The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Rolling Podcast

Being a podcast guest is always exciting and slightly daunting, because every one is its own beast. The tone, content and even variables like time of day can play a part in defining the overall experience. In the past year, I have been privileged to be featured on a number of stuttering podcasts to discuss my memoir and various topics I raise in it. As my experience has grown, I would like to think that I have relaxed and become less focused on selling myself and rather offer my own unique perspective on being a stuttering homosexual.

In July, during my trip home to Ireland, a family member messaged me about a therapist they knew who had a podcast. The podcast was focused on mental health and they were interested in hearing more about my story. Wanting to strike while the iron was hot, I messaged the therapist, a psychologist called Allan Clarke with an introductory email and dropped a copy of my book in the post for him for good measure. As I researched Allan I was intrigued as he is a gamer as well as a highly experienced clinician. Within 24 hours he responded and we agreed to keep in touch and set something up in the near future. Fast forward a month and I am settling back into Vancouver life (with a crazy new work schedule) and he messages me about doing the podcast the following week. This would mean juggling my work schedule and Dorrit would be my mobile podcast platform for the discussion.

I have worked as a ESL teacher (English for foreign speakers) in downtown Vancouver for many years and this has been a short Skytrain trip from my home. But recently, my school had expanded with a second campus opening in Surrey. I found myself giving classes at that location once a week and was a little perplexed when my boss initially offered to collect me at the Skytrain station before my first class. He had obviously forgotten I had a car and I hadn’t volunteered that little nugget of information right away. I wanted to see where in Surrey the school was as it is a big city! It turned out that it is located just off the Trans-Canadian Highway, which is a thirty-minute drive from my house vs. a ninety-minute trip on public transport. I asked if I could do my podcast at this location as it has a better internet connection than I do in my own home and I had to work around the eight-hour time difference.

Thankfully, the answer was ‘yes’ and I was excited. Not only for the podcast, but also because this would give me my first opportunity to test out my new microphone. My friend Rory had gifted me with a rather expensive microphone that he had gotten from an equipment sale. This not only made me feel like a professional but helped me sound like one too. I took him out to dinner to say thank you and told him that I'd be using it on this upcoming podcast. It went into Dorrit's trunk along with a tripod, L.E.D. lights and laptop on the day of recording. I had also packed a shirt and jacket to change into as well as my lunch, some powder make-up and water. It is crazy the amount of preparation that goes into these podcasts and I have learnt to bring everything I might need regardless of if I end up using it or not.

Dorrit and I arrived in Surrey early as I needed time to unpack and set up all my equipment in a back room in the school. The class I was teaching flew by as I was slightly distracted trying to anticipate questions that Allan might ask me. I know there are no right answers as such, but I wanted to sound intelligent and clear in my responses. All Allan had said to me in his email was that it would be an informal conversation but that could mean anything. I ate, changed and waited for 1pm PST (9pm Irish time) for Allan to log on.

The first thing I noticed when we connected was a PlayStation 5 on a shelf in his office. He really was a gamer! We spent about ten minutes before recording talking about games and how fast the PS5 is with its build-in SSD (Solid State Drive). I knew I would like this guy. Unlike other podcasts, this one very much focused on mental health rather than stuttering or writing my book. It was a nice change of subject that allowed me to revisit aspects of the book I hadn't spoken about in a while. He specifically asked me about how I coped in my teenage years with my speech and sexuality. I told him that I avoided life and stated that it was far safer to play videogames and watch sci-fi television than face the outside world. I was very proud of the fact that I could describe the starship Enterprise deck by deck, but I knew that knowledge was hardly going to help me navigate adult life. He asked me about my perspective on suicide and that was definitely more uncomfortable. It was my rock bottom point and that feeling of despair is something I would not wish on anyone. I have learnt to make my peace with it, but it still lingers in the quieter recesses of my mind. I don’t want to make it sound like the conversation was all doom and gloom though. There were lighter points around coming out later in life, my first crush and how the experience of writing my book had ultimately brought me closer to my family and father in particular. We talked for over an hour and a half and I was ready for a cup of tea when we stopped recording.

I had never done a podcast in the afternoon before, and certainly not in between teaching classes. I had to quickly pack up Dorrit and drive home to make my evening class in the downtown school. As I drove back into Vancouver, I could feel the post-podcast high kick in. Driving on the highway was actually rather relaxing. This was in stark contrast to when I started driving a year ago. Reflecting on the podcast, having the correct equipment and a car to transport it in helped make the whole experience feel easy. Being more relaxed and confident in my own responses also felt easier than in the past. Allan was pretty cool too and I hope to collaborate with him again in the future. Finally, getting home in record without having to carry bags on public transport was the icing on the cake. Walking into my house, bags in hand, I looked back at this little Toyota. Dorrit was not flashy or fast, rather unassuming and dependable. I find it reassuring that this is car that is helping me share my story and help others dealing with similar circumstances. That is one of the best feeling the world.

The Podcast I recorded was ‘Straight Talking Mental Health with Allan and Aisling:

Podcast Link on Spotify:

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