Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Words fail me
People keep telling me that they can't imagine what it's like to not have a voice.
Eh, it's not so bad.
Some days I pretend I'm the star of a modern-day Aesop's Fable. The twist is that instead of being an animal gifted with the power of speech I'm a human stripped of the ability to talk. Some day, while walking in the woods, I'll encounter a snake or a chicken or a fox speaking with my old voice, and after the lil' critter delivers the moral of the fable, I'll get my voice back.
Other days, I imagine that I'm living out an episode of the Twilight Zone in which an evil dummy turns the tables on a ventriloquist by capturing his voice. I'm just waiting for Rod Serling to pop up and put this whole ordeal into perspective.
Whatever coping mechanism I may choose to use on any given day, I try to not let speechlessness get in the way of communication.
Between notepads, text messages and blogging, I get by. You'll never see Strother Martin take a look at me, shake his head and say "What we got here is a failure to communicate."
Besides, isn't the lesson of the Susan Boyle saga that voices are overrated? Didn't the U.K. singing sensation just lose first place in the "Britain's Got Talent" competition to a group of speechless dancers?
Last Wednesday, I really outdid myself in circumventing my communication limitations.
In the middle of the workday, one of my buddies on AIDS/LifeCycle 8, the 561-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, sent a text message to my phone.
At that point, my buddy was somewhere between Paso Robles, the campsite for the third day of the ride, and Santa Maria, the site of campsite for Day 4. "Need your help in booking a hotel 4 Sat near the closing ceremonies at the VA," he wrote.
Immediately, the chorus of voices in my head began to protest. "How are you going to call around town to find a hotel room with no voice?" the voices said. "Every hotel room in a 10-mile radius is bound to be booked!" And: "That's crazy!"
I punched the Reply key and start to type a message explaining I couldn't possibly pull off a stunt like that without having a voice.
Before hitting Send, however, I set down the phone and hopped online.
First I went to Mapquest to look at the streets surrounding the site of the closing ceremonies. Then I typed a ZIP code and the word "hotel" in Google. That produced a list of hotels in West Los Angeles. I got the name of a few and went to one of those internet travel booking services.
In a matter of minutes, I found a hotel room less than one mile from the VA and booked it under my buddy's name. Then I sent him the address and the confirmation number by text.
Three days later, I gave my buddy a lift from the closing ceremonies to the hotel and walked with him to the desk. He had just ridden a bicycle more than 500 miles and hadn't slept on a mattress indoors in seven days.
I set down my buddy's sleeping bag on the floor and laid the printout of the confirmation on the counter.
The desk clerk studied it for a moment and handed it back. "Sir," he said, "this confirmation is for yesterday."
I banged my head on the counter so hard that it got a Richter reading.
Luckily, the hotel still had a room available for the night, so my buddy got to sleep on a bed and soak his tired muscles in a bathtub.
But something tells me I wouldn't have made this mistake if I had booked the room over the phone while talking with someone who knew what he was doing, rather than by using Priceline.
So if you should happen to run into Aesop or Rod Serling, tell them I'm ready to get my old voice back. I'm tired of giving the world the silent treatment.