Miami is known for many things but not for its cold weather. But wouldn’t you know it? The one weekend we decide to go camping (the third of my entire life) Miami was bracing for its coldest weekend of the winter. The temperatures were going to drop to the low 40s which is freezing for folks like me. My Miami friends on Facebook would post “camping? Brrrrr.” Yet my boys were so excited we decided to go ahead with it. What the heck!
It turned out to be a gorgeous weekend, the boys rode their bikes all day long and we tried to keep warm as best we could, the four of us snuggled together in our tent (above). I don’t know much about camping, nor about getting sick. I am not sure if what I got was laryngitis, if that is a virus or bacteria or if you even get it when it’s cold. All I know is that by Tuesday there was no sound coming from my vocal chords and my friends enjoyed taking small playful jabs at me while I couldn’t retort.
It’s awful not to have a voice, especially if I have no other tools of communicating (sign language, etc.). I couldn’t teach that day, I was the assistant. I heard “huh?” or “what?” more often than anything else. I couldn’t call my kids to dinner from the kitchen because they couldn’t hear me from their room down the hall. I couldn’t speak on the phone. I did call my mom who said, “Wow, I can’t hear a word you are saying I guess we have to talk tomorrow.” It was incredibly, ridiculously, frustrating.
Most of all though, I felt misunderstood. I would try to tell a story, and would give up because no one could really understand me. I would comment on a discussion with my peers, and since they couldn’t understand me after a while it just wasn’t worth the effort to keep trying to tell them my point of view.
That night, there was a Village Council (equivalent of a City Council) meeting. I am a founding member of Bike Key Biscayne and we are involved in a crisis. It concerns the Bear Cut bridge that connects Key Biscayne (an island) to mainland Miami. And much like the song, the bridge is falling down. How to fix it has become the single most important topic for this community and one generating quite a stir. The Miami Dade side wants to fix the bridge, and most Key Biscayne residents want a new one. Of course it is a lot more complicated then that and the meeting that night was very contentious where Miami’s Mayor Gimenez was explaining his actions while several high-powered Key residents argued vigorously against him. In the midst of this battle during the public comments I had the brilliant idea to turn a paper in and ask to speak. All I wanted to say was if I had a choice I would like a new bridge, but not the suggested one with an overpass turning the causeway into a highway but one that focuses on how to use this beautiful environment we live in to promote health over speed. We don’t need to cut our commute time by five minutes at the expense of beauty, bicycles and pedestrians.
I was totally intimidated and regretted my actions about two seconds after I saw the blue paper with my name on it make it to the Mayor’s hands. And when I was called I realized not only was I nervous, but no one was going to be able to hear me.
This is me addressing the council with Mayor Gimenez behind trying to figure out what the heck I am saying!
Fortunately, the one thing I am learning as a bicycle advocate is that I cannot take anything personally and that no matter what I do or say, some people will think I am smart while some will think I am crazy and both can be sitting at the same table. So whatever.
But the feeling of not being heard; of not being able to communicate lingered on. As a teenager, and I am sure no one can relate to this, there was a world that existed inside my head much different than the real world. I watched everything, measured everything, I was tortured by my ego. I was so self-conscious that I lacked any spontaneity. So much had to be processed and analyzed before I uttered a thought that I ended up being a quiet girl. I wouldn’t speak much. Not because I didn’t have something to say but the effort of conveying it correctly “to make you think that I was what I wanted you to think that I was”, was just too darn tiring. Thank goodness I grew up. Thank goodness I am a happy, healthy, forty year old woman who is not afraid of making a mistake, who can say something wrong and not be mortified for more than five minutes and who says yes to camping on the coldest weekend of our winter. Even if that means losing my voice.