Today Ellen has a bad cold, her nose is blocked and she has a slight temperature. Unlike most people, she is delighted to be unwell. Being ill means that she can’t go to respite this evening and has to stay at home – heaven as far as she is concerned.
The fact that she is under the weather also means that most of my carefully laid plans for our activities today have had to be put on hold. They all centred around a need for me to practise scaffolding – instead of speaking for her, I try and support Ellen in answering for herself. This is all very well in theory, but I find that even chanting ‘scaffolding, scaffolding, scaffolding’ to myself as we enter a shop doesn’t stop me from butting in. I need practise.
Luckily even unwell, Ellen is happy to force down a McDonalds. For me, McDonalds isn’t just a vegetarian’s nightmare, it also represents a brilliant opportunity for Ellen to practise speaking to someone she doesn’t know, as she is motivated to participate – if she gets it right she gets a burger and chips!
The McDonalds we visited today was quiet, in fact there was only one person serving, a young girl who looked very sympathetic and welcoming. Unfortunately for us, just as we got to the front of the queue, a young lad suddenly jumped on the till next to her.
‘Who’s next’ he called. Here is a transcript of the conversation.
Ellen: (mumbling) plain hamburger.
I say nothing, server looks blank. I raise my eyebrows at Ellen, she looks at me.
Me: Say it again, he didn’t hear.
Ellen: (getting annoyed) she said plain hamburger.
Server still looks blank. (For God’s sake I think, make an effort!)
Me: Say it again
Ellen: (even more annoyed) I said – a plain hamburger.
Server: a plain hamburger yeah? (Hallelujah!)
Server: Anything else?
Server looks blank again. I look at Ellen and raise my eyebrows.
Ellen: (louder) chips.
Server: and fries yeah?
Ellen: And water
Server again looks blank (he’s good at this)
Me: Say it again loudly
Ellen: She said water.
Server: A water as well yeah?
Me: Yes, and what about for me?
Ellen: A coffee
Me: Yes a cappuccino
Server: And a cappuchino?
Me: Yes: (If they’d served gin and tonic I would have ordered one at this point)
Server: Anything else?
Me: That’s it.
Server: So that’s a plain hamburger, fries, a water and a cappuccino? Eating in?
Me: Are we eating in?
Pause – eventually Ellen shakes her head.
And finally, painfully we get to the end. We haven’t even begun to start on the payment part of the transaction yet – let alone manners! Ellen’s tone throughout was a cross between Basil Fawlty and Marvin the paranoid android.
Listening back to the conversation I notice that although I start quite well with the scaffolding, I very quickly take the lead again as Ellen fails to respond in time (or what I perceive to be ‘in time’). In fact, the whole conversation was 1 minute and 6 seconds and there was no one waiting behind us, so why did I feel this ridiculous need to speed her along?!
Over dinner tonight we’ve had lots of family fun practising being the servers at McDonalds and taking Ellen’s order. It’s amazing the numbers of ways you can do it, and the variety of voices, although that blank vacant look may take a little longer to master….