I once worked for a company (not naming and shaming, it’s not very professional) and I was doing breakdowns over weekends, at 1st on a regular basis then ended up just covering for others who were on the rotation (I was taken off the rotation, keep reading you will find out why) then stopped completely. I felt victimised and disrespected.
I loved doing breakdowns (not mental breakdowns, vehicle breakdowns) it made me feel awesome knowing I was going out on the road to, hopefully, fix a truck and help keep a customer on the road and earning money. I also felt professional turning up in a breakdown van to a stranded truck and driver in need of help.
Ok so I was covering the breakdown van on a regular basis, mostly over some weekends. then it got to the point when I was told I’m no longer allowed to do breakdowns. Then when one person couldn’t do the breakdowns for a certain reason or other, I was asked again to cover the breakdown van for the weekend, but after the weekend I was told once again I’m not allowed to again. There was a complaint every time I’d cover for the weekend.
Let me tell you why, you ready for this? Let’s start by saying it was the breakdown assist people (not what they are called but to not cause any trouble, I’ll say breakdown assist, the people who call up the technician to tell them there’s a breakdown, where it is located and what the problem is). Anyway they were the ones complaining about me at the time, every time. here is the reason why, because of my stutter, yes you read that correctly.
After a weekend of me covering, I’d get to work Monday morning happy as Larry thinking I’d done good and happy I’d helped people in many ways, like keeping customers trucks running, helping drivers get home to their families and also getting trucks fixed to avoid traffic congestion (yes that is what we do, not many people realise technicians help a lot of people get home to their families not just the driver of a broken down truck).
To my dismay the people who I called (the breakdown assist people) had called my boss on many occasions while I’d covered the van, to tell him they couldn’t understand me because of my stutter ect. other things were said (I was later told) like they think it’s unprofessional to have someone on the breakdown van who can’t talk properly, or communicate efficiently.
To this my then boss would call me into the office, and told me that I can no longer cover the breakdown van when the person on the rotation can’t do it for any reason, and this is the same reason they took me off the rotation. So that was the end of me doing breakdowns over weekends.
He told me why and it completely gutted me, it made me feel inches tall and ashamed. Also made me feel like shit, which then caused me to doubt myself and my abilities and made my stutter a lot worse at the time. This also caused me to realise something that still makes me wander and realise even today, yes I do have a stutter and even though I do let it hold me back at times which I’m still working on, but other people will always let it make them hold me back too. For example, I may be a technician until retirement, I want to further my career and make something of myself, but I know full well others will look at me and think “because he stammers, he won’t ever be able to move up in the world because he can’t talk”,
In other words I may never be able to have the same chance as others to develop, maybe become a supervisor or manager, or even better climb that ladder and make something proper of myself. People will always assume because I can’t communicate like everyone else, I can’t do that job, I can’t become a manager or supervisor because I won’t be able to communicate with a customer or manage a workshop, I couldn’t become a sales representative because I can’t talk to sell anything.
That is the harsh reality, there is plenty or opportunities out there but not for someone like me, not because I’m scared to give it a go or because I can’t, I know I could it would just be different for me than it would for someone who’s more fluent in their talking. I couldn’t take a job like that because I’d be made to feel like I can’t do it or get point blank refused. You know why? because it’s easier for someone who can talk. It’s easier for companies to not have to train their people on how to deal with someone who’s got a speech impediment, it’s easier for their customers to understand someone with talking abilities. I mean pretty recently I was working somewhere (not naming company names as I said, remaining professional) and the opportunity to become a supervisor came along, the current supervisor at the time was moving depot (don’t ask, a lot of weird stuff happened and he got flaky) and there was a standing in supervisor in charge for a couple weeks, and then the advert of the supervisor job came up, I left it a while but the lads said to me I should go for it, so I eventually did, only to be told the standing in supervisor will be staying. Apparently I was too late, even though I knew the work layout and customer better than most, I was on friendly terms with the customer, and I always knew what was coming and going because I felt like I was pretty much doing the supervisor job anyway. Also when the supervisor was off on holiday I’d be asked to stand in and do supervisor things. So yeah, I hope I don’t sound sour, that’s totally not me ever, but I felt at the time that was personal to me. Maybe it wasn’t maybe it was I shall never know.
I’m a confident person, and I have a lot of charisma (now I do, not always been the case don’t get me wrong). I could run a garage or be a supervisor to a workshop full of lads, I may need training in doing so (but only to learn the ropes) but I’m a damn good learner and learn fast. I get people to respect me and love me, the lads I work with now all respect and love me. I could be a fantastic sales representative, I get along with everyone, and once I get talking and past the stammering stage I can fly through my words. I could sell snow to an Eskimo given the chance.
As a person who stammers I really don’t think I have the equal opportunity that able speakers do. It may never change but I hope it does, not just for me but for other people who stutter and think the way of the world holds them back.
My advise to my fellow stammerers, never ever let anyone or anything hold you back. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do this or you can’t do that. Never let anyone say that’s not the job for you because of communication purposes. Don’t be scared to make that phone call, don’t be scared to approach that person, don’t be afraid to go for that job interview, NEVER LET YOUR STUTTER CONTROL YOU OR DETERMINE YOUR LIFE FOR YOU.
My advise to companies and bosses and any other person who doesn’t stammer or understand a stammer, don’t underestimate a person who stammers, don’t fail us by judging us on our speech, don’t hold us back, because we can do amazing things, we may not be able to get our words out 100% of the time like you, but we have a brain and skills and holding us back may be the worse decision you could ever make. If you give us a chance we may shock you, and that chance may be the confidence boost we need to overcome our stammer. trust me all we need is that one opportunity that can change our life and your life and maybe even your company for the better, in amazing ways you could never dream of.
Remember we have a voice too.
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