Your name or your question

I moved into a new house a few months back, and have been slowly doing projects here and there. Of course that means a lot of trips to the big box home improvement stores. During COVID, of course, it’s a little easier — you can basically fill your shopping cart from the comfort of your couch and then go to the store and pick it all up.

One of the options for pickup has been to park your car and then wait while they bring your stuff.

The other option is to go inside and stand in line and wait for your stuff.

And what might be the problems with these if you’re someone who stutters? Oh yeah, you usually have to say your name — first or last. There’s the off chance that they may just ask you for your order number, but hey, it’s still a bunch of numbers and letters that you’re going to be put on the spot to read.

So I ask — what’s better? This system, or our stuttering favorite workaround of meandering the aisles for an hour since we sure as heck ain’t gonna ask someone for help?

As someone who’s come to accept my stuttering, I’m fine with the new way. I actually like it a lot more. I’m focused on the big picture here — staying away from people, spending the least amount of time in the store, and getting exactly what I’ve already spent some time scrolling and trying to find.

I think even if it was a few years ago what I would have done is just shown the clerk my phone with the order number on it. The information they need is there, and they usually ask for it anyway. I could have avoided giving a name if I really had to.

But this way does make me basically confront my biggest challenge — saying my name in public — in exchange for convenience, which is always fun to try.

Free Ice

A few weeks ago we had a chance to finally get away for a few days. We stayed at a house near the beach and decided to have groceries delivered. Our week would be house, beach, and nothing more. The kids were on board. I wanted to keep doing my part as far as the pandemic was concerned.

So I’m in the parking lot at the rental house, and another gentlemen is loading up his car. I stayed a few feet back, and then said hello. We struck up a conversation about where they were visiting from, what they’d done while down at the beach, and how it’s nice to get away. Small talk.

As you can imagine, small talk isn’t something that comes easy for someone who stutters. I am always, always, always worried about the next thing to say, the right body language to put forth, intonation, a laugh here, a smile there, and to come across as … normal.

I definitely feel like I’m getting better at it the more that I do it.

After our discussion, I went back into the house for a bit. I then had to go back outside to grab something out of the car. The same guy was there, and he asked if I’d like a bag of ice since they were leaving and obviously wouldn’t need it. Of course I would — we have a bunch of kids who are pretty hot and like cold drinks!

I realized that this is how it’s supposed to be — and how it is for many, many people. And a lot of what I missed growing up being afraid to talk to people randomly. Random acts of kindness. Serendipities. Offers of help or goods. Or maybe I could help or give directions or advice.

I didn’t ask for the ice. I didn’t ask for anything. Just being myself was enough. Not being afraid of my stuttering and stumbling through a small conversation. Every time something like this happens I do like to stop and write it down. And then go back and look at all of those times when being someone who stutters didn’t have any kind of negative impact.

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