Stuttering at Starbucks

So this happened a few days ago:

A Starbucks barista has been suspended for allegedly ‘humiliating’ a man with a stammer by penning his name as ‘RRR… ichard’ on his takeout cup. Richard Procter says his speech impediment was openly mocked by the worker, who wrote the cruel jibe round the lip of the container – even adding an ellipsis to show how the company owner struggles to say his name.

 

Ah, Starbucks. My delicious nemesis. I was thinking how I’d react if this happened to me. I think I’d also be plenty pissed. It’s enough that I get that smile or laugh (at Starbucks and others) whenever I’m trying to stutter out my name. It honestly hasn’t been too bad the past few times — either they haven’t asked me for my name or I’ve been able to push it out with brute force. Or I just spell it out for them from the get-go.

I don’t think I’d want any sort of compensation — drinks or otherwise — from this, though. I’d just want to know that they’re going to change their training program to address it. And want to see it documented and follow up.

I see that fluent folks are giving false names because they’re tired and/or annoyed by the name policy. What a luxury! I suppose I could always do that, too. But that really feels like surrounding to my stutter. I might as well just face it. I mean, if I’m going to treat myself like that, I might as well work for it.

What I’m Stuttering on Lately

Two stories for today’s entry.

Valentine’s Day (of course). So there’s this certain kind of Pakistani breakfast food that my wife really enjoys. It’s a street-food type thing. And of course being here in Saudi, there’s a Pakistani neighborhood, complete with many shops. The only issue is that I have no idea specifically where to get this stuff, and to find out, I’d have to … talk to someone.

But I decide to suck it up. My son and I went out early in the morning before anybody else in the house was up. I had to stop at the office for a quick errand. On the way back, we dove into the neighborhood. We drove around aimlessly for a while, trying to spot a shop from the car. I had been taken to this place before, but it was at night. I had to find someone to ask. You can tell the difference between the Pakistanis and the Saudis based on their dress. So I knew who I was looking for. Finally I found a guy walking along the road. I rolled down the window and started talking. I said the name of the stuff I was looking for. I didn’t stutter on it, but my breathing was off. He gave me a sort-of blank stare. But then asked if I was speaking Arabic or Urdu or what. I said Urdu, and said the name again a few times. He got it. Then instead of giving me directions, he just hopped into the car. Ok …

He pointed here and there, and on we drove. He got us into a more specific area of the neighborhood. This is what I wanted! We let him out with a thank you. My son and I found some parking and then started walking. I wanted to find a shop that was crowded (forgetting about how I don’t like going to crowded restaurants because ordering there is even more stressful). We saw a place, and saw the stuff we wanted.

I pointed and ordered, and the guy asked me how many. I said just one. Then, right there, sitting in the same place, was the guy who helped us in the car. He stood up and told the person behind the counter to help us out and ordered exactly what we wanted. Ah, making connections.

Then I noticed some other food that I wanted, so I pointed and asked for that as well. Another person standing next to me clarified it in Urdu to the person taking the order. So even though I stuttered a little here and there, I managed to push through and get what I wanted — and get something special for my wife for Valentine’s Day.

Second story —

After getting out of the neighborhood, my son and I went over to the Starbucks for coffee. The day before I had denied him a request for hot chocolate. So today I thought I’d oblige. But of course he threw a curveball and asked for a white hot chocolate. He told me this right before walking into the store, so I had only a few seconds to freak out about trying to say “white.”

So I ordered for myself what I usually do and stuttered just a little. Then I pushed really hard and got my son’s order out. The funny thing is that often those of us who stutter end up drinking/eating things we don’t want because that’s what’s easiest to day. In this case, I was able to order exactly what my son wanted, but the guy didn’t really know how to make it. And I didn’t know what was supposed to be in it, either. He conferred with his colleague, but then still added coffee in it (don’t think you’re supposed to … still need to check on that) so I said no, no, it’s ok, no big deal. (It was early — a little caffeine for an 8-year-old can’t be that bad, right?)

In both instances I made sure that the stuttering took a back seat for the needs of others. I’m not going to deny loved ones things just because I can’t say something comfortably. I can suck it up, and I can work through it.

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.”

What I’m Stuttering on Lately – A Trip Home

So I’m back stateside now after traveling over from the Kingdom. As with any change to my routine, there’s more stuttering. I’m out of my comfort zone more, so the anxiety is up.

Here’s what I’ve been stuttering on lately:

Before the trip –

I noticed that most of the stories that a married man with kids tells either have to do with, “I was out the other day,” or “my kids are crazy, the other day they …” or “my wife was telling me …”

The first two aren’t that bad. But that ‘w’ on wife as well as my wife’s name have been difficult lately. (Note that most of this happens at lunch when I’m talking to native English speakers). So sometimes what my wife has gone through or told me about gets told. Oftentimes … not so much.

During the trip –

I was traveling to Washington, DC. Another ‘w’ word. So at the checkin counter, I got hung up on this. With some people you can chicken out and say “DC” but that doesn’t always work. What was annoying is that from our small town, I could only fly to Jeddah (by which I mean I could only have my bags checked through to Jeddah). So I stuttered and stumbled on ‘Washington,’ when all I had to say was ‘Jeddah.’ Which is easier.

When I got to Jeddah, I had an 8-hour layover. So I decided to get a cab and go to Shake Shack (duh). Well, the driver was a Saudi and didn’t know any English. But I said the name of the street (Tahlia, and I can say that) a few times, and finally he understood. I had to point as we got closer, but that wasn’t too bad.

The Shake Shack ordering went well; I usually do the “menu assist” stuttering technique. You know, say it as you point to it on the menu. So that was fine. Next to the Shack was Starbucks (remember, I’m trying to kill a lot of time here).

Ah, the Starbucks. There’s my usual order of a medium non-fat, no-whip mocha. No cream. A stutterer’s delight half the time. But lo, what was this? They actually had seasonal offerings in the desert?

Now, I promise you that I ordered the gingerbread latte because it was the season. Not because I knew I’d stutter on ‘mocha.’ Besides, I still had to stay ‘without cream,’ or ‘no cream.’ I spelled my name for them after trying to say it. That wasn’t too bad. Please also keep in mind in that our small town we don’t have a Starbucks, so any trip there is a treat for me. As are the seasonal offerings.

Then I had to get a cab back to the airport. This was fun as well. I don’t know how to say airport, but I kept on saying “Saudia” over and over again and making the hand flying up into the sky motion. The driver got it. He could speak some broken English, and I used a few of my Arabic words. Our small town starts with a “Y,” and that was difficult to get out. But the cabbie didn’t laugh or give me a weird look. Maybe he thought I was just speaking a second language, so … it’s not easy.

No problem checking in — all the counters are for the Washington flight only. So just hand the passport, ask if the flight is full (no, not at all, you’ll have room to stretch out) and be on my way. At the passport desk they don’t ask you anything on the way out.

Flight was uneventful. I’m tall and can never sleep soundly on airplanes. But I got some rest of the 13-hour deal …

Into DC … and hurrying to get to passport control.

Wait, let me back up.

When I Jeddah, I discovered that I didn’t have a pen. And I knew that I needed to fill out the customs card in DC with a pen. And I knew searching around (or asking) for one would be annoying and tricky. So I sought out a cheap pen to buy. Done. On the airplane I dutifully filled out the card and wrote, by the ‘declaring fruits’ section that I bought in DATES. Because I knew they’d ask, and I knew they’d write it down as well.

So of course when I get near passport control, I find that they have the electronic kiosks. You scan your passport, answer the questions, and it spits out a paper. No pen necessary.

Then I’m waiting for the officer, things are relaxed, not a lot of people, I’m not doing anything wrong, I have my passport, I’m taking a deep breath, I’m trying not to think of the questions they’ll ask. I tell myself that I will advertise my stutter if I’m bumbling over everything.

I get called up. “What fruits are you bringing in?”

Ddd-

Dd-

D-

Push harder. It’s almost here.

“Dates.”

“Oh, ok. Dates are good. Welcome home.”

And that was it!

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