When stuttering comes in handy

Have you ever been pulled over by one of these?

stuttering police officer

Imagine pulling up to the lock your bike outside a bar, slipping your helmet-hair free, and looking down to see a motorized tricycle cruising up next to you.

‘ID please’

Blank look.

‘Driver’s license please’

For my bike?

‘This is an English license’

Indeed, it is.

‘Do you know the American rules of the road?’

All of them? ‘Drive on the right, stop at red lights…’

‘Do you know that bikes are meant to ride on the road, not the sidewalk?’

In the resulting silence, he strenuously copies down information from my license to a ticket pad. In saner moments, I may have agreed that yes, bikes should do a better job of sticking to the rules. Yet, when it dawns on me that he is going to charge me for the 5 feet of pavement that I rode along to lock up my bike on a signpost, I’m not sure if I should laugh, scream or roll my eyes.

He gets bored of waiting for an answer, ‘I have a mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmotorbike and I can’t just pull up and d d d d d drive on the sidewalk whenever I please can I?’

He stutters. It shocks me for a moment. It pushes away the anger, “No, no you can’t. I won’t d d d d d do it again.’

I don’t stutter on purpose, I don’t do it to get his sympathy. And yet, it changes something.

I think about mentioning the National Stuttering Association, or even my book, but the moment isn’t right. It might look like I’m pushing my luck.

He lets me off, with a warning, and the bar buys me a round on the house.

4 thoughts on “When stuttering comes in handy

  1. Love it! I often wonder that myself when I meet someone else who stutters, “should I or shouldn’t I” say something?
    You never know if the other person will appreciate the shared disclosure of something so personal, or get offended.
    I’m glad you didn’t get a ticket – that would have been quite absurd!

    • Indeed it may have been a tad absurd. How often do you say something when you randomly meet someone else who stutters? Definitely a tricky one to judge.

  2. Stupidly, I was driving after having one too many drinks many years ago. Got pulled over for speeding. The cop smelled alcohol on my breath, asked me to step out of the car and began peppering me with questions. I stuttered and stammered right out of the gate and could see the cop was puzzled. He didn’t know how to read someone who stutters.

    I quickly told him I stutter and he quickly put me through the paces of doing the requisite drunk-driver balancing poses. Thankfully, I passed all the poses and he let me on my way. (The real reason I passed those balancing poses was from my years practicing off-balance basketball shots. Phew.)

    I can’t help but think my stutter saved me from something awful. Odd. Sad. But, true story.

    • John – Thanks for sharing. I think ‘puzzled’ is a great way of describing many people’s reaction when they hear someone stutter for the first time. Relieved that years of stuttering, and basketball, saved you from something awful.

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