So, something occurred to me today. I had never given a large amount of thought to what it’s like to be mute in society built for people who speak and hear. I’ll never really understand, because it’s not something I live with every day, but for better part of the last week, I’ve had no voice.
And no one seems to know how to communicate with me.
I can see, and I can hear, I just don’t have a voice. I’ve carried a notebook and a marker so that I can write things that require more than a yes, or a no, or the point of a finger.
The waiter at Chili’s thought it was funny that I wrote everything down, but he really didn’t seem to mind that I couldn’t talk to him. My doctor (the one treating the loss of my voice–if you’ve never had to have an anti-inflammatory shot for your voice box, be glad–did pretty well, he struggled a bit, because he was asking questions faster than I could write down my answers, but for the most part, he did fine.
My boss has enjoyed that I can’t speak because I can’t argue with him or speak to him at all, everything he’s gotten has been nods of the head or hand motions, and that’s fine with him. I work third shift and only deal with people for the last two hours that my store is open. Most of my co-workers have just rolled with the fact that I can’t talk. But the customers? They have no idea what to do.
They’ve reacted in a million ways, and rarely have they been positive. Some of them get angry and tell me I shouldn’t be there because I’m no good to them, even though I’m still more than able to listen to what they need and show them how to get it. Some of them been irritated, but mostly willing to deal with me. And some of them have been downright hateful, throwing their hands up and walking away from me.
My boss has gotten complaints from people all week, saying I shouldn’t be allowed to work in customer service if I can’t speak to customers, or questioning why I’m not being sent home because obviously I must be sick.
And I can’t help but wonder what it’s like for people that live this way every day.
I wrote a piece once, called ‘Building for (Dis)Ability’, about deaf people living in a world that isn’t designed for the way them communicate. I thought a lot about people that cannot see or hear, in doing my research for that piece. But, I never thought about people that can’t speak.
It’s horribly inconvenient and I have so much more empathy for people living without their voices.