I Wish I Had Tourette’s

liquor bottles on shelf

“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.

“Take away.”

“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.

How To Go Shopping

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

photo of woman holding white and black paper bags

I’m in a store which sells tasteful, Scandinavian gifts and homeware. Essential items like beard oil, boxes of salted liquorice, and decorative wooden elephants costing over one thousand pounds.

In this tranquil shop, full of tranquil people, browsing for tranquil things, my klazomania kicks in.

“Lemon!” I shout. “Lemon! Lemon! Lemon!”

The shouting really does jar with the store’s ambience. But, hey, people with Tourette’s need to buy beard oil too, and so I continue to meander through the rows of goods that I cannot afford.

It’s not long before I notice my shadow: a security man drawn to my citrusy speech. He watches me, approaches me, staying near but not that near, and never actually deigning to talk. 

Voluntarily, I throw him an inane grin and, involuntarily, another “Lemon!”

I get it. He wants to figure out whether I am a shoplifter, or some strange citrus-based troublemaker. But if I wanted to pinch anything from this store (which –  if I had no moral compass – I totally would, everything here is so goddam tasteful), I would be quiet and not loud about the process.

It’s just common sense that people with Tourette’s make for bad shoplifters, though. Especially with my Tourette’s, because  as well as shouting out “lemon!” at random intervals, I am also prone to saying “yoink!” whenever I pick up something.  

On my way out, I want to tell the security man I am a klazomaniac, not a kleptomaniac. But I don’t, not only because klazomania is, some might argue, one of English’s more uncommon words, but also because I don’t want to offend any thieves in the vicinity.

So, I exit the shop, liquorice-less, beard oil-less, and elephant-less, leaving behind a wake of bemusement and amusement, and I’m on to the next store, an afternoon of loud lemons stretching out before me.