Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Repeat Myself? I'd Rather Chew Broken Glass

I hate to repeat myself. Hate it. My mother and my son often wonder why I get so testy when they ask me to repeat myself. The reason is simple: usually I can be very fluent if I have a very short sentence to say to somebody.

Me: Mom, I had my oil changed today. Couldn’t believe how cheap it was.
Mom: I’m sorry, what?
Me: I h-had m-my oil ch-ch-ch…damn it! I hate repeating myself!

They usually act all offended…and why not? After all, I often can’t hear what someone else has said to me for whatever reason…they were mumbling…a car was driving by…I had a banana in my ear. And I’ll ask them to repeat it. “Oh, I missed that. What?”

Repeating oneself should never be a big problem. Unless you are a persistent developmental stutterer. Then it can be a big problem. A big fat hairy problem. The kind that makes you wanna shoot somebody. You’ve said something to somebody else. You felt good about your ability to say it…you felt confident…and without hesitation…you said it! SUCCESS! You didn’t stutter! Your confidence is up. You feel good about yourself. You feel…FLUENT! Then, suddenly…you realize the person didn’t even hear what you said. "Can you repeat that, please?" No, I'd rather scoop out my eyes.

Damn! You had a major fluency success…and nobody even noticed! Not even the idiot you were talking to. “I’m sorry, what?” I feel like saying, “Well, you missed out, buddy. Shoulda dug out your ears earlier. You could have shared in a wonderfully fluent moment with me, but instead, you failed at one of the simplest tasks in the world. You didn’t listen. Sorry. Sucks to be you.”

Saying that would be so satisfying in those rapid annoying moments that quickly follow a fluent moment when nobody noticed and I’m asked to repeat myself…and I would say this if only I could say it fluently.

Invariably, if I’m ever asked to repeat myself, I can never say again what I just did without stuttering all over it. It’s like some universal law of stuttering. “If thou hast a fluent moment in thy day, yet the person to whom thou speakest fails to hear thee, thou will never be able to duplicate the fluency the second time. Thus it is written and thus it is.”

Know what else bugs me today? I emailed a company from the internet last week sometime about a study on stuttering…the medical center is about 2 hours from me and they offer free drug therapy for those willing to participate in the study to test a new drug for stuttering. Now, I’m not too concerned about the safety of the test and the new drug. The FDA is a heavy-handed outfit (I deal with them all year) and no reputable company or medical center would allow guinea pigs to take a drug they weren’t certain isn’t going to cause me to drop dead as soon as it hits my tongue.

So…they called me and I found out that I’d have to spend 3 days a week at the clinic. (I rarely make cold calls, so I emailed for them to call me. Much easier.) At any rate, after speaking with the lady on the phone, it was determined that I’d probably not be able to participate because of the distance I’d have to travel each day and the time off of work, blah, blah, blah. So, I thanked her for her time...and she says, “Do me a favor. Please call back once you are sure you can’t participate, okay?” I wanted to tell her that I was pretty sure I couldn’t need to call back…but I suddenly blocked and just said, “Okay,”…then hung up.

For over a week now, this silly woman has called my office phone and has left message after message, thus, “Hi, this is Irene from the clinic. You indicated you’d call me back once you knew for certain you couldn’t attend. Please call me at _______.” What bugs me is that…don’t they know that stutterers have a hard time making calls? Can’t she use her powers of deductive reasoning to figure out just why I am not calling her back? Can’t she also determine that, “Gee, he’s probably not going to participate.”…and quit calling me? Now I feel rude for not calling back…so I probably will later this morning. At least her name is Irene. Much easier to say. If her name was Louise or Lily, I'd hang myself.

Why this desperate need for me to call back? Is this part of the experiment? “Okay, I want you to torture all potential stuttering participants by calling them multiple times a week and asking them to call back. Stutterers hate that. You’ll drive ‘em all wonky. Isn’t this fun?”

Well, after I wrote that last sentence, I was sufficiently annoyed enough to call her…hoping she’d give me a hard time so I could say, “Look bitch. I can’t participate. Deal with it.”…but her secretary answered…said Irene was on the phone. I left a message. A polite one. Used three tricks to get it all out fluently. I hated calling them because I know they probably expect to hear a lot of stuttering. Felt like I was under a magnifying glass.

At least she won’t call anymore.


MarvThroneberryII said...

Oh has a magical moment and every sylable uttered is fluent and crisp and just when you begin patting yourself on the back for a job well done, the recipient goes "HUH?? Whadja say?"

Once upon a time, long ago at a Taco Bell, I was in line and spouted out my order fluently to go and the apparent hearing-challenged teeny bopper wanted me to repeat the whole darn thing(I was ordering for three people). Feeling a block coming on and seeing the long line behind me, I just silently got out of line and left. The echos of- "Sir? Sir? Is there a problem?? Sir?" followed me out the door. Yes, there is a problem with those who for some reason can't hear me when I'm fluent, and I know if I have to repeat what I had just said - I won't be fluent.

I had my roommates order pizza instead. Didn't give them any details why they weren't getting burritos that night. And one of them made the call at my insistence....

Law Student said...

Yikes. You definitely know the experience! I *always* make others make calls for me. Often, if I have to talk to someone...I'll get my 14-year-old son to call...then when they're on the phone...he gives it to me. I have a hard time asking for the person...if somebody other than he or she picks up.

I usually get all the way to, "Hi, can I please speak with..." and then I block on the name. Sometimes I act like I can't remember the name...until I'm able to say it. And I cannot even begin to count how many times I've hung up on people right after they say, "Hello?" :)

John MacIntyre said...

Yeah .. I think this a natural law or something.

Speaking of your 14 year old passing you the phone, I had a similar problem with my teenage daughter. She would just walk up and jam the phone in my ear .. on the other end would be the parents of one of her friends ... who just had the phone jammed in thier ear!

So as if the stutter isn't bad enough, you also have 2 strangers who are speaking to each other unexpectedly. One of them stutters and the other has no idea.

She didn't do this on purpose. She just didn't realize how stressfull something like that was for me.

On a stress level, she couldn't have caused any more stress if she had've stuck an unloaded gun in my face and pulled the trigger. ;-)

Non-stutterers can't possibly realize this ... but it's not that much of an exageration.


Law Student said...

John, I know exactly what you mean. I think I've trained my enough that he knows better than to do that...but he's often said that he feels like the adult, having to make calls for me most of the time. If I can get away with it...I always prefer written notes to his teachers.

Once his school nurse called to tell me I had to get my doctor to fax his immunization records to the school. I thought of a hundred different ways I could get out of having to call the doc...I could drive over (nope...too far...and they'd just ask why I didn't call)...maybe I could fax a note to them (didn't know the fax number) I had to call.

What I wanted to say when I called was, "Hi, this is so and so...I'm calling on behalf of my son, so and so...his school needs his immunization records faxed over. Here's the number."

Of course, that's not how it played out.

Me: Hi, this is [complete block]

Them: Hello?

Me: This is [complete block]

Them: Yes?

Me: I'm calling on behalf of my son, [complete block]

Them: Who would you like to speak with?

Me: I'm sorry, this is [finally got out my name]

Them: Are you a patient of Doctor Pearson's?

Me: No, I am calling because my son needs his [complete block]

Finally, I just hung up...and took an hour off of work to drive over and get the records myself...and drive them to the school.

Non-stutterers will never, ever realize how difficult such a thing is.

John MacIntyre said...

I hear you.

Did you read about my car insurance shopping?

MarvThroneberryII said...

Law & John,
Well, this makes me a bit regretful that I have not spawned any known human life-forms from my loins - I could have a son or daughter do the phone conversation thing for me;-)

That is if the son or daughter didn't inherit the speech problem from dear ol' dad. Don't mean to pry here, guys, but did your children stutter at any time in their lives. I ask because there because I'm of the school that stuttering is naturally inherited, by and large, though nurturing can play a bigger role as well, so this argument will go on for aeons. As we know, stuttering is far from being an exact science.

John MacIntyre said...

Steppendaft; my teenage daughter is actually my step-daughter.

But my 3yr old son has shown no indications of developing a stutter yet. If he ever does, I hope my experience will help me guide him to fluency before it's too late.

Law Student said...

Wow, John...that was powerful and honest. And heart-breaking. You should write a book about your experience. Seriously. You write well enough.

Law Student said...

My son did stutter for about a month when he was three. I think I held my breath for the entire 30 days or so. Finally, it just went away and our doctor said it was a normal childhood phase. My son is now an early teen and is as fluent as they get. Straight A student, to boot. :)

MarvThroneberryII said...

Great to hear that your children has not this affliction:-)

John MacIntyre said...

"Wow, John...that was powerful and honest. And heart-breaking. You should write a book about your experience. Seriously. You write well enough."

Thanks, but I don't think there is too much of a market for this kind of a book. But don't get me wrong, if somebody offers me something ... I might be inclined to consider it. ;)

Law Student said...

Well, I've heard of at least two people who got book deals *because* of their blogs. You never know who's reading. :)

And there IS a market for it. There are MILLIONS of stutterers who could gain from your insight...and who knows...perhaps Oprah might even call! *grin*