I had my blog all planned out today; I was going to write about the need, at times, for help when talking. I'm needing this right now as my car is in the shop and someone is sort of translating and talking with them because making decisions on my feet in that realm is something I'm weak at. That was going to be the topic, until I got close to the office.
I either slept through my alarm this morning, it didn't go off, or I was able to turn it off without consciously knowing. Whatever the case I was two hours behind where I wanted to be. Because of this I decided to fall back on my old breakfast of a Wheaties Fuel bar and a Red Bull. I stopped at a gas station, which I will not say where, to do this.
A situation popped up even before I got to the door as there was someone walking in close proximity to me. I always panic on this because, do I just walk in and let them get the door or do I hold the door open for them? I tend to keep the door open not because I am doing something nice but I'm trying prevent them from yelling at me. I may have this down but each time this happens I go deep within myself in regards to thought trying to protect myself from the surge of panic that happens.
Once the door issue passed I walked in and I was so concentrated on what I wanted to get that I became oblivious to what was going on around me. I heard, "Hello" when I walked in my I didn't make anything of it. "Hello again?! Is anyone talking today? Wow, how rude!" Again, I heard this, I looked up in a startled fashion, but I could not respond because I had to find the Wheaties Fuel bar and then decide on a sugar or sugar-free Red Bull.
After I got the sugar edition Red Bull I finally realized what had happened; the clerk said hello and I ignored her fully. It wasn't out of choice, but it quite literally was because I was unaware of my surroundings and didn't process the spoken words in time. It probably seemed really rude however there was no intent of being so as a string of events that proceeded the hello put me into a state within myself and processing at an appropriate speed became impossible. While that might be so, as this story progresses, I feel my blunder is minuscule to what happens next.
Once my two items were in hand I walked to the counter and she asked, "How are you today?" If you've followed my blog for a while you'll know that this question always sends me for a loop. How did I respond? "Umm... well... yeah... I don't know." I knew she was mad from being ignored and I didn't know what to say. Also, and this is an important thing to remember when around those on the spectrum, or at least me, I don't understand the varying levels of mad. That means either everything is all right or the other person is mad to the point that they are going to hit me. It's black or white and middle ground does not exist.
The clerk then said, "Well, with that answer no wonder you ignored me." She said it with a condescending tone so I then said, "Yeah, being on the autism spectrum makes it hard for me to communicate at times." When I say this I usually want to the conversation to end, but then she said words I may never forget, "Oh, so do you have a job? You aren't one of 'those' people are you?"
Those people?! What is that supposed to mean? Whatever was said there is no way that was intended to be a positive statement. I mean, those people? What people? People are people in my book, every person is unique and I think everyone strives for "normal" with not one person ever achieving it. But still, "those people"? Is this was the autism spectrum is to the eyes of people that don't know it?
I got my two pennies change and quickly vacated the building angry. With attitudes like that one how on Earth could any person on he spectrum or parent of keep their head up? We have enough challenges to keep life interesting that we don't need condescending remarks from strangers. If you could have heard the tone with which that horrid line was said you would be worked up too.
I don't know what this shows; was is simple ignorance of the autism spectrum? Or was it something more? Even now as I write this I am angry to the point of minor shaking. I'm worked up because this is just another case of showing me that the world needs more awareness. No one should go through what I did when they have a challenge. I think I have a bit of a thicker skin that I used to as I turn these negative experiences in life into, usually, a humorous story in my presentations. However, there is no humor here. There is no punchline. To be looked down upon as if I am something less is something that I hope I never go through again. It was as if, since I was different, the normal rules of conversation went out the window and I instantly became a person that couldn't understand an insult and that made it okay to insult not just me, but every person on the spectrum. As I said, there is no humor here and the dark side of the world was exposed to me. If one person thinks this way there are more that do too.
Someday I hope that a job like mine isn't needed. Someday I hope that there full awareness and understanding of the autism spectrum. Will this happen in my lifetime? I'm not sure. I do know that going through an ordeal like mine today is very difficult. I think to parents that have their children with them in public when a behavior arises; what do those unaware of the autism spectrum say? Do they eventually hear a line like I did today? If they do I can now relate because there is nothing more deflating than to be spoken to as if you're guilty or some sort of hideous crime against humanity.
To end this I can only think of one way to do so. I do know that of everyone I've spoken to the vast majority are sympathetic to the autism spectrum. They might not have a full grasp of what it is, but there is some sort of knowledge base there and they don't look down upon the spectrum. However, it only takes one. It only takes one person to destroy the confidence and self-esteem of a person. Try as I might, but I feel a little bit less today. I know I'm different, but to be spoken to as if I harmed that clerk in a way that is unforgivable is all but, well, unforgivable. So, to the world, I want to say this. Who do you want to be? Do you want to be the person that is there for me when I might need a little bit more help? Or, do you want to be one of "those" people that are blind, ignorant, and rude to those on the spectrum? Obviously, if you're reading this, you'll never be one of those people, but they are out there and the only thing I can do is hope that someday they'll change.