a separate e-mail maybe?

But what about the other way around? What about a stuttering Santa? Could you pull off that job if you stuttered? How does that work, anyway? Does Santa ask the kid, or does the kid just start blabbing away? I suppose with the crying babies you don’t have to say much. Then again, I don’t stutter too much around children anyway, so maybe I’d be fine.

Anyway, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

Some temporary discomfort

Still in the process of moving. Hey, c’mon — I’m overseas. Things are … different.

For instance, I’m moving from one side of the Kingdom to another. From a small town to a larger one. In our small town, there are two compounds to choose from. In the larger one, there are more than a dozen.

My company basically gave me a list (e-mails, phone numbers) for some of the compounds. The person in HR is obviously busy getting other people settled (in or out, I guess) so he can’t call around.

My wife and kids are out of the country visiting family. So it’s not like I can get her to call. I don’t have an administrative assistant any more to make calls.

So of course the first thing I do is e-mail a bunch of them. I sent them a form letter of sorts. I waited a day.

I got some responses, and they either said yes, we have something, or no, we’re full. For the others, well, I started to make some phone calls. You can imagine how much fun this wasn’t. Not only am I speaking to someone over a not-the-clearest cell phone connection, but English isn’t their first language, and oh yeah, did I mention I stutter?

Houses aren’t houses here. They’re called “villas” on a compound. I can feel the stutter coming in on “villa” every time. So I sometimes say “house.” Which is confusing for them. And doesn’t get me any answers. I also have many other detailed questions, but most of the time the person on the other end doesn’t know or doesn’t understand.

Great … it’s only my housing situation that I’m trying to sort out.

Despite all of this, I’ve got things narrowed down and am just going to go there in the next few days to meet people in person and see what’s what. Then I can stutter in person and point and use hand signals or draw pictures or whatever (just kidding. Well, sort of.)

A little more traveling and a little more discomfort, but after this is all sorted out, then it’ll be smooth sailing for a while.

Stuttering for Coffee

Things are still in process for my work transition/life transition/move across the Kingdom-maybe, but for now, I do have some good news:

We are off the hook at Starbucks for having to give our actual names.

“Perhaps his reasons for giving initials in place of a full name were less about sparing others inconvenience and more about wanting an accurate representation of himself on his coffee cup. I’ll take any name with any spelling so long as I don’t have to engage in a whole dialogue about it. In a place where everyone seems to be rushing, I feel guilty holding up the line for an extra ten seconds.”

So there you have it. Perfectly fluent people (there’s no mention of stuttering in this article) are using different names at Starbucks so that they won’t get their order mixed up, or to be funny or creative.

Surely you can non-stutter out some name, right? I must try this … knowing my stutter, I’d probably stutter out a fake name, too. I’d be nervous about “getting caught.”

I’ve noticed that they don’t always ask me for a name though. If it’s not as busy, they simply take the order, and then call it out when they’re done. But yeah, during the rush it’s a little unnerving, and makes me wonder if I really need to be spending money to stutter.

What would be funny is if you used a fake name and had it written on a cup — and then took it into a meeting where they said, “let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves.”

Unfocused on Stuttering

Alright, just a quick hello today — still alive, and still stuttering of course. I’ve gone across Saudi to my company’s home office to talk to some people about my next assignment. Since I know some people in the office already (from several years ago) they took me around and introduced me to others — so I didn’t have the stress of having to say my name at least.

After that, it’s a quick rundown of what I was doing and what I’m looking to be doing in the near future. And the meetings are usually really, really quick, less than a minute or two. Just a quick drive-by. Which is fine at this point. I had some longer discussions that I’m still waiting to hear the results on.

One fun stuttering bit that happened was here in the hotel. I needed an ironing board and iron. They weren’t provided in the room. But I looked through the guest handbook thingy, and it says you can call a number (housekeeping) and ask for it.

So … I have to … use a phone. To say the word … iron. And ironing board. And I have to do this. Gotta look good for the office visits!

So I took a nice deep breath and tried to think past my stutter, tried to ignore the word, tried not to think about how I was going to stutter. I thought about already saying the word, no problem, no problem, no problem.

Them: Hello, housekeeping.
Me: Ah, yes, hi, I need an iron and ironing board.

No stuttering! Success! Sweetness.

Them: What room are you in?
Me: !@#$!^%&%%!!!!

Are you kidding me?! I thought you knew this. I thought hotels had this part covered. Always. It’s a simple contract — I pick up the phone, you know it’s me. Here, apparently, not so much.

So yeah, I stuttered out the room number.

I’m still calling it a win. I mean, it would have been a win at another hotel, probably.

Stuttering life changes

I just wanted to let everybody know that I’m going to do my best to post over the next few weeks. There are some major changes happening in my life right now — moving and taking on a new job (with the same company, though). So I’ve been busy getting those things sorted out as much as possible. I’ll also be doing a bit of travel as well.

Since I stutter and this is my life, yes, there is a stuttering aspect to all of this. But I’ll get to all that once the move is over and I’ve been in the new role for a few weeks.

What I can say is that based on some “lessons learned,” the first few weeks are going to be fraught with some fear and uncertainty. Meeting new people, learning a new process, and navigating a new city will all take me out of my comfort zone. But now I know to be patient and let time build up my confidence. I should expect that my speech is a little shaky for a while. That’s ok. I can also strongly consider advertising to some of the new people I meet to further take off the edge.

Some stuttering bits for today

A few things today:


I wrote a lengthy guest post over at westutterandwedontcare. It’s about the worst stuttering experience I’ve ever had. So if you’re having a lousy day, by all means, compare and contrast!

Here’s a little bit from the story:

The organizer then said he’d introduce the speakers, and started to give a short background on each of them. So this is what they meant by introductions. I leaned back in my chair and took another sip of soda. I had gotten away with one. Just as I started to think about other things, the organizer asked that the finance people at the plants stand up and introduce themselves. A microphone was being passed around.

I started to worry.

You can read the rest of the story here.


Another thought exercise and/or experiment — what would our speech be like if we were told it’s not that bad? We’re hardest on ourselves, but what if someone recorded us, reviewed it, then told us it’s not as bad compared to someone who’s fluent? (Note — I do mean in a deceptive way). If we didn’t know it, would that boost our confidence and help our speech? Would that help break down negative associations we have with speaking?

A little more — let’s say they recorded us giving a short speech. And they also recorded some fluent people who are maybe not as confident or are afraid of public speaking. Then we sit down with the videos. We are only shown the fluent parts of our speech (maybe a stutter here and there) and for those who are fluent, we are shown only the bad parts. If we are “trained” in this way, would that help us out over the long run?


There’s this story about writing every day and its benefits. As someone who tries to journal every day, I can certainly attest to having my head organized a little better, and feeling better overall.

Reflective writing, particularly in a journal, has been shown to have health benefits both physical and emotional, like increasing control and creativity, decreasing anxiety, depression, and rage.

I usually scribble down things about work (lists, phone numbers, meeting notes) but also longer thoughts on stuttering, including good experiences and bad ones. I’d be interested to know if others are doing the same thing — what are you focusing on when you write about your stutter in a journal?

Advertising, optimism and stuttering

There are going to be posts on this blog that are inspired from pretty solid places (articles, research, other blogs, tweets) and then stuff that’s a little more … out there.

This is going to be one of those posts.

As you can probably guess by now, I think about my stutter a lot. So sometimes I might think of an angle and wonder what’s really going on with it, or if it’s remotely related.

I think in general most people would agree that Americans are optimistic. There’s this ideal of the American Dream. The idea of working hard and getting ahead. That things will get better, the economy will grow, people will find jobs.

I was thinking more and more about advertising my stutter. And why I don’t do it. Why a lot of people who might be covert stutterers don’t do it.


Why not? I’m about to engage in a conversation. I’m thinking that I won’t stutter. I can dance around it. I can use some tricks, I can use other words, I can just stay silent and pay attention. I can follow up with an e-mail or a text later.

It’s also tied to the (sometimes) positive feedback loop of being covert. I mean, if it’s been working 90% of the time, why not this time?

If I advertise before I talk (my flawed thinking goes) I’m already admitting defeat. That’s such a pessimistic view! Give it a go! You need to try first, and then crash and burn. Not say that the crashing and burning is inevitable.

Like I said, this is flawed. Why not advertise? Why not inform and educate the other person? It’s not your fault anyway. You have a message that needs to get across.

I’m curious if people in other countries/cultures might feel the same way. Are you from a family of generally pessimistic people? Is it a cultural norm to assume or expect the worse?

Who will you stutter with today?

I had the chance to travel home during the holidays, and I noticed something interesting with regards to stuttering and interacting with people. Namely, if given a choice of people — male, female, young, old, calm, flustered, etc., who would you want to (try to) talk to?

I’m at the airport, and I need to check in for my flight. I’m there pretty early, so there are more counter agents than customers. So I drag my suitcases through the little maze and … well … who’s it going to be? The young man who’s typing on his computer? The young lady who’s looking at me? The older man who’s also looking at me?

There’s so much to consider in just a few seconds — will the old man care if my suitcase is a half kilogram over? Will the young lady be pulled aside by the young man and asked how to do something, thus dragging out the whole process? Will the young man — who might be new — not understand my visa and start asking me questions that I’ll stutter on?

I’d like to think that I don’t think about my stuttering until just a few seconds before it starts to happen. But I think since I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s really burnt into my head. It’s driving the bus. I try to fight this by going up to the counter, smiling, saying hi, and handing over my passport. I take another deep breath. Breathe!

But how do I usually decide? Well, after interactions at the airport, retail store and bank, I’ve noticed that I’m usually partial to the person who’s smiling. As long as they’re not standing next to someone else talking. Because hey, if I’m going to stutter, I’d rather have an audience of one.

The smiling does a lot to disarm me. It says, “hey, you’re welcome here, I’m open to helping you, and I’m not going to jump down your throat and interrogate you.”

I always, always, return the smile. Disarm you! Disarm me! Now I can breathe again. And say hello. And hand you my passport. And say, “two bags.” And even ask a question that I already know the answer to! (Confirming that the bags aren’t checked all the way through to my small town.)

On the one hand, I don’t usually have to say that much to the counter agent. I’m well prepared. But is that because I stutter? And I don’t want to talk to them that much? No. I don’t think so. I think as I get older and figure things out, I realize that being prepared while you travel makes life a whole lot easier. If that means less chit-chatting, then so be it.

So what about you? When you reach the front of the line and have a choice, who does your stuttering fear the least?

Thankful for Stuttering – Part 2

Alright, alright. It’s been a few days. Holidays! Turkey! International travel!

But now we’re back at it.

Firstly, here’s a post regarding being thankful for stuttering.

And of course I’m thankful for stuttering because of what it’s made me:

It’s made me more patient: There’s the old saying of treat others how you wish to be treated. Well, when it takes me a while to talk, I would like some patience. So everybody else gets it as well. My thoughts aren’t always well formed (maybe because I’m being covert and substituting like crazy) so I understand when other people are searching for the right way to express their thoughts.

It’s made me more ambitious. There’s two ways of looking at this. Either I’m more ambitious because I’m trying to run away from my stutter — and make people associate my name with my title or success — or that everytime I get a promotion or better job I’ve won the battle against stuttering. I’ve shown that it’s not going to hold me back.

It’s made me a better listener. I like to ask questions. Then I like to listen. The better the questions, the longer the answers might be. And that means I’m not talking as much. Which of course means I’m not stuttering, either.

It’s made me a better writer. I could call someone up and bumble over a question or two or three, or I could write a clear and concise e-mail. I’m pretty good at those now.

It’s made me a voracious reader. This has been true from the start — when I was in elementary school. Maybe it’s because if I read the book I would know all the answers and have more confidence? Maybe if I read the book I would know all the answers and not have to raise my hand to ask a question? Maybe because it didn’t involve talking to other people? The other side to this is a book club — would something like that have put me off with regards to reading? If I had to talk about books from a young age? Probably so …

It’s made me start this blog!

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