Across the Kingdom for a Stutter

I’ll be traveling over the next few days here in the Kingdom. I’ll still set up some posts in the meantime, though.

For traveling and stuttering, I’m not thinking or worrying about anything specific. I’m traveling with my 8-year-old son, and we’ll be taking a plane, taxi, and checking into a hotel. I guess if I’m going to be anxious about anything right now (about 24 hours before the event) it’ll be having to get a cab from the airport to the hotel. The hotel’s name starts with an M, and there are two of them in the city.

There might be some Starbucks during the layover as well, I suppose. But I’ve been getting pretty decent at that. I’m not letting the stuttering get to me. It happens, and I know it’s going to happen, but boy, do I really want that coffee.

I guess the goal has always been to minimize the stuttering-as-a-problem. Stuttering-as-something-to-worry-about. Put it right up (or down) there with forgetting my headphones or earplugs. There are so many other bigger headaches with travel that I really don’t need to let stuttering start shoving its way in, distracting me from making lists and printing out boarding passes.

Unfocused on Stuttering

Alright, just a quick hello today — still alive, and still stuttering of course. I’ve gone across Saudi to my company’s home office to talk to some people about my next assignment. Since I know some people in the office already (from several years ago) they took me around and introduced me to others — so I didn’t have the stress of having to say my name at least.

After that, it’s a quick rundown of what I was doing and what I’m looking to be doing in the near future. And the meetings are usually really, really quick, less than a minute or two. Just a quick drive-by. Which is fine at this point. I had some longer discussions that I’m still waiting to hear the results on.

One fun stuttering bit that happened was here in the hotel. I needed an ironing board and iron. They weren’t provided in the room. But I looked through the guest handbook thingy, and it says you can call a number (housekeeping) and ask for it.

So … I have to … use a phone. To say the word … iron. And ironing board. And I have to do this. Gotta look good for the office visits!

So I took a nice deep breath and tried to think past my stutter, tried to ignore the word, tried not to think about how I was going to stutter. I thought about already saying the word, no problem, no problem, no problem.

Them: Hello, housekeeping.
Me: Ah, yes, hi, I need an iron and ironing board.

No stuttering! Success! Sweetness.

Them: What room are you in?
Me: !@#$!^%&%%!!!!

Are you kidding me?! I thought you knew this. I thought hotels had this part covered. Always. It’s a simple contract — I pick up the phone, you know it’s me. Here, apparently, not so much.

So yeah, I stuttered out the room number.

I’m still calling it a win. I mean, it would have been a win at another hotel, probably.

Who will you stutter with today?

I had the chance to travel home during the holidays, and I noticed something interesting with regards to stuttering and interacting with people. Namely, if given a choice of people — male, female, young, old, calm, flustered, etc., who would you want to (try to) talk to?

I’m at the airport, and I need to check in for my flight. I’m there pretty early, so there are more counter agents than customers. So I drag my suitcases through the little maze and … well … who’s it going to be? The young man who’s typing on his computer? The young lady who’s looking at me? The older man who’s also looking at me?

There’s so much to consider in just a few seconds — will the old man care if my suitcase is a half kilogram over? Will the young lady be pulled aside by the young man and asked how to do something, thus dragging out the whole process? Will the young man — who might be new — not understand my visa and start asking me questions that I’ll stutter on?

I’d like to think that I don’t think about my stuttering until just a few seconds before it starts to happen. But I think since I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s really burnt into my head. It’s driving the bus. I try to fight this by going up to the counter, smiling, saying hi, and handing over my passport. I take another deep breath. Breathe!

But how do I usually decide? Well, after interactions at the airport, retail store and bank, I’ve noticed that I’m usually partial to the person who’s smiling. As long as they’re not standing next to someone else talking. Because hey, if I’m going to stutter, I’d rather have an audience of one.

The smiling does a lot to disarm me. It says, “hey, you’re welcome here, I’m open to helping you, and I’m not going to jump down your throat and interrogate you.”

I always, always, return the smile. Disarm you! Disarm me! Now I can breathe again. And say hello. And hand you my passport. And say, “two bags.” And even ask a question that I already know the answer to! (Confirming that the bags aren’t checked all the way through to my small town.)

On the one hand, I don’t usually have to say that much to the counter agent. I’m well prepared. But is that because I stutter? And I don’t want to talk to them that much? No. I don’t think so. I think as I get older and figure things out, I realize that being prepared while you travel makes life a whole lot easier. If that means less chit-chatting, then so be it.

So what about you? When you reach the front of the line and have a choice, who does your stuttering fear the least?

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?”




Push harder. It’s almost here.


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

And that was it!

A trip home

Just a quick post today. I’m traveling over the next two days, and then we’ve got the weekend. So I should be back at posting come Monday. I’ll have What I’m Stuttering on Lately along with a Link Roundup early next week. Since I’m traveling, I’m tempted to try to advertise my stutter to the passport control officer when it comes time. I dunno. I’ll see how I’m feeling after the flight. And since I’m traveling, it means another Starbucks interaction … or two. Or three. And since I’m going Stateside, I’ll try to order a burrito as well. (I just took a deep breath thinking about that …)

Over the next two weeks I’m going to have time to go through the site and update sections that are pretty old (6 months!). I also want to try to get the logo on there in a better way — the one that I use on Twitter.

I’m pretty sure I made a list of things I wanted to do on this site by the end of the calendar year. Need to reread that …

Have a good weekend and stutter on.

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 …

Weekly Stuttering Roundup

Apologizes for the very late post. I was traveling all day Friday from Saudi to Philly, and then I spent today with family. Nonetheless, there was some stuttering during the past week … as usual.

One thing that did happen that I didn’t stutter on was not getting all my luggage in Philly. One of my two bags came through, and then they (British Airways) had a person make an announcement that well, a whole bunch of bags didn’t show up. Fortunately I didn’t have to speak — he just gave us a form. I always hate having to read off a number to someone behind the counter. The last time it happened they verbally asked for everything — name, address, phone number. Ugh.

What I did get nervous about during the trip was while standing in line for passport control in Philly. It’s always slightly nerve-wracking. I mean, it shouldn’t be — I’m an American citizen, so … here’s my passport, let’s keep things moving. But there are always questions — how long have you been out, what do you do, what are you doing here, who are you going to see, are you declaring anything? I do pretty well on the questions — keeping them short and to the point. Saying “two weeks” for the duration is tough, so I can get away with “ten days,” if need be. The declaration thing is a big issue, though — I always bring dates. That’s right. Dates with a big D on the front. Saudi dates are a favorite of my parents, so they always ask that I get them. And so if you’re bringing any kind of fruit, you have to declare it — otherwise if you get caught, it’s a huge fine. Not worth it. What I did this time was actually write “dates” on the form (there’s not a space for it, but whatever). I started stuttering out the “d” in dates, and then the passport control guy saw the written word — “dates?” Yep!

Also, the World Cup is going on as … pretty much everybody knows. And of course Luis Suarez was big news because of his biting incident. I would love to talk about this more, but Luis has a pretty tough name for someone who stutters — that L takes a long time to come out, and the ‘s’ of his last name is tied with a ‘w’ basically. Aaargh. So how to even refer to this guy? Just not … The other issue of course are the team names. I could say “Netherlands,” but man, “Holland,” is way easier.

Lastly I was talking to a colleague at work who’s from Sudan about dentistry. I wanted to tell him about how I had my wisdom teeth taken out. But of course … “wisdom” wasn’t going to come out. So I just said, “those teeth … in the back and up there.” He said he understood, but I was really more curious what other people in the world called wisdom teeth. Is that just an American thing?

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