What surprised me most about living in Washington, DC

By Stephanie Delateur| June 21, 2019

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I have been living in Washington, DC for almost a month. I am having the time of my life; there is always so much to do and see. I have a list of places I want to visit and it seems like my list keeps growing. However, what makes living here more pleasant is the positive interactions I have had with strangers and their reactions to my stutter.

(Photo by Ally Skrzypczak)

Living in Southern California, talking to strangers is stressful. While I am stuck on a letter or word, my mind is running a million miles an hour in a panic trying to get the word out before whoever is listening decides to say something, whether rude or respectful. Sometimes, I cannot say what I am trying to say quickly enough and I have to listen to some obnoxious comment before I have to kindly, but firmly, tell the person I stutter and I know what I am trying to say, or something to that effect. Then, I need to watch the look of embarrassment or shame on the face of the stranger as they either apologize or try to walk back what they just said, or a mixture of the two.

On the other hand, living here thus far has been the complete opposite compared to California. Not once have I had to listen to someone’s rude comment or reaction. If I am having a hard time, I stop and explain my situation to whoever I am speaking with, and they act like they did not care in the first place. For instance, I had passed the bag inspection in the National Archives, and I was nervous asking a question to the security guards. I explained to one of them that I stutter and he said something like “It runs in my family, so I understand.” To my knowledge, no one has ever said anything like that to me in my hometown. I was relieved and pleasantly surprised to meet someone who has had more than one encounter with someone who stutters. The anxiety I was having earlier lessened and I was able to explain my question to the guard.

Another positive experience I had was on the subway coming home. It was pretty packed, so I had to stand. A tall man was next to me, but I did not pay any attention to him. I do not remember how we started talking, but he started talking to me–just to be friendly, I am sure–and he asked me for my name. Lately, it has been difficult to say my first name; it is usually not difficult. I was having a hard time, so I had to stop, explain that I stutter, and keep going. He did not mind. He then began inquiring about my stutter and asked if I had tried various methods for treatment. I was polite and answered his questions. He told me I had good etiquette despite my stutter, which I appreciated. No stranger in California, as far as I know, has inquired about my stutter and tell me I have good manners.

Even though my experiences talking to strangers has not, for the most part, been pleasant in California, that does not mean I do not like living there. I was born and raised in California and it will always be my home. However, it is comforting to be in a region where strangers seem to be more understanding are not quick to address my stutter.

I am not saying I will never meet someone who is rude or disrespectful, but I am pleased with the strangers I have met and I hope I continue to have these kinds of amicable exchanges for the duration of my stay.

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