Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shpeech Impediment

Like many kids I had a speech impediment. Mine caused me to put a "sh" sound in front of a lot of words. Like shpeech, and shishter, and shtomach. I was a very sad -- shad -- kid most of the time. The same imperfection also caused me to end a lot of words with the same "sh" sound. "Was" sounded like "wuzh"; "mess" came out "mesh".

Most little kids have a hard time with some words and sounds, but usually outgrow the impediment as their brain gains control over tongue and vocal cords. Most adults treat it as some kind of funny, adorable childhood "thing" and go to great lengths to preserve the memory of it for a lifetime. Thank god there were no video cameras when I was growing up. I never outgrew my speech problem.

Children can be very cruel to kids who are different, and handicapped children are their constant target; low-hanging fruit is the easiest to pick. Sadly, adults can be just as cruel.

I spent as little time talking as I could get away with. Some of my teachers were sympathetic and patient, and would scold the kids who tormented me. This soothed none of the pain, I only remember them now because they weren't part of the problem. As I got older, the adorable nature of my speech impediment morphed into something repellent; adults became very impatient with me. Many did little to hide their disgust, some turned to intentional cruelty.

When I turned 16 I somehow landed a job at a fast food restaurant. The drive-thru speaker systems back then were crappy and made understanding what was being said quite difficult at times. Any of you my age remember this well.

As my bad luck would have it, some mean-spirited manager thought it would be a laugh-riot to have me man the drive-thru. I don't need to tell you how difficult it was for drive-thru customers to understand me saying things like "sheezeburgersh" or "pepshi" or "shmall friezh" through a garbled speaker. I only lasted half the shift; tears, humiliation, and my first thoughts of suicide followed me home.

I visited many doctors and speech therapists. I even went to a shrink for a while to deal with my increasing emotional trauma; none of it helped enough to matter. After years of being ridiculed, talked about behind my back, losing jobs or not even getting jobs, and debilitating loneliness, I took control of my life.

Inventions and modern conveniences like text messaging, instant messenger, email, and blogs helped solidify my decision.

At age 40 I got good and drunk, took a bunch of pills on top of the booze, got my pliers and a really sharp knife, and cut out my tongue. Honestly, I don't know why I didn't think of this years ago. I nearly bled to death, but it was worth it. My silent voice doesn't have a speech impediment.

5 comments:

  1. Got any pictures?

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  2. Thank you for reading Speech Impediment. This is entered into a great writing contest and if you liked this story you should go vote for it at:

    http://www.thegirlwho.net/journal/2009/10/29/the-great-experiment-childhood-memory.html

    Only one vote per person, please. I don't want to be disqualified.

    Thanks, even if you don't vote for me, and even if you vote for someone else.

    Digital Bath

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  3. AH! My roommate from college had a stutter, and also worked at a fast food place as a teen. She was working the register and was trying to call out "wwhhaaawhwhwhaaa-opper" when she remembered what her speech therapist suggested: think of a word that's easy to say, then think of that word as you find yourself stuttering... and that's when she ordered the customer a ~melon~.

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  4. I think all the not talking helped make you a a great writer.

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