Stuttering and traveling

This is going to be a sort of “what I’ve been stuttering on lately” post that focuses on my recent trip to England. The thing about my trip is that other than the thought of stuttering with the bike fitter, I wasn’t sure what else to worry about. I didn’t spend any time getting worked up or worried. That’s how my stuttering usually goes — the fear and worry only manifests itself minutes before the event. Unless of course there’s a meeting that I’ve known about.

That being said, here we go —

I flew from Saudi to Istanbul to Manchester. So in Istanbul, I stopped at the Starbucks. I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. (We don’t have one in our small town in Saudi — so it’s a treat). As I was standing in line, I was slowly starting to sweat over my impending stuttering. I knew I would. The distance between me and the person behind the counter was pretty great, there were people in front of me in line, there were a lot of people in the airport in general, it was noisy … but nobody behind me … well, for a few minutes anyway. I did stutter on “mocha” as I usually do. Also, I’d rather not have cream which always end up as, “oh, and no … cr-….” Cream? Yeah. “cream.” There’s a certain point when you’re standing in line and freaking out that you think, you know what, I actually could just walk away…

Getting into Manchester, I was a little nervous at the passport control. She asked where I had flown in from, and I dragged out the sssss for Saudi Arabia. Then some mundane stuff — what do you, how long will you be here. She saw that I was from the States, so asked where. I replied with a smile, “Pennsylvania.” She seemed happy with that and made a comment about how nice it was. It left a positive taste in my mouth at least.

Right after that, I was walking out — no checked bags — and a customs person asked where I had flown in from. I told him Ssssaudi as well. He said, “through …?” Oh, Istanbul. “Ok, you’re fine then.” And off I went.

During the few days I was there, my buddy would usually do the food ordering. He didn’t do this because he was considering my stuttering — he did this because that’s just how he is. He’s got three kids, so he goes around, gets their orders, considers it as the whole, then figures out what’ll work out best. So I just add in my needs. For the drinks though, I was usually on my own. I had some relative success saying “diet coke” for the four days.

When I checked into the bicycle fit, I didn’t actually tell them my name. Just that I had a 1 p.m. appointment for a fitting. They already knew what was up. I had considered advertising to the fitter that I stuttered, but then thought, no, there’s really no point, is there? And would I advertise to the person who checked me in — eh, no. Here, just fill out this form, have a seat there, he’ll be right with you.

Lastly from what I can remember at the moment was ordering pizza at the Istanbul airport on the way back home. Sbarro. A counter. A man behind the counter. So I just held up two fingers, and I pointed to the two types I wanted. I suppose I could have said “that one,” and “that one,” but there was really no need. He knew what I was pointing to. See, it’s things like this that make me wonder — am I justifying my silence or avoidance, or just being practical? I think it’s a fine line at times. I mean, if I didn’t stutter, wouldn’t I do it the same way? The guy in front of me basically did the same thing.

I stuttered pretty fiercely on that particular diet coke at Sbarro which was annoying because there were people standing around. Then I didn’t even check to see that he filled it up with the right stuff. It tasted a little off …

After the Bike Fitting

Well, I’m back from a few quick days in England, and so I thought I’d first start with how the bike fitting went. Then I’ll get into other stuttering aspects of the trip later this week.

To summarize — the bike fitting went really well and exceeded all my expectations. I didn’t think I’d worry too much about stuttering during the process, and that’s how it turned out.

My work colleague joined me for the adventure — since he drove me there — so I was at ease a little bit already. The studio wasn’t that big and had two offices that were separated by glass. There were people in them working. I didn’t think about how they couldn’t hear me. I don’t think I would have been too bothered even if they could — the whole studio gave off a strong air of professionalism.

The first part of the fitting process was just a quick conversation — what kind of riding I do, how often, what the problems are. I was obviously pretty familiar with all of these, and also filled out part of it on a form anyway. Then we got into a physical assessment — not much talking — just standing, sitting, stretching (or not) to see what my joints and muscles were capable of. I suppose during this time I could have asked what each assessment was going to help determine further down the line as far as the fit — but it didn’t occur to me to do so.

After that, he checked my feet to see what size they were. And then quickly sorted out why my foot was going numb — I had placed the cleat in a horrible position, so my foot was compensating … a lot. My feet are the same size as well. So the shoes are fine. Again, not much talking other than answering what part of the foot goes numb, and when.

A good thing to point out now is how quiet and relaxed the whole setup was. I don’t remember seeing a clock. I wasn’t in a hurry. I never felt rushed. My fitter seemed to have a set path to follow and did so confidently — which made me feel better, too. There was no uncertainty about any concern or problem I had — he heard the issue, considered it, then gave his assessment. Then fixed it, then asked for feedback.

Once that was all done, it was time to get on the fit bike and started turning the pedals. After putting on sensors on various joints, he monitored me and the various angles that my joints were making. He’d come up to the fit bike, made a change, and then see how that would affect the angle. It wasn’t a process of “is this better? Or this?” as I thought it might be. It was getting the angles within a specified range (based on years and years of collected data, I’m sure) and then going back to see what might be fine-tuned.

I won’t get into too many more of the fit details (you can e-mail me separately if you want them) but as for the stuttering, I managed to ask just a few things that were bothering me at the time — my hands were really hurting, my butt started to hurt after a while (he changed the saddle which took care of that issue quickly), where is my butt actually supposed to be on this saddle, and I asked for a fan to be placed back near my face since I was warming up. But that was really it. During the fit he gave some commentary on what was going on and how changes would impact my riding. Very informative.

I can happily say that the stuttering didn’t affect the fitting process at all. Win.

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