I recently made a trip to Mt. Baker, near Bellingham, WA, with some friends. Four of us made the trip down for some skiing. Heading down to the United States obviously means we need to cross the Canada/USA border. I am taking a pretty safe bet here that most of us have come face-to-face with the border patrol on either side of the country (i.e leaving or entering). I really, really dread these kinds of situations because they make me incredibly nervous. When you look at me and you think about what I am travelling for there really shouldn’t be much to be nervous about: I am a pretty average guy, I am a student, we’re travelling to the United States for an incredibly legitimate reason, I am not smuggling any drugs, weapons, illegal paraphernalia, or counterfeit concert t-shirts across the border; yet I still hear my heart beating in my chest and my mouth dries up. (If you’ve read any of my blogs or know what this blog pertains to you can assume that I am going to talk about my stutter here, and you would be right, but just follow along and see where I am going with all this). So why was I so nervous? Well let me explain:
I have a stutter. I know I have a stutter. The people in the car know I have a stutter. You all know I have a stutter. But I think it is safe to assume that the guy protecting the United States from illegal things and big bad scary people from coming into his country has likely never read this blog, I don’t have “stutterer” written on my passport, nor am I wearing a big sign around my neck. So here is my dilemma that I face: what if I stutter, like I always do, but the border patrol mistakes my stammering and fumbling speech as a “red flag” and decides to pull me to the side and question me further. Now, if I can kindly ask you to return your eyeballs from the upward circular direction they may be in right now, let me assure you that I am well aware of how ridiculous and irrational this fear is. The odds of anything like that happening are a million to one, but like most fears we have, it still exists despite the irrationality factor.
So how does my illogical fear contribute to my stutter?
Well, simply put, my fear feeds my stutter and my stutter feeds my fear. I am nervous that if I stutter on my answer to “Why are you travelling to the United States?” the officer will take it as a sign that I may be lying, and that, clearly, frightens me a little bit. Because I am afraid that the officer might come to that conclusion I am obviously more nervous than I normally am, and being nervous affects my speech, in a negative manner. So my likelihood of stuttering has increased and therefore the likelihood of the officer thinking I am transporting illegal drugs across the border has subsequently increased (at least in my own head).
If you are reading this, arms thrown in the air, thinking I am crazy, don’t worry, I know I am. I’m making it harder on myself to speak fluently by putting unlikely, far-fetched scenarios in my own way. But I do it anyway, and I really just wanted to share it with you all so we can laugh at it a little bit. If there is one thing I have learned through all of this it is that laughing at yourself is more important than we might think. So join me in laughing at how ridiculous it is that I think any border patrol officer is going to pull me over for stuttering on the words “We are going to go skiing“.
….But also let me say, if that ever does happens, I am going to hit you all up with the biggest “I TOLD YOU SO” blog post you have ever read.