Mike ErvinThere are some cripples who can easily get away with appearing not to be crippled at all, at least for a little while. But in the long run, this is always a futile proposition. Your crippledness will manifest itself sooner or later. Like for instance, someone may have epilepsy and strut around looking normal, but sooner or later they’ll have a seizure and their cover will be blown.

I have a name for that moment when your crippledness puts itself out there for all the world to see. I call it the big reveal. When it comes to the big reveal, you can run but you can’t hide.

I know how it is. I may look crippled as hell, but believe it or not, there are still times when I can pass for a vert (short for vertical, which is what I call people who can walk).

I’m one of those cripples whose voice doesn’t sound crippled. So when my first contact with someone is on the phone, if I don’t say anything about being crippled, I can lead them to believe I’m perfectly normal. And believe me, I tried to use that to my advantage a lot back in the days when I was still hunting for jobs and dates. I would try to answer help wanted ads or personal ads by phone so I could state my qualifications with my resonant voice. If it was a personal ad, I’d try to sound extra manly.

My strategy was to amp the intimidation factor way, way up. I was trying to get the other person all enthused about meeting me. So that way, after the big reveal came when they finally met me in person, they would feel extra pressure not to reject me for fear of looking and feeling like a real cripophobic jerk. But most of the time it was just delaying the inevitable. Most people figured out that the easiest way for them to get off the hook with me was to try hard to keep a poker face and then say something like, “I’ll get back to you soon” and then never do it.

I always wondered how those poor saps who both look and sound crippled handled big reveal situations like these. These are the cripples who speak with a thick cerebral palsy accent or in a thin and gaspy quad voice or a droopy post-stroke voice or something like that. Those people have nowhere to hide. It’s nearly impossible for them to delay the big reveal.

My friend Larry is one such cripple. He talks a lot by using one of those Stephen Hawking talking boxes with a robot voice. I always wondered if, when answering a help wanted or personal ad, he’d maybe set up an elaborate, Cyrano de Bergerac type of ruse. He’s a good writer, so I thought maybe he’d write out some eloquent, poetic prose and then have some vert (or someone like me who sounds like a vert) read it to the person on the other end of the phone hoping to get them mesmerized. Because in this case, how else would somebody using a Stephen Hawking talking box stand a chance of getting an audience, even if he put the robot voice on the extra manly setting?

But I doubt Larry ever went to all that trouble. If he ever bothered to answer a personal ad, he probably just went ahead and did it with his Stephen Hawking talking box. There’s a lot to be said about having no choice but to wear your crippledness on your sleeve like that and come right out of the box with it. It cuts through all the BS. It tells you a lot up front about who’s who. If someone is freaked out by a little thing like a Stephen Hawking talking box, then screw them. It wasn’t meant to be. It’s their loss. But if you answer a personal ad and the person who placed the ad is turned on by the robot voice of a Stephen Hawking talking box, you know for sure that person is really broad-minded and/or really kinky. Either way, you hit the jackpot! Quality wins out over quantity.

I’m glad I’m no longer hunting for jobs and dates. I don’t feel the pressure to fool anybody anymore by trying to pass myself off as a vert. I can just relax and be crippled.