My stuttering for the week

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while, so I thought I should summarize what I’ve been stuttering on in the past few days.

1. As a cycling fan, I’m excited for this year’s Vuelta a Espana — the tour of Spain. The problem is the word “vuelta.” That v going right into a w. Oh man. I drag out the v a bunch, and then run into a block on the “w” sound. And it confuses the listener when you say it’s the Tour of Spain. It’s La Vuelta — so let’s just call it that!

2. The usual “w” sound on what. It feels like these days I’m asking a lot of questions, and I’m always getting stuck on the “what” part. Everything after that is usually fine, though.

3. One of the Saudis who I talk to regularly here refers to his “family” all the time. But it’s just him and his wife. I thought that was interesting. So he’ll say that he and his family went here, or went there. I’m always stuttering on “wife,” so maybe I should just refer to her as my “family” as well … at least I’d be including the kids, too.

4. We stayed in a hotel a few weekends ago, and for the first time ever, we were in Room 101. The room number (in most countries) is usually trivial, but the big thing here in Saudi are the included breakfasts. So you go down to the restaurant in the morning, and — you guessed it — tell the guy your room number. More w sounds! Awesome! I decided I didn’t care about my stutter and stuttered it out for both days — “one oh one.” It was rough. And he just stared and waited. A little smile came out. I could have very easily said “a hundred and one” which would have been faster. But that would be doing the covert thing which I’m trying to avoid little by little.

(Note: what I’ve done in the past if I get a really hard room number is just hand them the little card-holder thingy that the guy at reception wrote my room number on. If you’re not someone who stutters, and you saw this gesture, you’d think nothing of it. But it’s an old covert trick …)

5. I spoke up at a meeting the other day without stumbling and stuttering too much. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and I had a good command of the room — there were only a half dozen people in there. I had met them all before. The thing about being a consultant is that you’re expected to talk and lead. So just sitting there isn’t doing anybody any good. I knew they were looking to our team for an answer, and being the manager, it was up to me to take charge and let them know exactly what we were going to do, and when it was going to be done. They had a concern which I also addressed, and the meeting was over in less than 15 minutes. I wasn’t thinking about the stuttering that much. I was focused on the message, and it really helped me drive through the stutter.

Tales of the Stuttering Ambush

Today I want to talk about getting ambushed. Maybe it’s too strong a term, but really, I don’t know how else to describe the feeling.

Here’s one example. I’ll write up a bunch for this week.

You walk into a meeting with your own people. These are coworkers who have been there a long time. They know your name, you know theirs. Maybe some of them have heard you stutter. Nobody says anything about, and life goes on nicely. After everybody sits down, you notice someone new. How did you miss this? There’s only like a dozen people in here. Who is this? Have I seen them before? What are they here for? To talk to us? You notice they’re chatting and laughing with one of your coworkers. How nice. The new person has made friends already. No, seriously, who is this?

The meeting gets started, and it’s just another staff meeting. Going through what work is happening now, and what work is coming up. Then the boss remembers, and …

“Oh, I almost forgot, we have a visitor from one of our offices. He’ll be here for two weeks doing …”

Ambushed.

You don’t hear the rest, because you know he’s about to say …

“So if we could go around the room and uh, just introduce yourself, what department you’re from. That kind of thing. Let’s start on this side.”

No, no, no. I was having a good morning. I had recounted some mundane activities from last night to a coworker this morning without stuttering much. I didn’t have any conference calls to join today that could have made me nervous. It’s almost the weekend. Heck, it’s almost lunch. And I was going to go my favorite place and order the same thing — heck, I don’t even have to say anything there! They already know my order!

And now this. Wow, are they going around the room fast. Why did I sit so far from the door? Do I have my cell phone? Maybe someone will call! Yeah, then I can jump up and … drat. Left my phone in my office.

Can everybody hear how hard my heart is pounding right now? Cause seriously, it’s really, really loud. I think it’s going to tear open my shirt. This is crazy. Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts. You know these people. Smile? Breathe? Yeah, breathe some more. Not helping? Wow, can my heart actually be picking up speed?

And now it’s my turn. All eyes on me.

Surely they can hear my heart now. It’s so quiet in here now.

…and I can’t say my name. Let me try again.

Nope.

Again? Again? Now it’s just dragging out. Still dragging.

Ah, there it is. Breathe. Remember you were supposed to do that earlier. Did you forget again?

I try to mumble out my title and department. That’s done. That’s enough for now. I’m silent. Yeah, next person now.

Unfortunately the cloud has formed over me, and I forget to pay attention to anything the new guy says. Well, whatever, I can figure that out later.

Long sigh.

I look at my watch. Only an hour til lunch. Glad I don’t have to say anything there.

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