Not having a voice, even temporarily, is a very strange and eye opening experience. We take our voices for granted and not just for speech. We make countless vocalisations throughout our days to communicate with other people.
From something as simple as an “uh-huh” to show you’re listening to a friend whilst she shares the latest trauma of her love life, to a muffled “F***” at work when something goes wrong (eliciting soothing response from the boss), to an “Oi! You!” to get someone’s attention the other side of the room.
We use our voices a lot, so when I’m without, as I am a lot at the moment thanks to a pair of vocal cords that for some reason no longer close properly – your guess is as good as the specialist at this point – I find myself baffled at the smallest tasks.
I can’t call across the office to tell someone they’ve got a call on the other line. I can’t respond to jokes the EDLO points in my direction. I can’t give the Boss Lady the quiet reassurance she needs to function – ok, she doesn’t need it, but she does seem to function better if on occasion she gets a “of course… yes… ok…”. I can’t easily pass messages on to other people. Yes, I can email/write them out, but what about when several members of the team are severely dyslexic and avoid the written word like it’s one of the biblical plagues? And what about when I want to ask my colleague who sits opposite me a question? Emailing doesn’t always get a straight response if she’s not looking at Outlook at that second and it just seems plain silly when she is sitting close enough to poke with a biro!
Don’t get me started on trying to book a hair appointment over the phone when you’re croaking like the whole cast of the Budweiser frog advert. Or how people look at you like you’re rude for not thanking them for holding lifts etc. One of the girls I work with is in a snit with me because I didn’t say hello when she popped in. I’m not rude! I just can’t talk!
I’ve had to farm off a chunk of my job (i.e., the phones) to colleagues. Thankfully everyone is very supportive and so I can do this, but it does give you a whole different appreciation to what it would be like to not interact vocally at all. I am at the point of putting a line in my email signature to the effect of “please respond via email if possible because I have no voice”
I like talking. I could gabble for Britain if you get me started on a topic I like and I’m with people I know/feel comfortable with. Having to consciously not talk is strange. I go to say something and have to stop myself because the whole “rest your voice” order from the doctor means I have to almost ration my words.
It has its good points I will admit. I’m getting more work done because I’m not answering the phones so I don’t have that constant distraction (though I almost miss not knowing what queries are flying through the ether). It is forcing me to think about what I have to say and sort my ideas out before I make a complete arse of myself. It’s given me an excuse to not engage certain people in conversation. I will admit, there are people in my day-to-day life who gabble even worse than me. They don’t find me a good conversationalist at the moment, so leave me alone. Woot!
The bit that bugs me most though? It’s very hard to flirt convincingly when you’re croaking pathetically. Not cute pathetically either, where the response elicited is “awww, come here and have a big hug and let me look after you…” No, my croak/squeak is getting me looks of “oh dear, just shoot her and put her out of her misery…”
I am lucky. My loss of voice isn’t permanent and I still have my hearing; most people who are mute are so because of hearing impairments, but it does make me doubly aware of the fact that writing really is how I connect with the world. On the internet, everyone can hear you scream.