Talk. Any Way You Can

Robert is ordering his lunch at McDonald.  Not without difficulties, desperate repetitions, and partially futile efforts to spell words “coke” and “fries” he managed to order chicken nuggets with fries and coke.  Now he has to ask for sweet and sour sauce.  He does ask.  A few times. But yet again, five syllables of, “Sweet and sour sauce.” are wrung into a knot  of one undecipherable sound.  I suggest spelling and Robert starts,  “S, w, e..”.    The young woman at the register doesn’t make a connection.  She repeats “s” and “w”, but still doesn’t know what Robert wants.  Robert spells again.  This time  he adds something new.  As he spells, his fingers seem to write the letters in the air.  The young woman has an idea.  She gives Robert paper and a pen.  Robert writes “sweet” .  Now she knows.  She gives Robert one tiny box of the sauce.  Very loudly and clearly Robert protests “TWO, TWO, TWO”.  He gets two packets , grabs them, and leaves.

The strange thing was that Robert was happy.  I expected him to be irritated, stressed, even humiliated.  The process of ordering simple meal took so long, so much effort, so many trials, and so many misunderstanding that it had to be draining.   I am not sure if it was worth to force Robert to order by himself.  At some point I even told him that if he doesn’t order by himself we would have to leave McDonald without eating.  I am not proud of myself, although the effect of that mean warning had two positive consequences. On one hand it convinced Robert that he couldn’t turn to me for help in ordering and so he doubled his efforts.  On the other hand, the young employee felt much more empathy toward Robert.  Not only he had difficulties speaking but also had a mean person with him.  So she decided to help him tell her what he wanted. She, too, doubled her efforts.

I felt confused, humiliated, and guilty but Robert was happy!  Why?

Because he managed without my help?

Because he was proud of the way he pretended to write ?

Because someone on the other side of the counter made an extra effort at communicating with him by giving him a pen and paper?

Or maybe  he was just glad that the ordeal was over and he got his chicken nuggets, fries, coke, and  two packets of sweet and sour sauce.

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