What It’s Like Being Mute

Suddenly, I am mute, not just a little hoarse or croaky. Yesterday, I was giving a shotgunning lesson and had a really deep voice, like I get at Marlin University talking to students over the engine noise for four days. Somewhere along the hour-long drive from Indian River Trap and Skeet to my home in Stuart, listening to sports radio and not talking at all, my voice went away. Gone. Nada. I can barely whisper.

I had my flu shot for the first time in at least 15 or 20 years. I do not feel sick.
A few days ago I noticed a slightly runny nose, which lasted for two or three days, early mornings only, maybe one tissue's worth when I first woke up. Two days ago I felt congested and coughed up a little clear phlegm; there was no color to it like what happens with a cold. I could not get rid of it right away, and a postnasal drip turned into a bronchial infection that needs antibiotics. I took some psuedoephedrine, a nasal decongestant, for a couple of days, which helped the runny nose but not the cough.

Yesterday, by the time I got home, I wasn't even trying to talk; it was too uncomfortable and no real sound would come out. I could whisper very softly, very close to Erin's ear, and we could communicate, but the dog paid no attention. "Come," "Stay," and "Let's go," which we had gotten down pat, no longer existed. Erin and I had a typical dinner, watched some TV and read a book (Killing Lincoln is great!).

When I got up to make coffee and cereal with blueberries and strawberries, I remembered we were out of milk. When I went to get gas, go through the carwash and buy the milk, I quickly realized my life had changed, hopefully for not too long. Going mute in your 60s changes things.

I opted for a car wash, but the big machine was closed. Voiceless, I went into the 7-Eleven office to get back the $7.50 I had spent with my credit card. I had to have the entire gas and wash charge refunded to the card and then repay for the gas only. Trying to whisper to the cute and very helpful cashier, I couldn’t help but notice the fast-growing line of day workers piling up behind me.

A mini cross section of workers from several Latin American countries was fidgeting behind me while I whispered to the cute girl, with no way to tell the men behind me why there was such a delay, and I had no way to apologize for their inconvenience.

Getting the milk went pretty easily; my whispers were sufficient to get by.

I had a lot of work to do for Dave Ferrell, but there was no way I could ask or answer questions on the phone. I have become dependent on my voice-recognition software and even enjoy some of its screw-ups ("pump a net" for Pompanette and Aaron for Erin), but that is now gone. No phone or voice texting for "God only knows" how long. I can whistle through my teeth, but Erin never did get two different cadences, with up-and-down head shakes for "yes" and sideways head shakes for "no."

I have never in my entire life had to yell “Help!” At most, maybe holler “Hey, give me a hand here!” But knowing I cannot yell for help changes things. I decided not to attack the invasive Brazilian pepper trees with my chainsaw today! I might not go out in my flats boat alone just before dark. What the hell, why not? I can always take a flashlight and attract help with dit dit dit da da da dit dit repeated in groups of three, which is Morse code for SOS, and then write notes on a pad and paper when help arrives.

As I think about it more, I realize the cell phone could still be handy. I can write a text message (hunt and peck style) and then try to call someone. If they answer, I will hang up really quickly and send the text message, which will include the code: one short whistle for no; two short whistles for yes. I will write the one-and-two-whistle code down and see if I can get Erin to let me use it.

More blogging soon. Don’t call me; I will text you.

Good fishing,

Peter B.