Make Room For The Stuttering

What Would You Have Done?

Posted on: July 31, 2010

I didn’t share this little blip right away. Not sure why. I did post about it on the covert email group. I wasn’t embarrassed by it, but maybe I was being a bit covert when it happened. I guess I am a little curious to see how others would have handled this.

I attended the Friends convention last weekend in Chicago, IL. I had two negative listener reactions to my stuttering, one while on the telephone, the other in person, both with hotel employees.

When I arrived at O Hare International Airport, I called the hotel to find out how to get the free shuttle. I spoke to someone at the front desk, who told me where to wait. As I was saying thank-you, it came out “th-th-th-thank you”. The person hung up on me before I finished speaking.

When I got to the hotel and checked in, the person (a night manger) behind the counter was very nice. He saw what group I was with and asked me about it. I told him I was with a large group of people who stutter, and that I hoped the hotel staff were ready to deal with this.

He assured me there would be no problems, and if there were, to let him know. I told him someone had rudely hung up on me while I was still speaking when I called the hotel. He apologized and again assured me his staff would provide the utmost of courtesy to everyone.

Two days later, during cocktail hour (which was free by the way), I was waiting my turn in line for a drink. A woman in front of me asked for a red wine, and it came out stuttered, “red-red-red wine.” When the bartender gave her the glass, he said, “Here’s your red-red-red wine”. The woman didn’t say anything, but I was shocked.

I ordered my drink from the bartender next to him. He asked if I wanted two, as we had been doing this to avoid getting back in the long line. As it was not crowded and the lines were short, I said no,  I would come back later. But it came out “la-la-la-later”. He commented, “la-la-la-later, huh? Ha, ha” (or something like that). I couldn’t believe this. I had to say something.

I said, “You know, people who stutter sometimes repeat their words”. He said, “sorry, I couldn’t help it, I thought it was funny”.

I was stunned by this, but unsure of what more I could do. I had already “stuck up” for stutterers by acknowledging people who stutter repeat words. And there were people behind me, and I wasn’t sure how other stutterers would feel by me trying to take a stand here. It didn’t seem to be one of those battles that needed to be fought.

I took my drink and walked away. But I thought about it often since then. I did let the Friends director know about this in an email. I feel a bit guilty that I didn’t do more.

What would you have done?

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5 Responses to "What Would You Have Done?"

I think you did fine. People and their attitudes can not be changed over night.. Further, you sent an email to organizers and have written this post- what more could one ask? Even this much would be enough to change society if MANY MORE people did this much.. Well done!

You felt “stunned” by their ignorant behavior because you expected to be surrounded by people who understoond and accepted stuttering. This convention was supposed to be a safe haven in your mind maybe.

In my daily life, I constantly encounter those who think my stutter is funny, or offer “tips” on how to “correct” it. Sometimes I take the oppurtunity to educate them on speech disfluencies, other times I find the bitch within myself to offend them when I feel I have been offended.

Its true, you must pick your battles. In this case, don’t feel regret, instead remember to react next time.

You are a woman that stutters? Sometimes I too want so much to embarrass someone publicly if they have embarassed me. A couple of times I have called and spoken with managers when a customer service person has been just totally out of line.
One person even offered to consider firing the offender.
I would probably feel guilty if that happened. :)

I have been thinking about this and I am shocked that he said that because this was a FRIENDS conference. That’s the last thing I would have expected. I really am not sure what I would have done in that situation, especially because I’ve never had someone mock my stuttering to my face before. I think after he said, “I thought it was funny.” I may have said no, it’s really not funny and learn some manners.

I would contact Friends. There should be a formal complaint from them, as well as several informal complaints from their members. I wouldn’t provide enough detail to get someone identified and fired for what is, unfortunately, a typical attitude in our society, but I would include enough that they know which department needs additional training.

Normally, this sort of activism can be an endless energy drain. Yes, it’s worth it, but not 24/7. In this case, however, they received a great deal of business from the convention. Also, it is supposed to be a safe haven for the members, some of whom are trying public stuttering for the first time.

Does Friends (or another group) have a flyer or website with quick video that they can use for in-house training? If so, include that with the complaint.

In this case, you’re not just standing up for yourself, you’re standing up for everyone at the convention, and showing the kids and parents how to do it for themselves.

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