Giving the World the Silent Treatment

My students have gotten used to the silent treatment that I have been giving them on and off for the past three weeks. You see, I have a bad case of laryngitis. My wife got a bug, then I got it, then she got it again, then I got it again. In hopes that we won’t share it any more, we have moved to opposite sides of the house. But who knows.

I’ve had laryngitis before that lasted a day or so. This is different, and I probably have myself to blame. I’ve been to the doctor twice. The second time she prescribed antibiotics, but both times she also prescribed that I keep talking to a minimum. Trouble is, the world doesn’t stop when you have a bug, and I am a college professor by trade. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I teach three classes, back to back. My voice works pretty well at the beginning of the first one, but by the time I reach the middle of the second one, I am down to a whisper. And I pity the poor students in my third class. The past two days my voice has gotten even worse, but I pressed on nevertheless, and I am paying the price for it.

This afternoon, I went to buy groceries at Wal-Mart and ran into lots of people I knew. But my voice was completely gone by then, so I waved and went on without as much as a whisper. The cashier didn’t seem to understand when I didn’t respond to her query as to how I was. I feel like one of those wooden Indians outside the barber shop. All I need is a clutch of cigars.

Last night was the worst. After a long day, I was up every hour with uncontrollable coughing. Finally I moved to the easy chair in the living room, where I spent the rest of the night sleeping sitting up.

But as a writer, I always try to find something I can learn from my predicaments. I got two lessons from this one.

1. Not being able to speak is very lonely. I was amazed how much I miss simply being able to have a casual conversation, especially with my wife. And because I am not really responding to her talking, she has stopped telling me about her day. It’s surprising how much you can miss something you didn’t think you would.

2. My academic life is built around multitasking, and as such, my mind is usually whirling by the time I get home. But I was surprised that my lack of talking actually gives me more opportunity to ponder things. I’ve always been one of those who spoke first and thought about it later. Turns out there is a side benefit of choosing your words carefully. Not only are you less likely to say things you’ll regret, but you will have more time to think about things if you keep your mouth shut.

In any case, I am hoping to be close to back to normal by Monday. Necessity really calls for it; I have classes and four interviews on my schedule.

In the meantime, I am giving the world the silent treatment.

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