More tales of the Stuttering Ambush – Lunch

Yesterday I talked about getting ambushed at work. Today let’s just continue into lunch.

These days I’m going to the same place almost every day. Sometimes by myself. When I go by myself, sometimes I’ll meet someone else there, and we’ll sit and have lunch. Things are nice. He probably knows I stutter, and he doesn’t make a big deal out of it. I don’t have to introduce myself to him.

But sometimes disaster strikes.

It works like this. I’ll get to the restaurant (Subway) early, order up my food, and then sit down at a table. At about this time, my buddy comes in and starts ordering. I nod and wave. Then I notice that he’s brought along somebody new.

Great. Ambushed again.

So what are my choices — eat quickly, and then run out? Say I’ve got a meeting? Maybe not make eye contact and hope they’ll forget that I’m here? Hope that someone in front of them will take the chairs that are empty at my table thus leaving them nowhere to sit? Should I call someone up and have a long conversation over the phone? Spill my drink all over the place and take a lot of time cleaning it up?

The dynamics get me all worked up as well. I glance to see that my buddy is first in line, and the guest is second. Ok, so maybe he’ll introduce me, that’s good. But then something gets held up, and they switch places. No, no, no! Make it stop. They switch again. My buddy has paid, and he’s coming this way. He puts down his tray and shakes my hand, saying hello. Yeah, things are good. The tension ratchets up as he then leaves to fill up his drink, passing his guest who’s paying. He instructs his guest to sit with me at my table.

Well. Here we go, I guess.

Since there’s only one guy, I have to see what happens — yeah, he’s introducing himself. I don’t catch his name at all. I try to read his ID badge, but that’s pointless as well. I can’t think straight, and I’m certainly not breathing either.

Stutter, stutter, stutter, drag my name out. By now my buddy is done filling his drink and is walking back. This guy (who’s still waiting for me to say my name) is awkwardly standing with his tray on the table, waiting to leave to fill his own drink. I’m still trying to get my name out. Ok, finally that’s done.

New Guy goes to get his drink, and my buddy comes to sit down again. New Guy comes back, and there’s a good bit of silence.

What was his name again?

Mushrooms and Olives

When I was in my teens, the family would order pizza about once every week or two. I don’t know if my parents wanted to save money or what, but we’d order the pizza, wait about ten minutes, then go pick it up ourselves. We never had it delivered.

Invariably this led to my dad assigning the task to me. I haven’t asked, so I don’t know — but maybe he gave this phone call assignment to me so I could build up some confidence (but we never talked about my stuttering, so …) It didn’t work. It was always something I dreaded. (although I suppose the pizza sort of made up for it.)

So, it’d go down like this. We’d decide that yes, this evening there shall be pizza. Then we’d decide on one of two places. Then whether or not we could find coupons for one of the places. That was always worse because the coupons would allow us to get pizza with toppings and not just plain. Most of the time we’d agree on mushrooms and olives. Mushrooms with that wonderful, drag-it-out-til-next-week ‘m’ sound and olives with an ‘o’ that may or may not come out at all. Fantastic.

First thing I’d do is take the cordless phone and walk into the dining room where my parents or brother couldn’t see me. I hate talking on the phone when others are watching me. I’d stay standing and move to the window and look outside. Maybe this would distract me? Was I far enough away that nobody would hear me?

I’d call them up. They’d always pick up after a ring or two, and this was always a surprise to me. So then my speech would be thrown off. How was I supposed to start this again? Oh, right, with a hello. Then, “I need to order a pizza.” They’d ask my name. What I did early on was try to say my last name which is often as tough to utter as my first. But then I got smarter and just spelled it out. When they’d say it, I’d repeat it a split second later (for some reason this is easy). A little confidence was built up at this point. Unfortunately, it was never enough.

What has always messed me up is having the other person dictate the pace of the conversation. And the feeling that yes, I should also be in a hurry, and I should know this information without hesitation. Whatdoyouneed? “I need two large, one with mushrooms, and one with olives.” Oh, that m on mushrooms. Every time. Then they’d throw in whether it’s green olives or black. What? Black! But then to say that as well. Things would just jam up completely on the b. They’d always ask again. I’d squeak out a reply. During this entire conversation, I’m also trying not to talk too loud, and while I usually don’t wave my arms or anything while talking, I might do it a little when nobody’s watching. Because of the pizzeria’s hurried interrogation, I’m not even thinking about breathing. I’m just dreading the questions. I’m dreading having to say that I have a coupon before they hang up on me. Oh, did I mention they ask for the phone number, too? Don’t they have caller ID? C’mon, people.

Finally, over. Sweating a little. Did I order the right thing? Probably. It’s over. I stay in the dining room for a little while. Finally take a deep breath. Then walk back and announce it’s over. Maybe go to the bathroom. Why am I afraid of my family? They never say anything about it.

After a few minutes, we’d leave to go get the pizza. I’d be sent in to the pizzeria and then have to say my name again to get our order …

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