“So what do I do if I want to buy a bottle of wine?” the customer asks me.
“To have in *hey* or *hey* take away?” I ask.
“You just literally *hey* take it to the till and *hey* pay for it there,” I say. “Sorry, I have Tourette’s. I don’t mean to say *hey* all the time.”
“Oh, do you?” the customer says. “I wish I had Tourette’s.”
He says this laughing, presumably because he thinks what he’s said is funny. And I laugh too. Not because I think what he’s just said is funny, but because I am serving him, and that’s what you do when you serve people: you laugh at their jokes regardless of whether or not they are actually funny.
Presumably, the customer equates Tourette’s with swearing, likes to swear, and wouldn’t mind getting away with some more profanity in his life.
But coprolalia – the compulsion to say socially unacceptable words and phrases – is quite rare amongst people with Tourette’s. It’s a small part of a largely unfunny and totally unsweary (not a word) condition.
For instance, this week, I’m punching walls and kicking cupboards. My hand is red and swollen and painful and my knees keep on buckling when I try to walk. This is affecting my communication and mobility, but on top of this, my Tourette’s is also affecting my vision, because my eyes are rolling, darting and shutting of their own volition.
But the customer’s reaction is so familiar that I’m not even frustrated or surprised by it. In truth, it took me only a few weeks of having Tourette’s to realise that, for many people, Tourette’s just isn’t a disability, it’s a punchline, and when people hear a punchline, they laugh.