Losing Your Voice
This past weekend I lost my voice. I wasn't sick. Rather, I
experienced "severe voice strain" from yelling quite loudly and
in a panic-stricken manner at our two large dogs, who were
having a violent fight over a tennis ball.
At first I was just yelling to try to get their attention and
make them stop trying to rip each other's throats out. But when
I saw blood, my yelling became louder, more hysterical, and high
pitched as I envisioned a new episode of MTV's "Celebrity Death
Match" between my two beloved pets.
My husband finally heard my cries of distress and, being the
TRUE alpha dog in this house, got between the dogs and broke up
But the damage was done. Evidently, sustaining that volume of
shrieking for more than 15 seconds can damage one's vocal cords.
For those of you who know me well, this was a catastrophic
event. It was similar in catastrophicity to a concert pianist breaking all of her fingers, or a
professional golfer ruining his favorite plaid pants.
My voice is my instrument. I am a talker by vocation, and rarely
a moment goes by when I don't exercise my gift. I even talk in
my sleep! So waking up on Saturday morning with absolutely NO
VOICE was no small matter. It was HUGE!
Yes, yes, for my husband it was a blessing, for which he still
hasn't stopped thanking God (even as my voice begins to return).
And yes, of course, it afforded me a unique opportunity to
practice the highly overrated "art of listening."
All of that is true. But for the most part, it was just an
enormous pain in the arse. However, I decided to make the best
of things, as I am wont to do, and in the process I learned a
few important lessons.
For instance, on an ironic but unimportant note, when people
find out that you can't speak, they tend to SHOUT at you. And
you, unable to speak, are thus rendered unable to remind them
that you aren't deaf, nor can you ask them to turn down the
volume a bit. Fascinating phenomenon, and quite annoying. All
you can do is smile and stick your fingers in your ears.
And if you try to whisper something to someone out of dire need
(which I later found out was a no-no ~ whispering evidently
strains the voice more than talking) then people have an
overwhelming desire to whisper back to you. It's contagious. And
kind of funny. Try it sometime.
One benefit of losing one's voice and only being able to speak
in a whisper is that everyone stops and pays close attention to
you, something I'm not used to even at the best of times. Even
when I had nothing particularly important to say, I could bring
an important, deep, spiritual conversation to a complete halt by
mouthing something to someone.
ME: xxxxx xxxx xxxx
BOB: Shhhhhh! SHE SPEAKS! SHE'S TRYING TO SPEAK! WHAT WAS THAT? TRY AGAIN!
ME: I like bacon.
Most importantly (and painfully) I discovered that while people
would never publicly ridicule a lame, deaf or blind person,
temporary mutes are evidently fair game. In other words, it's
politically correct to mock and ridicule a person who has lost
the ability to speak.
I was repeatedly and sniggeringly asked to "speak up" by friends
and colleagues who were well aware of my predicament, and yelled
at by the teenaged drive-thru worker at a local fast food
Okay, I'll give you that one. What was I doing in a Fast Food
Drive-Thru? Well, believe it or not, before I remembered that I
couldn't speak, I got myself boxed in by other cars in front of
the ordering box (one car in back of me, a line in front of me).
BOX: MAY I HAVE YOUR ORDER PLEASE?
ME: I'll have a xxxx with a xxxx, no
xxxx, and a xxxx, hold the xxxx.
ME: I'll have a xxxx with a xxxx, no xxxx, and a
xxxx, hold the xxxx.
BOX: I CAN'T HEAR YOU! CAN YOU PLEASE SPEAK UP!?
ME: I lost my xxxxx and I can't xxxxx. I'm so xxxxx. BOX:
Much to my embarrassment, a 16 year old with acne and a paper
hat came out of the back door of the place to see what the
problem was. By now the line in front of me is all but gone, and
the people behind me are glaring and wishing me dead, but it's
too late for me to sneak away.
KID: Ma'am is there a problem?
ME: YES! I lost my xxxxx and can't xxxxx xxxxx for you xx
ME: I -- lost -- my -- voice -- and -- can't -- talk -- any
KID: YOU LOST YOUR VOICE?
KID: AND SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOUR NOSE??
ME: I -- lost -- my -- voice ....
KID: YOU LOST YOUR VOICE AND YOU ARE TRYING TO
ORDER FOOD IN A DRIVE THRU.
KID: OKAY, MA'AM,
CAN YOU PLEASE PULL OVER TO THE SIDE AND LET THESE OTHER,
SPEAKING PEOPLE, CONTINUE ON THROUGH THE LINE AND WE'LL TAKE
CARE OF YOU OVER THERE.
I can't speak, and he's already directing the huge traffic jam
behind me like he's landing flights on the deck of an aircraft
carrier ~ so I can't explain to the little Nazi that I made a
mistake, that I got stuck in the line before I remembered I
couldn't talk. I can't tell him that I'll just leave and eat a
peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home wallowing in my shame.
No, I am stuck now, pulling over to the side of the line where
the people who have the nerve to order enough food for an entire
soccer team are banished, and where, much to my further
embarrassment, the manager (a 19 year old with acne and a paper
hat) walks purposefully over to my car with one of those plastic
picture-menus they use with people who can't read.
I dejectedly point at symbol for the burger with cheese, and
then make a stab at a large Coke. The manager SHOUTS the order
back at me to confirm it, I nod grimly, and then he SHOUTS how
much I owe him.
He returns a few minutes later with my food, and all but pats me
on the head before he walks back to rule his kingdom of speaking