COLUMN: Stammering through to observe the niceties

Unexplained pauses feel odd, but when your face sours and your hands make desperate gestures, things can get a little weird.

I hate it when my stutter gets the better of me.

It’s a recurring nuisance that fails to dwindle with the passing of time. It arises when most inconvenient, leaving me with a pair of sweaty palms and an awkward silence.

Unexplained pauses feel odd, but when your face sours and your hands make desperate gestures, things can get a little weird.

Though it is a subtle attribute – my stutter – the results are anything but mild.

The other day, a barista, with pen poised and ready to scribble on the cup, asked for my name. It was my time to shine. Unfortunately, I’m all too aware of how difficult it is to pronounce my name on the spot, especially with the barista throwing lazy, half-hearted daggers at me.

Nonetheless, the spotlight persevered. Voilà, the grand entrance. Meet my stutter, lazy barista.

Picture this: my mouth opens optimistically, but is left hanging like I’ve somehow managed to zone out.

And what is worse is the pity as the eyes retreat to the side. Thank you, dear barista, for offering me such merciful sympathy. I am awfully grateful to blabber on clumsily as though you haven’t noticed.

Talk about humiliating.

The voice in my head is exceptionally capable in saying – screaming – my name, hollering the three syllables with such desperation that I seriously contemplate the likelihood of telepathy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m comfortable with people. Even with my stutter looming over my shoulders, I find it within myself to shrug it off.

A chain of unintelligible words isn’t about to discourage me from public interaction – much less ordering a coffee, thank you very much.

Because, as we all must know, talking to strangers can be wonderfully revitalizing: Who could this person possibly be, strolling along the sidewalk? Where do they hope to be in, say, 20 years? Do they think Crocs are the most hideous shoes invented, or are they content in adorable frog-looking feet?

I offer a smile, but, in return, receive a pair of retreating eyes. They swerve to a boring, unimpressive street lamp – and that’s without my stutter.

I wonder why this is, why people have become content with silence and dodging eye-contact. I’m told there is a growing lack of connection. Compared to the good ol’ days of VCRs and quality service (ouch, burn), society has crippled into an introverted shell of communal disinterest.

Still, keep in mind the reasons why your fellow passerby is, well, just that: a passerby. Perhaps it’s due to mildly self-demoralizing struggles – such as a stutter – or a fear of making eye contact, or their mind is occupied with to-do lists and whatever they ate for breakfast.

Or, perhaps, they simply don’t care.

Regardless, it can be uncomfortable opening up to strangers. Many have no problem displaying information on Facebook, yet the idea of personally acknowledging each other seems excessive.

Stutter or no stutter, it makes sense to summon the effort. In fact, if you ask me – or any other delinquent teenager who secretly longs for moments of real-world interaction – a summoned smile or chirped greeting can go a long way.

It’s the little things in life that make it so extraordinary, after all – even if that little thing is sputtered into irregular clips of incomprehensible sounds.

And, hey, moments ago, a pleasant stranger took on the task of opening the door for me and, heaven forbid, presented a smile. An amiable chat unfolded and, as brief as it was, it sparked that little extra something that makes life more enjoyable.

“How has your day been, young lady?”

“Absolutely wonderful. And yours?”

And guess what: I didn’t even stutter.

Emily Fenton, a Grade 11 student at Earl Marriott Secondary, spent last week on a work-placement program with Peace Arch News.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service to begin public consultation late June, early July

Community input, chief constable says, ‘will occur’

Surrey RCMP reunited three stolen puppies with their mom. (RCMP handout)
Puppies stolen from South Surrey home located, reunited with mom

Surrey RCMP said they found the stolen puppies on April 16

Welcome to your park sign marks the spot where 84th Avenue will continue east from King George Boulevard 
to 140th Street as part of a $13 million road project. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Road Rage: Opposition mounts anew to Surrey’s plan for 84 Ave. at south end of Bear Creek Park

Same place, same project, same fight as Surrey prepares once again to connect 84th Avenue between King George and 140th Street in Newton

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

John Wekking, Merritt Road Report - Facebook
 Coquihalla Road Report
Wildfire sparks off Coquihalla in Merritt

The wildfire is located near the Dollarama off of Highway 5

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read