Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Have a Zero Tolerance Policy for Attitude

At forty five I feel I have lived a life far beyond my years. I feel that life's turns have tumbled me to where I am nowhere near what I thought I'd be "when I grew up". I studied hard, played hard and expected nothing but the best from myself, and for myself. You get not what you deserve, but what you work for and earn.

GP and I were at a local restaurant the other day and after the server had done one eye roll too many, one "What?" too many, and one "sigh" too many. I called her out. I did. It's been nagging at me for days. I can't let it go, and I know why. I have reached the end of my "Taking crap" line. Yep, I'm done

I have to tell you. I am so sick of people who think they are entitled to huff and puff at the "inconvenience" of having to write down "Lettuce and cheddar cheese only, croutons on the side, ranch dressing on the side, no garnish." I mean, really? Are you freakin' kidding me? Maybe the fact that I have spent MONTHS, teaching my son exactly how to phrase this so that he gets exactly what he wants, so he doesn't totally flip out and have an emotional meltdown at the table, has something to do with my zero tolerance for "attitude".

Teaching an autistic child independent living skills is no easy task. It means many, many embarrassing moments when the clerk stares at you with the "why don't you just tell me what you need lady, and leave the poor kid be?" look. It means you might get into a squabble right in front of the cashier because he refuses to figure out how much money he must give the person. It might mean that you hold up the line at the supermarket because you need him to count his change before he leaves, lest he be shortchanged. It's no small task. But one day I will be dead, and I know that he will be able to shop for groceries, make change, and eat out, among other things.

Children grow up and my once cute little boy is now turning into a young man, and because I have not had "autistic" tattooed on his forehead I have found that sometimes, some people, feel that they can treat him with contempt. It's subtle, but it's there. And I for one, will not stand for it. I think if more people were called out for their bad behavior they would stop being jerks. I think folks feel that they are safe hiding behind a badge and need to be called on it, so I am starting with the woman in the mirror.

The number of special needs children turning into adults with special needs is alarming. I guess everyone forgot that these kids grow up, and when they grow up they look just like anyone else, and if they are lucky, they talk and do things that everyone else does...except they do things in quirky ways.

Here's a hint, if someone is talking to you while staring at the table, they are probably NOT being rude, they are probably AUTISTIC. If someone is talking "at you" while on a cell phone, they are just being rude... see the difference? I was once at a restaurant where I actually told the server, "My son speaks English. Do you understand English?" Oh yes I did. She was some young Chickie whose every other word was "What?" and the more she, asked, the more GP flapped (stimming is an outward sign of happiness, distress, anxiety...); but I would NOT speak for him. I would sit there till the freakin' cows came home before I would say what I knew he could say. He could do it and he would, and I would not let that arrogant kid get away with being a jerk. Oh she clearly understood English, and after I called her out she "listened a little more carefully" and understood his order... I understand the need to have someone LOOK at you when they speak to you, I do. I struggle with it every day. I have a "Look at Mom" mantra going 24/7. But if the person is not looking at you, and clearly not distracted otherwise, wouldn't that be a clear sign that something is amiss with this person? Hello?????????????? The lack of empathy makes me angry.

If someone is telling you exactly how they want something, over and over and over. What would lead you to believe that of you keep asking the same question you won't get the same answer? "Do you want tomatoes on that?", "I want a cheese and lettuce salad with croutons on the side and ranch dressing on the side". So, you don't want onions on that?" "I I want a cheese and lettuce salad...." Hello? How many times do you need to hear the same sentence before your brain clicks to "ON" and tells you "This is a recording!" It drives me nuts. It's scripted language, it's obvious. It's so clear it could be water from a spring. Oh, OK...maybe not to everyone, but you really don't have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to get it, you really don't.

Scripted language is like a recording that helps autistic children cope with the anxiety of having to express their needs and wants to strangers. I don't expect everyone that I meet to know this. I just expect people who are in the service industry to realize that when someone is telling you exactly what they want and how they want it, you should just take them at their word and let them be. It's not rocket science. It's common sense.

So I had to vent and tell you that I now understand those angry old ladies that snap at people with very little provocation because I have turned into one of them. Be warned, if you are my server and you even glance at my son in any way that is not kind and caring, I will call you out on it. I will not sit there and pretend I don't notice because his life is too full of real challenges, he tries really hard to fit into "our" world, he is doing the best he can and if you can't or won't work with him, I'd like to see the manager because I have a zero tolerance policy for "attitude"!


betseysumners said...

So few people today are NOT all about "me". I can easily see in my minds eye all you are saying happening. I was put in the hospitial with chest pains, no not having a heart attack it was my fibromyalgia attacking my chest muscles, thank God not my heart. The nurses complained bitterly to my husband that I was mad and mean. I was far from mad or trying to be mean, I was terrified! Truly honest to goodness terrified. I was amazed that a nurse any nurse could not be more understanding and would actually think about their feelings but not their patients. POINT: if a trained nurse can not do this, I doubt a waitress (not a put down! my daughter put herself thru college by waitressing!) can do much better. I wish you stength and love in dealing with autism. Hoping not offend but you will also be in my prayers.

Brenda said...

Amen! Just had this talk with the woman that I work for this morning. Each customer (we have kid's classes, too) is a new person to meet. A clerk or waitress should look at it as a happy opportunity instead of a job to be tolerated. I have worked a long time in retail. Even if I have someone who is trying their darnest to be unpleasant, I make it my goal to make them at least half smile! ;) They are the ones that make it possible for me to have a job. I love it when Mom's work with their children to become independent by asking questions or paying their own bill. No, they do not always get it perfect(although most are right on the mark), but how great is it to be a part of people's lives and even their children's the way that I am. It is great to make their day go a little smoother and to help their children to become the wonderful adults that they are going to be.

Talk to the manager! The girl you dealt with needs to get a talking to. The first job for a worker is to listen to the customer! Trust me, the kid's know what they want if she would just listen. She is not only hurting the customers (which to me is terribly sad), but the whole establishment with her bad attitude. I would NOT tolerate it!

WoolenSails said...

I hear you, people are rude period and I always try to be nice no matter what, but sometimes, I just have to say something;)


Fiber Babble said...

I always learn something from your little rants - seriously.

I know how frustrated I get when I say, "A Whopper Junior, no ketchup and that's all, please." and get back "Do you want cheese on that?". Um, no. That's what that's all means where I come from.

But enough about me - today's lesson is about talking to a customer who does not look you in the eye. Since I'm in retail I'm sure that I'll run into that eventually. Thank you for educating me before it's too late.

Sandra said...

good for you!

Sweet P said...

Applause and kudos to you!

wendy@iqlt said...

Hi Brenda-I have just read your venting blog and thank you for writing it. You pointed out several things I never would have clued in to. I did not realize looking at the table and talking was a sign of autism. I know you just made me a more sensitive person. Stand your ground, you are doing more for him than he will ever realize. Good luck.

Wendy said...

Hi Brenda :)
I smiled all the way through your rant, I hear you!! I too unfortunately have been in exactly the same position, though usually in the supermarket when I've tried to explain "my daughter 'needs' to hold the packet, and we've not quite progressed (she's only 8) to letting go of it long enough to let you zap the price, but here's a second packet please zap it twice"!! But its always a hard concept for the cashier to grasp!
I truly wish people could understand the huge effort it takes our precious children to fit into the 'real' world, as Mums we sometimes have to be the ones to not only teach and guide our children but silly people who should know better.
Oooo does that count as my own mini rant?? Lol!!
Love to you both...and keep ranting...hehehe
Hugs Wendy x

Brenda said...

Just to clarify, looking at the table and talking are NOT signs of autism. Lack of eye contact IS! Eye contact is very, very hard for children with autism. It is not uncommon for them to talk to you while staring far off into space, looking at the floor, looking at the spot right above your head...anywhere but straight at you. Lack f eye contact...BIG, BIG, BIG RED FLAG! =)

carol fun said...

Dear Brenda- thank you for this posting. As the mother of a 21yr old son with Aspergers I know from experience that people need to be told this stuff. Also, I just want people to be nicer to those with disabilities. Sometimes I want to smack them and tell them how lucky they are not to be in my son's shoes and have a little patience (but I don't actually smack them because my dear sainted mother taught me manners). Take care, I include you and your son in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda
You go, girl! As someone who spent many years trying to help students with autism transition from school age to adult services, I have to tell you I appreciate your efforts on GP's behalf. Those scripts and independent skills will help him all of his life.

Rude cashiers and servers seem to be more and more common-- a recent cashier even let me know she resented having to get off her cell phone to check me out! I agree with other posters who say that management needs to educate those people on customer service.

Blessings to you

Unknown said...

Amen girlfriend! You rock. Give GP a hug for me!

Debra @ Life is a Stitch said...

Great for you -And I'm glad that you shared, as I think that sometimes we ALL need a little reminder about attitude...attitude when driving, shopping, banking, dining, etc, etc, etc. Many people are always going to be the "entitled" ones, no matter what...BUT most are not and sometimes all it takes is a little "call to the carpet" like yours to help us remember: we are all human, and no one is perfect and we each need a little patience - some of us more than others...whether it's the patience and knowledge for and about autism, or something else, kindness matters.

I know, that was a very long and rambling sentence, but hopefully you understand that I think it was great for you to vent on your zero tolerance policy for attitude. We all should be "called on it" to help us be more tolerant and kind and friendly and helpful and gracious, and, and!, no matter what it's about!!!
Thanks, and Amen!

Sharon (Stitches on Mars) said...

Hi Brenda,
I loved your rant :) I have a friend with a son who even had on a T-shirt at a play centre explaining he has autism (to no avail as complaints were still made.) I've experienced the huffs and Liam is not 7 yet. I have also met wonderful accepting people, and Liam knows and behaves better because of this acceptance.
Another friend also told me how shocked she was when her daughter (in a wheelchair) was treated better once a person realised it was temporary.
You are doing a great job. This attitude helps no-one.
Well done GP, you know what to do even though that waitress didn't.
Hugs, Sharon

Lynn Barbadora said...

It is mind boggling to me how some people "just don't get it" and the sad thing is many of them never will get it. That is why God only gives "special children " to special parents" .....Brenda you are an amazing person and an even more amazing Mom. GP is one lucky young have you in his life help him prepare to live as independently as heart aches for you in trying to teach all the ignoramuses out there to be more tolerant.

LibbiesHome said...

Hi Brenda,
As an educator for 24 years, I have worked with a few autistic children and their parents. I have witnessed how hard it is to let/force the child try to find a measure of independence. You are amazing!! Bless you for your patience with your precious son, and bless you for not allowing ignorance/indifference to be the flavor of the day for that waitress. I will pray that you calling her out might, just maybe, change her way of doing business in the future - at least a little.
Blessing to you,

Unknown said...

Yea for you Brenda! So many people today don't have a clue how to listen. Not only to our children or grandchildren but to us. Nothing ticks me off more than a grocery line cashier talking to another cashier or the bagger without paying the least bit of attention to people in line. Makes me wonder if they get any type of instruction beyond how to work the cash register! I actually had a young (under 18 I'm sure) gal argue with me at a McDonalds once about what I had said when I ordered. She had such an attitude that I boycotted that McDonalds and have never gone there again and that was over 10 years ago. LOL Listening or even just being civil seems to be a trial for people nowadays. Again, good for you!!!

Anna said...

When we are in the park and my cousin who is a big 40+yrs austistic kid wants talk to the "other" kids, the looks those parents give him. The world is different but each person can change the go girl!

Jenny said...

Amen! Now exhale! I hear ya girl. The dumbing down of America is officially in full swing.

Susan said...

Good for you and for your son for having you. You aren't ignoring the problem. You aren't in denial. And you are expecting and requiring the respect your son deserves. My dad ia a resident in an assisted living facility. He is 92, very nearly blind, uses hearing aids, and has hospice care, but he is not senile. He stands up for himself, but some of the staff fail to notice this. This is my dad, not my son. And he will probably be gone before I am, but he deserves respect and demands it...and to those who fail to recognize what he has contributed as a working person, as a veteran, and as a parent, then I WILL step in. You have every right to let off some steam and expect respect for your son from others. THanks for letting me blow off a little steam, too.

trash said...

Would you like me to hold your handbag while you go sort this out?

I think many people don't understand the concept of working in a service industry. I will heap praise direct to the managementwhen I have been helped above and beyond by a member of staff but I will also go straight to the top if there is an 'issue'.

Diane Culliney said...

All I can say is good for you!!

Gloria J W said...

You go girl!!! Protecting your child and educating him in life skills is hard enough without pure crassness!!
Hugs Gloria

make.share.give said...

Thank you for discussing this. My son was diagnosed at age 5 with Autism- closer to the Asperger's end of the spectrum. He's so smart and handsome, fun and funny.
It's been several years since an older man told my parents- as I was carrying my little boy in the midst-of-a-meltdown out of a restaurant- that all he needed was his a** beat. We also have a few clueless family members who offer unsolicited parenting advice.
BUT, for the most part, people are kind and patient. We are blessed with a special group of family and friends that understand, encourage and help.

Sharon said...

YOU GO GIRLFRIEND!!!!!!!! You are the best mom I know. You deserve an award and I know your not looking for one. But I can not even imagine what you go for everyday of your life. Your GP is one lucky boy to have a momma like you.
Love you friend.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I am the mother of 5 kids, 3 bio and 2 that we are in the process of adopting fromthe foster care system. I am also tired of the looks, sighs and comments of being a lousy mom because my 2 littles are rude, loud, obnoxious, disobedient. They are that way because they were neglected and abused, hence the reason they are mine now. I am sure in time they will improve, but I am tired of the judgemental people out there. They have no idea what we are going through.

Sherry said...

I so agree with you on this subject. I also have to say so many fast food and other restaurants have young kids working and although they have no right to show attitude to any customer, they may not have the "heads up" on autism, etc. That is why I love when I see a prgram on tv or anywhere in the media discussing this issue. We need more education to understand. You're one great Mom!

Faith said...

Got a Subway sandwich the other day - the "sandwich artist" couldn't understand what toppings I wanted. I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong - I'm mumbling - she's new, so be patient, etc. I finally noticed the earbuds - really ??!! You think the Black Eyed Peas know what I want??!!

On the other side, THANK YOU for the exceptions that make eating out a great experience. It's an amazing world - in both directions (sometimes within 15 minutes of each other)!! Thank you for the wonderfully-educational posting. Faith.

Charlie P said...

Well said! There's nothing worse than rude shop assistants and waiters. They are being paid to serve YOU, it is not your job to make their lives easier.
It is understandable that people might not recognise or know how to deal with autistic customers, but even so it is not acceptable to be rude to ANYBODY.
Good for you for speaking out. Far too many people put up with terrible service.

Aggiequilter said...

YOU GO GIRL !!! So agree about rude, impatient wait staff, store clerks and service employees. And YES - I worked in all those jobs when I was younger and helped fund my school. Really irks me when people can't give simple, courteous service! I also am the first one to give a struggling server or new on the job kid a break and a smile. They're trying!
My heart is with you and your son, my nephew has Asberger's & other problems, he's a wonderful young man and he's come so far!

Dawn said...

I just want to say "thank you" for posting this today. I am still struggling with how to deal with my own almost-nine-year-old-living-with-autism-sweetheart and am so very tired of having to explain to people the why's and the wherefor's. But to be quite frank, your story goes far beyond the autism. It is a sad sidenote on today's society in general. NO ONE cares anymore a lick about anyone but themselves. Everything and everyone is an inconvenience. Each individual feels so entitled. No one wants to work for what they get and no one wants to take blame for what they've done. Don't even get me started about behavior in cars and on cell phones! I am just glad to know I am not alone...and sadly, I have several years to go yet before I hit 40, so I guess I am becoming that old b**** before my time. Roll back to 1950 anyone?

Catty Wampus said...

thank you. The world has become a horribly idiotic place for many of us. I was the parent of a child with developmental disabilities and my best friend's daughter ( and my bestest pal) has Down's. I now am very vocal when stupidity is about. Im not apologizing for it either. Our society is so rude and self centered, it makes me sad. You keep up the good work

Arthur said...

So well said. Keep up your good work, it will pay off. My niece is a special ed teacher and this year, after spending 3 years with her, 4 of her 10 students are being "main streamed" and 3 more will follow in January. Your son is a special gift and your care is important to his later years...with patience he will grow.

Rosemary said...

Apparently you never had my daughter wait on you! LOL! She had a family of regulars that would come eat at the family resturant she worked at. Their little boy was autistic and he would always tell megan want he wanted to eat and drink. His brothers and sister would give her their orders as well as the parents. Then the parent would tell megan that their son could not have what he ordered! They would order him somethign completely different, not give him anything to drink and cause a meltdown in the place. Megan always felt so sorry for him because he was treated so differently from his siblings :(