WE MUST CREATE CHANGE

I was going to call this my “Hope For 2015”, but that is so passive and useless. Anybody can – and lots of people do – post warm, fuzzy notes with Hopes for the New Year, and others click and share. Lovely.

But this is NOT all warm & fuzzy. It’s literally dead serious (with many murdered throughout the year), and quite often blunt, because I am blunt at times. It’s also a call to a change of perspective for some of you.

Deal. Think about it. I’m not a lone voice. Click and share.

MY CALL TO ACTION IS FOR YOU TO READ THIS THROUGH, THINK, AND SPEAK UP. ALL YEAR LONG.

And the next year and the next.

This isn’t about some stranger, or Those Other People, or “That Kind”.

Children with disabilities or other differences are not diseased or broken. The same is true for adults. Yes, those “poor, little disabled children” grow up into disabled adults. Gee, so where’s the concern now? It sure isn’t at work; in the U.S. general unemployment is at 5.3%, but for disabled adults it’s twice that at 10.8%.

Nor are autistic or ADHD children some kind of modern mystery; millions of such adults have been around for decades, just unrecognized for lack of diagnostics. Most of us are profoundly relieved to find out Why. We still have to deal with the details, but that’s easier when you know that not all your difficulties are from some kind of moral failing, or from a lack of trying (and trying, and trying).

WHAT, YOU NEVER HAD KIDS LIKE “THAT KIND” IN YOUR CLASSES? YOU KNOW WHY?

Some were kept at home, because until passage of the IDEA in 1975, US law did not require public schools to teach everyone.

Some were warehoused in institutions, badly treated, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and oft uneducated.

But many of us were there; how we struggled through school and life, without accommodations or understanding, and often the target of bullying by peers and even school officials.

Untold numbers of women and men just knew themselves inexplicably “a bit odd”, and did best they could; some succeeding, others not so well.

At worst are those who not only lacked resources, but were shunned by society’s classism, ableism, racism and sexism, and (if still alive) are found among the imprisoned, derelicts, addicts, abused and enslaved populations.

YOUR CHILDREN AND EVEN COLLEGE STUDENTS WILL LEARN DIFFERENTLY, SO YOU MUST ADJUST

We are neither inherently stupid nor incapable of learning. Learning differently means teaching differently. Find what works. Everyone has limits, but a consistent lack of success means you should use another method, as well as more time. Sometimes the learning is highly irregular in pace. Tie learning to interests to motivate your children and students.

Also, be aware that sometimes the “simple basics” may be entirely bypassed by some students who leap to master higher concepts, albeit often forever struggling with those seemingly “simple basics”. People are humans, not robots. Learning is not always linear.

COMMUNICATION IS NOT JUST SPEAKING

Never assume that just because someone is nonverbal they cannot communicate. If you’re not getting their messages, then *you* are doing something wrong. Nor should you assume that because someone is nonverbal that they cannot understand what people say (though the processing may sometimes be delayed). Nor assume that because someone has been nonverbal for years that they’ll never speak. And damn, will you get an earful.

INCONSISTENCY IN DAY-TO-DAY ABILITIES IS FRUSTRATING FOR ALL, AND NOT A CHOICE

Importantly, just because someone is able to speak or do a task one day, that does not guarantee consistent results. It’s the nature of disabilities — regardless whether considered mental or physical – all involve the brain. Brains are funny things, and many of us have a few buggy Beta-version programs in our wetware. It’s frustrating as hell for all involved.

But don’t assume the “could-then-can’t-now” is intentional. “Oh, he can hear me when he wants.” “Well, you could solve those equations just fine yesterday.” I can guarantee that after a lifetime of such, ridiculing people and punishing them for things they cannot help only increases performance stress.

While that stress might increase focus from sheer terror, it often squelches overall functioning. (Do you want me to listen to you, or try to recall yesterday’s process, or slowly figure it out on my own? I can only do one — if my stomach will stay down.)

TRAMPLE THE TROPES

Ignore the media tropes and centuries of religious hype: disabled people are neither inherently amoral, soulless and evil, nor are they infinitely happy, friendly and angelic. People are people. A few will be nasty bits, some will be profoundly good sorts, and the rest are just ordinary folks who get mad, sad and glad, who screw things up sometimes, and who will also serve others selflessly despite bearing more abuse than anyone should.

We are definitely not incomprehensible, incomplete, little autism-puzzle-pieces, unloving, unlovable, or uncaring.

We are whole people with all the same cares, needs and wants as all humans. Beware — disability happens to anyone at any time. We aren’t a Them, and YOU can be among the world’s 15% in just one day. We are all Us.

STOP “TEACHING TOLERANCE”

Because tolerance means putting up with something one doesn’t really like, or that doesn’t really belong. We want full-fledged ACCEPTANCE.

Nor should we only be acceptable if we can somehow “overcome” our differences enough to pass for Normal Real People. Trying to “pass” all the time is exhausting, and invariably breaks down, oft resulting in the [supposed] Normal Real People assuming that one is lazy, stupid, crazy, all the above, or worse.

Training children for hours a day how to artificially perform “acting normal” does not serve to help them learn how to function best in the world. Yes, of course teach good manners, social and work skills. But suppressing every twitch of one’s natural being adds to stress, making everything else yet more difficult. This is especially when performing like a “normal person” means not doing the harmless things that reduce stresses.

STOP THE BLAME

I must call out the terrifying, unaddressed assumption which underlies so much daily trauma: “The reason the disabled [children] are targeted by bullies is because they are perceived as being weird”. Despite the pervasiveness of this social theme in society, most people are functionally unaware of it, all the while instilling in their Normal People children the same message. Normal People children need to act normal, and not act like That Kind. After all, that’s how the Normal People know the others are That Kind, who’s Us and who’s Them.

But it’s the disabled and different who are taught, over-and-over-and-over that not only is it their fault for behaving or looking weird, BUT ALSO if they weren’t so weird, well then they wouldn’t be bullied. “Quit being so weird! Just say No! Just say Stop.”

Just say BULLSHIT. Because this is blaming the victim. The problem is not that everyone isn’t the same, the problem is that there are bullies.

Even worse, blaming the targets actually empowers the bullies, because the social story says it’s the victim is the one who is acting wrong, so it’s not really the bully who is to blame.

Let’s just top off all that existing anxiety and depression with the trauma of trying to seek justice, but being told again that, “Well it’s your fault, you know. Attracting attention by being weird, and bugging people. You need to quit making trouble now. You already take up too much of our time with all of your “special” needs. Quit whining and go deal with it. — But no fighting, because we’ll know it was you who started it.”

By the way, it’s not “just a kids at school” thing that everyone will “grown out of”. It continues on through college, and happens at work, too.

YOU CAN’T WALK IN THE LITTLE BOY’S SHOES;

THEY’RE FLOATING DOWN-RIVER

It is NEVER acceptable to murder disabled children. Nor should these repeated, horrifying events be considered “understandable” or “excusable”, with the murderers being pardoned just because their son or daughter had a disability.

Increasingly more prevalent in social media, the crime becomes insidiously deemed more and more acceptable. Murderers re-cast themselves as martyrs, acquiring champions to their cause. Throughout repeated blog posts and news stories, they bemoan how taking care of disabled children is just too unbearable, they had to take care of them every day of the week, there was never any relief or help. (Even though there was.) Cue the groupies’ hand-wringing and protests upon the villains’ behalf: “Oh but won’t you walk in their shoes, how they’ve given up their lives, this wasn’t at all what they wanted.”

For in true sociopathic fashion, the poor, long-suffering parents revel in the attention, announcing to the world – sometimes ahead of time — what they have done, and all the while describing themselves as the victims. The dead children (young or adult) are unwanted, and deemed unwantable, less than human just because they couldn’t speak, or needed medical treatments, or used a power chair, or didn’t play with their toys the “right way”, or wore adult diapers … No one would want to live like that; the thing’s better off dead. And what of the groupies? Well, where do you think people get such terrible ideas that it’s okay to kill one’s own children?

ENOUGH WITH THE “DISABILITY INSPIRATION PORN”.

Quit using those heart-tugging videos, walk-a-thons, telethons, and other grand-society functions to win your supposed Cosmic Brownie Points for giving us your pity. Please stop dumping upon us the largesse of your unwanted rags (so Victorian, so passé), or creating useless functions requiring us to serve as targets of unwanted helpful-helper-helpiness for your ego-boo.

Get disabled people out of “sheltered workshops”. Yes, people need work they are suited to. But the segregation and token sweatshop “wages” are an embarrassment and humiliation to all.

YES, CHILDREN GROW UP.

YEP, STILL DISABLED, BUT NOW ADULTS

Do not assume your children will remain permanently childish and incapable — they mature on their own timelines. Allow adults to be adults. Support their needs and interests, but neither dress them like children, nor expect them to live their lives in naïve pre-puberty stasis, without adult desires for socializing with adult peers, life-long learning, mastering skills for some kind of job (even if that job is “just socially productive work” rather than traditional work), and yes, having a love life, however that may be expressed.

YES, PEOPLE ALSO NEED ACCOMMODATIONS;

THAT DOESN’T MEAN “CURE”

Most disabled or different people are not looking for cures to magically change them into someone else, some kind of fantasy Normal Real person that their families wanted instead. Our differences may result from physical events, by random mutation, and / or genetics. Your genetics. We are family. I’m Me, and I like being Me. If you somehow changed all the differences in my brain, I wouldn’t be Me anymore, with all my quirks and abilities.

Of course it will be great to find a means for preventing migraines, epilepsy, fatal medical conditions, et cetera. But it’s also a sad fact that some people have been so convinced of their undesirability as disabled human beings that they can only see “cure” as a means to being an acceptable Normal Real Person. (Worst of all, some people commit suicide because they’ve been taught to hate themselves, as useless and unwanted.)

But what’s really alarming is all the fund-raising, talk, research, and work going on today to eliminate entire kinds of peoples. I’m talking about the thousands of selfish individuals and sociopaths who believe that anyone with neurological or morphological differences should not exist at all, because That Kind takes up too much time, money, and resources.

That’s not “looking for a cure” – that’s eugenics and euthanasia, the same ideas that led to the Nazi Aktion T4 program and other horrors. (In my youth, the state hospital was still in the regular habit of sterilizing people. Had I been institutionalized, I might well not have had my lovely children and grandchildren.)

Yes, we want assistance, we want things that help us achieve what we want in life. Getting the things one needs to learn effectively, to move about, attend to their own needs, to work, to play, to be a part of the community, to have lovers or families. These things should not be seen as extraordinary, special, absurd, or a waste of money, just because they aren’t the same kinds of things used by other people. 15% of the people in the world have disabilities. That is a lot of humanity, and many are uneducated, abused, neglected, avoided, or shut away, depriving the world of incredible amounts of untapped abilities and talents.

CALL OUT BULLSHIT. REQUIRE ACCOMMODATIONS. DEMAND ACCEPTANCE.

MAKE IT SO.

I bequeath the world a neologism, because there is need:

Te·di·a [tee-dee-uh]
noun
1. a plural of tedium.
2. the quality or state of multiple media being wearisome; irksome; tedious.
3. the quality or state of overwhelming tedium resulting from multiple, unrelated sources.

Overcome by the tedia of so-called “news” coverage and inane blather that displaced any real information, she resorted to drawing political cartoons and posting them on the Web.

Lacking sufficient mental stimulation from either of his jobs, and commuting without a working radio, he found himself daydreaming and telling himself jokes to allay the suffocating tedia.

_____

Use it! Pass it on! Post a comment and share.

Cite it with a link-back!  Short link: http://wp.me/p10w9-Kp

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Neither daft nor a bit deaf, just —

Well, more than once-in-a-while I misunderstand what I hear. Especially if I’m preoccupied, or the environment is noisy, and rather much if the other person is mumbly.

Quite likely the funniest Auditory Processing glitch I’ve had yet:

A grocery customer comes by and asks, “Do you have any haggis?”
(Mind you, I’m in the States; most groceries don’t even carry haggis, traditional or vegetarian.)

Turned out he was enquiring about
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
hacky sacks!

And no, we don’t generally carry those either, tho’ at the beginning of summer we get various toys in our seasonal aisle (sidewalk chalk, soap bubbles, jacks, pool floats and such).

Sometimes people ask for the oddest things at the grocery … this week someone wanted a printer cable — a serial port* printer cable! At least we got ourselves sorted before getting as far as the breakfast cereal aisle.

__________

* For you non-technical folks, that’s an older piece of equipment, not something you might find at a big supermarket, like cheap headphones, CDRs, or power strips.

I meant to get around to this earlier…

Displacement behaviour: when suddenly you feel the need to shift a negative emotion or stressor to doing something else. Right now, that means sorting tax papers instead of finishing a class handout or sending out a query letter. (During Finals Week, my displacement behaviour was cleaning the bathrooms. My apartment was REALLY CLEAN after Finals Week.)

One rationalisation I have at the moment is that I am correcting for last year’s “planning fallacy” — organising and tracking down information and figuring out the electronic filing of my federal and state taxes took me longer than I had anticipated. (Folks with ADHD are terrible about planning fallacies, because of the weird fluidity of perceived time.)

Ooh, I just found some neat links on new research into the causes and coping strategies for procrastination … *

STOP!  

That’s just a rationalisation. Set aside those tax papers for this weekend, and get back to the correspondence. Damn. And, *sigh*.

Meanwhile, here are some of my mottos that you may like:

Fidget quietly.

Pile by file**.

Perseverate positively.

Obsess functionally.

_____________

* Go to the Wikipedia page on Procrastination; they’re at the bottom. Sorry; I can’t be an accomplice to all of us wasting too much time…

** Which of course, later turns into File by Pile. But if your piles are already rough-sorted, then they don’t need much more than sifting out unnecessary junk (credit card offers and candy wrappers and expired sticky-notes), and maybe some date-sorting.

I prefer the OHIO method for when I get the mail: Only Handle It Once. From the moment it goes from the mailbox to my hand, I don’t dare set it down until I have binned the junk, set the catalogs and magazines in the appropriate reading zone (e.g. the bathroom), and push-pinned the bills to my bulletin board with the due dates highlighted. Otherwise, if I put the stuff down, it gets lost and forgotten in the dèbris of my desk!

The Silver (Smoke-) Screen

O.M.G. Last night at the grocery I was stocking non-prescription meds, and a couple came in asking for … colloidal silver! (Meaning, microfine silver dust suspended in water or another carrier.)

I was baffled; she explained that “Dr Oz” suggested it for sore throats.
“I don’t think we carry that,” I answered, somewhat stunned. “I’ve only used it in a research lab.” (In the teensiest of microdabs, to glue ultra-fine gold wire electrodes to insects.)

“Oh, it’s all-natural!” she asserted cheerfully.

Giant mental sigh and cringe on my end; lots of “all-natural” stuff can be all-naturally poisonous.

The guy with her added something to the effect of, “I bet you all don’t like Dr Oz.”

Er, I’m wary and alarmed by media personalities who promote misleading, useless and/or dangerous medical information. (Last year this celebrity was the recipient of the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Media Pigasus Award.)

But I’m guessing the customer was assuming that if people use bizarre “all-natural” remedies, then stores would not sell as many manufactured remedies. Hey, if I want salicylic acid (the stuff in willow bark and spirea that acts as a pain-reliever, fever-reducer and anti-inflammatory), then I will buy it as acetylsalicylic acid, AKA aspirin, because that formulation is less harsh on the digestive system, and you know how much active ingredient you’re getting.

When one of the pharmacists was no longer directly busy with [other] customers, I went up and told him about the customer enquiry. His eyebrows danced a bit at this latest oddity.

“The only thing I’ve heard about taking colloidal silver,” I began, and then the pharmacy intern nearby then chorused with me, “Was about the guy who turned blue!”

“It bio-accumulates, doesn’t it?” I asked, and the pharmacist nodded. That of course, was why I was careful to not let any dots of the lab stuff stick to me. Plus, any clean crumbs re-deposited could be re-used, especially if I held the bottle to the vibrating vortex mixer.

Note: there are antibacterial uses for various ionic silver (Ag+) compounds, such as silver nitrate (AgNO3), but the colloidal stuff is non-ionized metallic form, which has a different biological effect. Of course, poison is always in the dosage — too much silver nitrate can be equally bad. You can read about the hazards of argyria here at the Quackwatch site.

Oh by the way — if you want an “all-natural” remedy for the ordinary sore throat, may I recommend some strong mint tea with honey?

Speak More Kale

This was a major WTF moment when listening to the news today [transcript this link]: the Chick-fil-A chain is suing a Vermont tee shirt maker for copyright infringement. Their slogan is, “Eat Mor Chikin” and his is “Eat More Kale”.

Now, Bo Muller-Moore’s design uses:

  • a different font,
  • correct spelling,
  • a vegetable instead of an animal,
  • and no cows in his design.

Obviously, the design on his tees is nearly identical to the fast food chain’s! </snark>

The Vermont state Governor, Peter Shumlin, formed “Team Kale” as a fundraiser for legal fees to fight this absurd suit. After all, the Vermonter has been making these (and other) tee shirts for ten years, and this is how he makes a chunk of his living.  (Progress on the individually hand silk-screened tees is apparently getting a bit behind due to sudden demand, but there are also big green stickers for a 50-cent donation.)

The phrase “Eat More ____” sounded vaguely familiar, and some googling around quickly showed that it has been used throughout history!

vintage "EAT MORE MILK" advert for Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate

WWI Canada Food Board poster, "Eat more Vegetables! SAVE Meat and Wheat for our SOLDIERS and ALLIES"

"Eat MORE FRUIT" poster, Victorian Railways, Australia

WWI poster, U.S. Dept. Agriculture: "Eat More Cottage Cheese...You'll Need Less Meat...A Postal Card Will Bring Recipes...Cottage Cheese or Meat? Ask Your Pocketbook!"

There are other current usages of the phrasing, such as”Stay Healthy. Eat More Bacteria” for a dietary supplement. (After all, one shouldn’t discriminate between biological Kingdoms!)

If you do a visual google search, you can find an antique billboard on Route 66 that says, “Watch Your Curves. Eat More Beef.” from the Beef Industry Council. Apparently, in an earlier incarnation it was the Texas Beef Council, which also offered up quite an absurd pin-up girl (she’s ostensibly changing a tire, but without any cattle in the picture whatsoever). I mention these simply because they are the humorous antithesis of the “Eat Mor Chikin” cows.

BTW, kale is really tasty lightly braised (PLEASE, don’t cook the hell out of it — that just makes it bitter and stringy). Take your gently-wilted kale and sprinkle with some balsamic vinaigrette, or chop and mix into mashed potatoes (with bacon and onions, if you like), or add bite-size pieces in soups (miso soup with udon and kale sounds REALLY good this time of year).

What makes kale so great is that not only will it over-winter (meaning, you can get it from local farmer’s markets or CSA just about year-round, or else grow your own), but also that it has lots of iron, Vitamins A & C, calcium, and fiber.

Tasty Kale 'Curly Leaf'

Many kales are also quite ornamental as well — not just the frilly pink sort (grown for pretty more than nutrition), but also the tall green or purple-tinged sorts, which are often used for cold-weather plants in outdoor container arrangements.

The ornamental Kale 'Redbor Hybrid'

That’s Not Helpful!

Here’s a riddle:  how is a broken foot like being pregnant? 

(No, it has nothing to do with wait times.)

Mid-October I entirely missed the last two steps of the stairs to the basement floor and BLAM! Didn’t even experience the slip and fall. Hurt so much I didn’t even cuss, and only OW’d so folks would know I’d been hurt. My ankle really hurt, so I limped to my bedroom and pulled on an ankle elastic (which I keep in my purse because being hypermobile means easily spraining things). Hobbled around the rest of the day, giving it the usual Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation between doing stuff. That was a Friday.

The next day it was really swollen, with a purple bruise covering the entire upper surface, but it wasn’t horribly painful like a migraine. I called out from stocking work at the grocery, rested more, and tied on a foot brace. My son-in-law said it might be broken (it’s good to have a medic in the house).

Guess what? Broken bones are not always screamingly painful. Whoda thunk?

Sunday I went to the walk-in clinic, and yeup, two of my metatarsals were broken, in a displacement fracture, no less. (Meaning, the bones weren’t even lined up, but were slightly ajar.) They put on a splint. The next day I went to an orthopedist, and after due examination of the clinic’s radiographs, the doc sent me to get a boot-type cast, and make follow-up appointments. On my end, I remembered to get a ‘script for a temporary Disabled Parking permit. Whee.

That was the easy part. But OMG the annoying part is not the broken foot itself.

The annoying part is dealing with the public,
those discourteous, “well-intended”, damnably useless interactions!

Because you see, when you have a physically-apparent injury, one’s body suddenly becomes part of the public’s purview; they are free to make enquiries, “do help to you”, “charmingly” engage in the social distancing of pity, and give malcommendations.

(Hopefully I won’t use up my month’s share of sarcasm quote marks, but one must hazards risk.)

It’s intrusive. Being visibly disabled [sometimes] means losing status to where anyone can ask most anything of you.I don’t mind answering questions from family, coworkers, and friends about the event and my recuperative status. But seriously, why should every random stranger feel privileged to details? Were the issue nephrological, nobody would want to know what was wrong with my bladder, or why I had to make so many bathroom trips, about the thrills of contrast dye, or what my urologist recommended. Yet like when bearing a belly bump, it’s open season. WTF?

It’s unaccommodating disaccommodating. I had not even left the orthopedists office when I was first treated to un-wanted, un-needed, un-help. I had used crutches before (decades ago when I stepped into a rabbit hole, and you can imagine all the er, lame jokes that transpired), and it took but a couple of days to re-acquire my expertise. When I’m using crutches and opening a push-door, the dance goes as follows: swing my body around to back into the door and push against the bar with my buttocks, then after creating the useful gap, balance on the strong foot to turn again, and swing the crutch on my working side around to prop open the door with the rubber foot. Well, the doctors had removed the splint and were sending me down the hall to get the boot. So with my fractured foot all bare, I approached the door to the waiting room and had gotten as far as butting open the door when —

— some idjit hanging around the waiting room decided to be “helpful” and without saying anything, bounded over and suddenly yanked the door open! Mind you, I was balanced on one foot and leaning backwards against the door, so guess what?! Well, I may be clumsy (it comes with the large territory of hypermobility) but thankfully I also have lightning-fast reflexes, and was able to crash to the floor safely. (Dancers and gymnasts know whereof I speak.) That’s not helpful!

And then we have the other unwanted bits of the social model of disability.

It’s … infantilising. Such as when I’m doing something totally mundane, just minding my own beeswax and swinging through a store to get to the restrooms, when some complete stranger feels the need to comment upon my mobility,

“You’re really good at that!”

Except it doesn’t sound at all like admiration at my ability to execute stunning pivots around pyramids of produce, but rather like praising a school child who had colored between the lines on a Kindergarten worksheet.

It’s patronising. When I took advantage of the store’s motorcart to shop for groceries and am cruising at a whopping three miles per hour in a straight line down the middle of the bread-and-jam aisle, and receive a smarmy,

“Wow, look at you go!”

And of course, it’s pitying. 

“Oh, you poor thing!”

There is the assumption of Injury As Tragedy; they have to know when it’s going to be better. Well, what if it’s never going to get “better”? What if it’s permanent, or chronic and intermittent?  It’s the sort of pity where people can’t see past the “broken” part and are uncomfortable; they’re full of Schadenfreude, relieved that the Bad Thing didn’t happen to them. Sometimes the coin of pity they pass along is a kind of magical thinking, token payment to Fate to avert similar disaster.

That’s not helpful.

And let us not forget the malcommendations, a subject of such amazing WhatTheFuckery that it deserved its own post. To wit:

You can tell that you’re running into the lousy end of helpers when the need for social recognition outweighs and over-rules the negative feedback from the recipients. You can tell when they lose the “take it or leave it” perspective and insist that what you need is what they have to offer. Protesting the inappropriateness of their pet form of aid is often useless; you get condescending responses about how they are “specially” qualified, and how you are being unappreciative, and cannot know what is best for you simply because you are of the recipient class.

Such dread Helpers and Fixers want not just the ego-boost and recognition; they want status, and will even sometimes create their own imaginary status markers as proof of why others should recognise their special knowledge and munificent public service. At worst they are narcissistic, at best, merely clueless.

One of the oddest things I have run into with such types is not just the insistence that their pet solution is what is needed, but that any solution they have heard of should be helpful and tried. The advice is coming from them and they want what’s best for you, therefor it’s automatically good advice. I have at times been left so amazed that someone could suggest doing something so far off base with my needs, so profoundly inappropriate, that I was all but sputtering. It wasn’t just an off-target bit of advice, an unhelpful recommendation. It was, I decided later, a malcommendation, a bad recommendation (usually inadvertent) but still bad advice nonetheless.

To take that abstract description to a real-life example, I offer this:

I was at one of my jobs, and a coworker said she would do thus-and-such for me. “Oh, no-no, that’s okay; I’m fine,” I politely dismissed, because I had already sussed out how I was going to perform my duties with my own modifications. But no, she was insistent; after all, she was (at her other job) a medical assistant of some sort,

“No no — I know all about that,” she asserted, her smugness wafting over in a perfumed cloud.

::CRINGE::

Look, as a medical assistant or what-have-you, you don’t know “all about that”; it’s obvious that the doctors know LOTS more.

Secondly, you’re presuming that you know what is best to do TO me, or to do FOR me. Apparently you’ve not realised that I don’t want to be a passive recipient of your “expertise”.

Seriously, when doctors-medics-aides-ancillary-healthcare-professionals know things I don’t know, that’s great! That’s why I’m here visiting your officies. But please, presume some self-awareness of my actual needs, and competency on my part. Work WITH me.

Otherwise, that’s not helpful.

Someone left the Internetz

in my car!

“It’s a system of tubes.”

a system of tubes

a large boxful of cardboard tubes in the back seat

(My son salvaged them from his job because he thought his nephew & niece would enjoy playing with them.)

~#~

And while at work:

Brain’s a little off today; mis-read a woman’s tee shirt as, “Bitchy is my nipple name”. [middle name]

APD (Auditory Processing Disorder) moment: mis-heard a customer’s location query for raisins as “razors” (which, unfortunately, are at opposite ends of the store).

Another APD moment, listening to the radio on the way home: “And now, the Snooze.” [this news]

Singing teh Brain-Dead Workin-Hard Blues: Remodeling

Had a migraine this morning
Cancelled on my shrink.
Need to clean and organise
But I can’t even think.

Moved bedrooms three days ago
O where is my daily pill box?
Boxes and piles everywhere
O where are my clean socks?

I need to go out and garden
Weeds have eaten the side yard.
I need to finish planting
Heat’n’humidity too damn hard.

I need more hours at my job
Stocking groceries at the store;
717 pounds of charcoal
Added bruises to the score.

Need to hammer and hang things
But grandchildren are asleep.
Need to paint and put away stuff
Always more work and I just keep–

Charging for hardware I gotta buy
Like a frequent flier down at Lowe’s.
Wish everything was at the Restore*
Spending too much goodness knows.

Had a migraine this morning
Cancelled on my shrink.
Need to clean and organise
But I can’t even think.

Moved bedrooms three days ago
O where is my daily pill box?
Boxes and piles everywhere
O where are my clean socks?

* Restores are where Habitat for Humanity sells new/gently used building materials; they are a great way to reduce-reuse-recycle and save lots of money on building supplies!  The hitch of course is that the items vary daily at stores.

Choose from the handy menu.

“A not-so-subtle clue that your coworker isn’t interested in cubicle small talk”.

My caption for the image from passive-aggressive notes.com site: 

A bulleted list pinned to the corner of a generic grey cubicle says:

  • YES THIS IS MY NEW HOME (FOR NOW)
  • YES THE SPACE IS SMALLER
  • YES IT’S A LONGER WALK TO THE COPIER
  • YEST IT’S A SHORTER WALK TO THE BATHROOM
  • NO I’M NOT SETTLED IN
  • NO I HAVEN’T ADJUSTED YET
  • NO IT’S NOT QUIETER
  • NO I DON’T KNOW WHY

I can SO sympathize!

~#~

When I’m stocking groceries, I’m also supposed to help customers find things “with a smile!”.  Sometimes it’s pretty obvious that someone can’t find an item because they wander back and forth (the toothpicks take up a small “footprint” of shelf space, and are set up relatively high on the back wall), or are squinting at the aisle signs.

But sometimes people are just thinking about what they need to get, or any number of other things.  Plus, there are some men who don’t want to ask where something is, or will ask but certainly don’t want you to to them to it (our preferred store policy ). I have trouble reading people’s nonverbal cues, and will at times err to either ignoring those in need (once in a while I don’t even notice there are people there until they, “Excuse me-“), or will go too far the other way and over-inform (what I call “data-bombing”), “The plastic bags and boxes are in aisle 8, but the cling wrap, foil, wax paper and such are in the baking aisle 4.  The zipper-baggies on the right side of the aisle, to the front of the store, near the top.  Is there anything else for which you are looking?”

In my highly-visual mind, I imagine this cartoon also hung in the aisles:

To our patrons:  please mark your Thought Balloon so we may assist you promptly.

  • Where is the _____ ?
  • I’m just waiting for a slow spouse.
  • I’m figuring out what to cook next.
  • I haven’t a clue why I came down this aisle.
  • I’m delaying my return home to the rest of the family.
  • I’m comparing products.
  • I’m keeping out of the weather.
  • I just come here to try the food samples.

________

Related posts:

Small Talk

Role-Playing

AD/HD Gaslight

Where is my grocery cart?

I’m pretty sure I left it down by the front end of the frozen aisles.

It’s not there.  Nor did someone move it out of the way behind the [rarely used] Register 1.

Huh.  Where is my cart?  Now I’m traipsing around for my trolley.

I’m not grocery shopping, when I stay in close proximity to my market merchandise.  This is my working wagon, a cart with my rubbish bag and duster, my list and notes, my repair tape and of course, the things I need to shelve.

With my ADHD brain set to Random and taxed by tiredness, yet trying to keep several tasks current on my mental “desktop”, it’s certainly not impossible for me to lose track of a thing to fetch or to put away, or the next task I’d set myself to do.  Generally my recursive tracks through the store are sufficient for me to come across either the item or the section of shelves that I need to “face” (straighten up).

Sometimes my mental perambulations cross back over a previous line of thought, and the same mental note will thus occur to me again.

It’s inefficient to be sure, but eventually everything gets done.  I try to streamline my process progress by keeping a running list of Things To Do. The list is also great at the end of my shift, for when I leave a note to my boss telling what usual things I’d done, and also what extra tasks I had tended. Plus, there is the external randomness that happens all night long: periodic calls to cashier during a sudden influx of customers*, and sporadic customer queries that result in my taking them to the item location.

And then — oh bother!  Where DID I park my cart?

Because of course, if it’s a Truck day, I’m stocking dozens of cases of candy or baby formula or soap, then the cart stays put in the aisle. I remove each case of new stock to set, and then return the flattened cardboard to the cart.

That’s fine.  But other days there is no Truck of new stock to set, and I am simply filling in various shelves with Back Stock (B/S, not to be confused with BS).

And right now I can’t find my cart. I try to “retrace my steps”, which more resembles surveying the aisles I usually frequent, because nothing this evening was particularly memorable to imprint itself on my memory.  All too often, my memory is topical, not sequential.

No, it’s not around anywhere; which discounts the “distracted by sequential customer queries” process that results in me being far from my original departure point.

Another hypothesis is that since it’s neither in the usual aisles, nor by Register 1, maybe someone decided to take it to the back stock room.

I pace to the back room, thankfully uninterrupted by a customer, whose query would have restarted this whole recursive process all over again.

Hmn … there’s my cart and equipment, but not the case I was going to stock.  I guess one of the managers decided to do something with it.  Maybe it was one of those new items for which we do not yet have a shelf tag, and they needed to enter the item into the inventory system. Thank goodness; mystery solved.

So I wheel down to the stock bay where the B/S bird seed and dog chews are kept, to fetch more cases.  After loading my cart again, I realize that it’s time to take my Break — some food and water would probably help the whole tired brain thing.  And if I leave a full cart, no one is likely to unintentionally “gaslight” me by changing my surroundings and leaving me to wonder if I’ve lost track of my stuff or my mind altogether.

* Why “everyone” wants to check out at once — no matter when they came in — is one of the mysteries of retail.

I need to write a letter to my boss*

[* THIS POST IS A PART OF BLOGGING AGAINST DISABLISM DAY 2010]

Or perhaps, just deliver an explanatory document to my boss and the HR (Human Resources) person at my second job.

My annual review was okay; very good on some things, okay on others, some recommendations (there always are — no one is perfect after all).  But something mentioned was to get to know the regular customers by name.  I have, after all, been here a year, and grocery stores have a core set of regular customers that come through once, if not several times, a week.  It’s not hard to learn names when you’re checking them out, as the names appear on their check or on the register (till) screen when they use a debit or credit card.

But of course, most people have no difficulty distinguishing or remembering faces.

I on the other hand, have that lovely invisible disability of prosopagnosia, or face-blindness.  I don’t recognize people by their faces.  I cannot easily or quickly identify people.  And, I cannot remember faces.  Sure, I’ve learned to (consciously, relatively slowly) identify a core set of the people with whom I work regularly.  I know my immediate bosses, the store manager, some of the other managers, and several of the checkers and sackers, a few stockers, and one each of several butchers, florists, pharmacists, and cooks.

But they are likely less than 25% of the total employees.  I’m not sure how many there really are, because part-timers tend to come and go, and also, to me the other employees form a general mass of generic persons, all of whom follow the same prescribed dress code.

Ah yes, the dress code.  The great thing about jobs I have is that the school and the grocery both require people to wear name tags.  Not only can I be sure with whom I’m speaking, but they also allow me to check and memorize the names once I have figured out how to identify that person regularly.  Whee!

But, unlike the school, the grocery has a dress code.  It’s not overly fastidious, just along the lines of slacks + collared shirt, except when we are to wear a specific color of shirt on Fridays & weekends.  Of course, there’s a down side — when I need to find say, my assistant manager to ask him a question, there’s an entire giant supermarket just riddled with people in blue button-down or polo [golf, tennis] shirts — and some of those are customers!

I cannot just glance over a crowd of people and instantly spot the person I need.  They don’t “pop out”.  (No, not even my family members!)  Instead, I must examine each person and compare their overall size, haircut, gender, and coloration to my mental gestalt.  Of course, it’s easier if I’m looking for say, a taller, brown person — that means I only have to scan each aisle for (1) blue shirts, (2) tall people, (3) brown-skinned people, and (4) the particular haircut, gait and voice that is one of the assistant managers.

That sounds fairly easy, or at least efficient, right?  But that’s still walking down some 15+ aisles and side-aisles, visually sorting each adult-size person.  And quite possibly the guy’s in the back scanning office or stock room or upstairs office or break room or in a restroom or retrieving something from the outside loading dock or where-ever-the-hell managers go when they go poof and disappear.

Thank heavens I can get on the intercom and page him to call extension 137 or whatever.  In turn, when I’m needed to be an extra checker or to meet with someone, the various managers have been very nice about paging me by my name-and-department or by my whole name.  I’ve not really bothered to explain the whole Auditory Processing Disorder thing; I’ve just said that it’s hard for me to understand the pages sometimes, especially if my head’s down in a refrigerated case  with its noisy fans, or I’m in the back room pulling stuff out of shipping cartons.

But you know, it’s difficult to explain faceblindness in 25-words-or-less.  No one’s heard of it, and the fact that I can in some manner still identify some people enough of the time makes it even more baffling to people.  And of course, there’s the old, “Oh, I have trouble remembering names and faces sometimes, too.”

Well, yeah.  But you still recognize people, in a split-second of unconscious thought.  You are aware that you know these people.  You may even know where you know all those people from. You just have trouble remembering the names that go with those faces.

I never do.  And except for the couple-dozen very morphologically distinctive customers, I’m not likely to remember any of them.

Silly people, they keep changing their physical characteristics, wearing different clothes through the seasons, changing their hairstyles, their purses, their hats or glasses, and so on.  Sometimes they have family members with them, and sometimes not.  Their children have this incredible ability to grow and morph dramatically.  And of course, the customers keep changing the details of how they interact with me, and will need my help finding something in one aisle or another, or check out at different times of day, or whatever.  Good heavens, sometimes people whom I know from other parts of my life will come through — the pharmacist will be shopping in their street clothes instead of standing behind their counter in a lab coat, my neighbor, or a former student will greet me, and they usually expect me to know them when they are out of their usual environments.  (At least my ophthalmologist understands that I’ve hardly ever seen him with my glasses on.)

Alas, the world is too full of generic people seen on an intermittent basis.  Once in a great while, somebody comes by to ask me a question, and it isn’t until they begin to speak to me that everything clicks, and I realize this is my daughter or son-in-law!

I’m really quite helpful to customers, am conscientious about getting the stock rotated and shelved with the right price tag, do a great job of setting up displays, make a point to be sure that the back stock is checked so it gets on the floor, am careful when bagging so the cold items are together and the eggs are all okay and the bread and produce doesn’t get squished, and so on.

It’s just that I will never be able to learn very many customers, or even all the employees.  And much as I would like to have this magical skill that 98% of the rest of the population has, my disability is far outweighed by all the other things that I can do well.  I’m not lazy or stupid.  It’s just that I have an invisible disability.

What can I say?

Customer, struggling to understand why the 2 for $3 bags of shredded cheese ring up for more than $3 when she buys three bags:

“Sorry, I’m not very computer illiterate.”

________

(In other news, our mayor plans to announce another successful zombie-free year for the city. /joke)

Mis-Expressed Lane

Today I’m on the Express Lane. (“12 items or less” — that ought to read “12 items or fewer”, but groceries are hardly models of grammar and punctuation.)  I’m not a “number Nazi” — if the other registers are busy, I don’t care if you’ve two dozen items; my goal is to get you checked out and on your way.   It’s a good thing I’m on the express lane, because I have to keep pausing:

“Ah-CHOO! Ah-CHOO!” I remove my face from my elbow, and turn back to my register, where I rub my hands with sanitizer foam.

“Hi there!  Did you find everything for which you were looking?”  bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep “Any coupons?” bleep “Okay, that’ll be $14.67, if you please.”

“What if I don’t please?”  grins a puckish guy.

“That’ll still be $14.67,” I grin back.  “Out of $20?  That’s $5.33 in change, there’s the 33 cents, and 5 — ” I screw up my face long enough to turn away — “Ah-CHOO! Ah-CHOO!” I remove my face from my elbow, and return back to my register, where I rub my hands with sanitizer foam.

“I got my receipt.”

“Thank you; here’s your bag. You have a good day.”

Two hours later, I’m still sneezing.  (Twice at a time; I sneeze twice, my kids sneeze twice, and my grandson sneezes twice.  Funny what-all the genome encodes.)

One of the mysteries of retail is that no matter when people arrive at the store, “everybody” wants to check out at once.  There are lulls, and then there are lines, and lulls again that enable me to wipe the schmutz off the scanner glass, straighten up the candy bars, and finish unwrapping partially-peeled rolls of coins.

Hah-CHOO! Hah-CHOO!” Once again, I remove my face from my elbow, and return back to my register, where I re-rub my now-chapped hands with sanitizer foam.

During such a lull, I speak across the eight-feet gap to another checker, “Are you wearing perfume?”  When she replies affirmatively, I surmise, “Oh, that must be why I’m sneezing.”

“Oh, it’s not very strong.  And I only use a little.  It smells very nice,” she asserts, sniffing her sleeve, “I put it on at 5:30 this morning!”

So what if that was hours ago? Hun, if I’m sneezing this far away, it’s stronger than you think.

Ah-pppbllh! Ah-pppbllh! *sniff*” I go up to the Customer Service desk for a handful of tissues, and return to check the next cluster of customers.

Come the next lull, she wanders over, defensively insisting that her perfume isn’t strong.  “Maybe I’m catching something,” I offer as a conciliatory alternative, wondering if my affect had not come across the right way earlier.  She appears to be one of those really social people who liked to chit-chat with others, and I’ve begun to realize that in such interchanges, style trumps content, and “verbal grooming” trumps practical considerations.

Thankfully this was just a four-hour shift, because my night’s sleep had not been much longer than that.  I go home for lunch and after my short nap, am not surprised to find that I’m no longer sneezing.

And that, O Best Beloved, is why I don’t wear scented body products during any of my jobs.

Re-tailored

Golly, it’s been some time since I’ve written a post. It’s not for a lack of thoughts, but rather energy.  My sleep has been disturbed by nightmares for, well, months, and the cumulative effect wears me down in the evenings.

This I had posted over years back.  As the saying describes, Friends come and go, but enemies hang around. I thought I had laid to rest some of those old demons, and perhaps I had, but now they reappear, previous horrors conflated with the memories of new experiences.

TAILOR-MADE

Tailor-made, I was.
Though all my clothes hung on me
And I was awkward as hell
Shoelaces usually tripped undone
And my hair ties came loose.

Tailor-made for being the victim
Geeky, younger, smaller, four-eyed,
Clumsy, studious, totally clueless
Socially awkward, unpopular
And best of all, face-blind.

I never knew who it was that poked me with pins
Stole my purse, squashed my lunch
Took my street clothes while in gym
Groped barely-developing breasts
Slammed me against the lockers.

Smeared clay on my chair like shit
Marked on my books, tore my assignments
Called me names, oh so many names
Or briefly pretended to befriend me
To make me the butt of a joke.

Not that I didn’t protest repeatedly
I reported the abuses properly
Told many official, protective people
Friends, family, teachers, administrators
But their responses were unilateral

“Boys will be boys,” said dad.
“You’re just being whiney,” said mom.
“If you can’t tell us who these people are,
that you ‘think’ are doing things to you,
then we can’t do anything,” said the officials.

Perhaps the real problem
Was not in what I said,
But that I was speaking up.
When I asserted myself
They redefined my reality.

Saying that what I perceived did not exist
That I was crazy, hallucinating, or on drugs
That I was just trying to attract attention
That I was making things up
When I wasn’t.

The perfect victim is someone
Who can’t identify the people that did things
Who tries to be good and please people
Who misses danger cues
Who is easy to silence.

The anger and frustration at being disbelieved
Turns into confusion and self-doubt
Maybe it’s just me
I must be wrong
Everyone says so.

Depression sinks in
I must be crazy
I keep perceiving this as reality
When everyone says it isn’t so
Isn’t that the logical conclusion?

You must trust people to help you
They are important people
They are the ones in charge
They know what’s best for you
They keep asserting you’re wrong.

When the reality is given to you by others
And they keep changing the story
It’s hard to keep your facts straight.
This is of course is only further proof
That you are crazy, and making things up.

Trust is earned, not demanded.
Funny how trust erodes
When reality is allowed to reassert itself
And I re-assert myself
Even though they re-assert:

I’m just acting out and making up stories.


“Attention grocery shoppers!”

“We have a special going on in our natural foods aisle, right now!  You can get your specialty questions answered by our very own over-educated scientist-grocery stocker!  That’s right, weekends and evenings only, over in our natural foods aisle!  And THANK YOU for shopping your local supermarket chain grocery!”

Oh, boy.

It’s one thing to be helping someone find the curious location where the grocery manager decided to stock the barley.  No, not with the rice and beans — that’d be too easy; it’s with the bouillon.

And it’s another thing — but I get ahead of myself.  (Alas, when I do that I’m likely to trip over my own feet and sprain an ankle, but that’s hypermobility for you).

One evening, every other row of fluorescent lights was off, as was the canned music.  Apparently they were filming a commercial or some advertising stills. Whatever, we had a couple hours of bliss.  Why can’t the store be so calm and pleasant all the time?  Because the people who study customer behavior say that noise and lights are important.  Or maybe the grocery industry just thinks that noise and lights are important.  Or maybe old research suggested such.  Or maybe stores are following some historical misinterpretation of behavioral research. Hell if I know.  As for me, the canned music just adds unnecessary background noise, aggravating my Auditory Processing Disorder.  Did someone just page Manager to the Customer Service Desk or Andrea to the Customer Service Desk?  Did my boss just page me to dial 14 or aisle 14?  “Oops, sorry, mis-heard you with all the background noise,” I apologise to an older gentleman, as I lead him away from the [recycled paper] brown plates to the bran flakes.

Sometimes a customer will ask for something not on the shelf, so I helpfully zip down to the back room to see if there’s any in backstock. Usually, there isn’t, because by definition, backstock is the overflow that won’t fit on the shelves.  Alas, if I’m in a distracted mood, I will forget to make a mental note of what the customer is wearing, and upon my return, will have that panicked second when I realise that they have moved onto another aisle, and I am supposed to find them.  Oh, the perils of being faceblind: I can’t remember people!  Were they alone, or with another adult, or children?  Did they have a large or small cart?  Do I have any idea of whether they were male, female, or some overbundled or indeterminately-coiffed gender?  Were they were pink- or brown-skinned?  Hat? Fancy purse?  Team jacket?  Why can’t everyone be as distinctive as the fellow who dressed like Eddie Izzard’s less-chic sibling?

My other problem of course, is that I actually answer the questions about the things we sell.  Some day, someone is going to get annoyed.

Once in a while I stock groceries over in the natural foods section.  It’s pretty much like stocking groceries over in the unnatural foods section, except that omitting artificial coloring makes food more expensive.  That and the aisles are narrower, so I have to park the flatbed down at the ends of the aisles and lug more cases.  One day I forgot my knee pads, and realised with a heavy note of irony that stocking all the arthritis treatments was making my knees ache.

“Um, where do you sell the sugar?”

“The sugar?” I repeat, buying a moment’s time while I re-engage my customer-conversation scripts, and activate my mental map of the store.

“Yes, I want the sugar without any chemicals.”

Omigod.  Aside from bottled water, the bags of sugar are probably one of the purest chemical resources in the entire store.

“But sugar is just sucrose; it doesn’t have any added chemicals,”  I manage to shut my mouth before going onto explain that sucrose is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose.  Nobody cares … “Here are our organically-grown sugars on this shelf.  And we also have sucanat and turbinado, if you’d like.”  (These latter two are less-processed forms of cane sugar; they have varying amounts of tasty molasses impurities that also make them brown.)

Honestly, a “chemical” is simply a substance with a defined composition.    You already know what H2O is.  Sucrose is C12H22O11 – there are 12 Carbon molecules, 22 Hydrogen molecules and 11 Oxygen molecules.  Of course, just knowing how many atoms of each element isn’t enough – other sugars such as lactose and maltose also have the same formula.  The differences are in how those atoms are arranged.

And if you’re shopping for plant fertilizer, a nitrate is a nitrate is a nitrate, and they’re all NO3-. The plant doesn’t care where the molecules came from, nor can it tell the difference if the nitrate came from an organic (naturally-derived) source or an artificially-manufactured source.  That said, organic fertilizers are more expensive and less concentrated, but are less likely to result in a build-up of salts atop the potting soil.

But please, don’t ask me for anything “chemical-free”; the only thing that is “chemical free” is an absolute vacuum.

I retrieve random things left on the shelves, where someone has left a box of Big Name mac & cheese amongst the organic mac & cheese, a shopping list, a wee sample cup given out by the guy flogging new flavors of hummus, and a box of Airborne.

“What does that do?” asks the other grocery stocker, gesturing at the colorful box that proclaimed, “Created by a school teacher!”

“Nothing.  There’s no research evidence to support it at all.  A grade-school teacher is not the same thing as a compounding pharmacologist.”  Were I in charge of ordering, we wouldn’t waste shelf space for nonsense like that, or for things like Bragg vinegar that is supposed to “help remove body sludge toxins”.  Body sludge toxins, what nonsense!  (I suppose it’d help the lime buildup in my sink drain.)

“Excuse me, where are your all-natural gummy candies?”

Because you know, gummy candies are so natural. Wow, I’d love to have a shrub that produced gummies, especially the cherry and liquorice sorts.  Does the soil have to be aerated by gummy worms?  I hope it’s not thorny …  “They’re over here, on the top shelf.  Is there anything else for which you’re looking?”

“Attention grocery shoppers!  Are you looking for holiday candy and merchandise?  You can find it all over in aisle 14, where we have a wide selection of holiday candies in Fun Sizes, all your same favorites as the last holiday, but wrapped in this holiday’s color themes!  Don’t forget to get some holiday-themed merchandise for your loved ones, and holiday-themed party goods as well. And THANK YOU for shopping your local supermarket chain grocery!”

Occupational Hazards

No matter what your job, there are some frequent questions or comments from the general public that get, shall we say, a tad tiresome.

I thought it would be interesting to make up a brief questionnaire and select a few nominees.  If you would also like to join in, please do!  Just post your answers below, or put a link on your blog to this post.

Q.: What term or phrase from your job/occupation do people mangle?

A.:  Entomology often gets changed to “Ant-o-mology”, as though we only study ants.  Not even Edward O. Wilson is an “antomologist”; he is (among other things) a myrmecologist.

Q.: What broadly erroneous assumption do people make about your preferences and your career choice?

A.:  That I love all insects.  Really, I don’t. (Although I will be quick to point out that only 1 % of the insects are pests.)  I do find grasshoppers to be kind of gross, especially after scrubbing their encrusted remains off my automobile windshield, and spending hours driving a riding mower and having them bounce off my face.  Blech.

Q.: What trivia challenge do people pose when they hear about what you do for a living?

A.:  “Wow, I bet you know all the bugs!”  No.  There are over one million species, mostly beetles, and I’m more familiar with butterflies.

Q.: What basic fact about your job/occupation do people rarely understand?

A.:  That insects are animals.  “Yes, they are.  They’re not plants, not fungi, not single-cell organisms.  They have organ systems and behaviors, and are not photosynthetic.”

Q.: Did you always want to be a/n  ___?

A.:  “Huh?  Sorry, distracted watching this bug.  Look here at what it’s doing–“

Q.: You musta been a weird kid, huh?

A.:  Yeah, but now I get paid to teach the other weird kids.

Q.: How did some totally unrelated previous job prepare you for your current occupation?

A.:  I went from doing behavioral observations of insects to behavioral observations of students with severe emotional and behavioral problems.  There are more similarities than you’d imagine.

Q.: So what do you do for a living?

A.: Do you mean my daytime, evening, or weekend job?

I would love to hear the answers from Dave Hingsburger, Bug Girl, Dean Dad, Wheelchair Dancer, and YOU.

Goldfish resting by an open fire

What a day!  There’s nothing so “fun” as grocering the day before a holiday, especially when the meteorology report is dire.  Guess what I found while stocking the doggy chews?

Yes indeedy, The Bad Goldfish were back, undeterred by the possibility of ending up as frozen fish from the weather.  Planning for their Christmas, they had picked up a couple bags of fresh chestnuts, but once again, got distracted and left their produce behind.

“Ooh, look!  Oyster-shell treats!”

Bags of chestnuts, abandoned in front of a packet of oyster-shell dog chews.

Merry Christmas to folks, and don’t forget to remind the kids, “Now remember, put your things away, lest The Bad Goldfish come and steal them!”

Grandma’s Counting Book

(not suitable for an embroidery sampler)

1  Pair of shoes that fell apart, plus

2  belts that did as well.

3  Pairs of sad slacks with stains.

4  Part-time jobs I’ve worked this year, for

5  people whom I’m supporting.

6  Pairs of raggedy undies and

7  pairs of holey socks I tossed in the trash.

8  Hundred is a great credit score,

9  hundred is a mortgage payment,

10 days since I’ve applied for a mortgage in just my name, and

11 months I’ve paid the mortgage on my own.

12 Kitchen cabinets & drawers that are falling apart, plus

13 year old stained carpeting and gouged vinyl need replacing.

14 Days after applying, the letter will follow the phone call that said Grandma doesn’t make enough money to get her mortgage.

The Goldfish are back!

So today when I was stocking groceries, I found some more evidence of malfeasance.  This time it was not a compromised package with the seal broken or contents used, but rather, groceries abandoned in odd places.  (Thankfully, not perishables, like lunch meat stuck behind cookies, or yogurt tubs amongst the baking tins, ugh.)

This time, it was a russet potato and a couple of yellow potatoes left on the bottom shelf underneath the peg racks of razors.

“Must be them Bad Goldfish again,” I mumbled to myself.   Apparently they thought you could peel taters with a disposable razor!  Stupid goldfish.

So why were the potatoes left there?

Because goldfish have short memories, of course.

Saved by bureaucracy

( A follow-up on my shaky employment status, as described in a previous post, The Catch.)

So now I’ve twice seen the ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat doc, not tree-folk), to figure out if the vertigo, worsening tinnitus and hearing difficulties are related to Ménière’s, or “just” migraines.  At those visits I also spent time in the audiologist’s booth:  “Huh?  Sorry, I can’t see what you’re saying.”  “Oh,” he replied jovially, “this isn’t a vision test, it’s a hearing test.”  Ha, ha.  Very funny.

(Have I mentioned that lately one of the cable channels is messed up, and maddenly, we’ve not had any closed-captions on episodes of CSI ?  Listening to TV is hard enough with fussy babies who want bouncing, much less auditory processing glitches and tinnitus.)

And then something wonderful happened:

The day after my first ENT visit, it occurred to me that it might be useful to ge an official letter from the doc to give to my various bosses.  So I called in my request to the office nurse and picked it up from the receptionist and passed out copies to my supervisors and those got fowarded to Human Resources people and —

SHAZAM!

I was saved by bureaucracy.

(I mean hey, it’s gotta happen sometime, right?)

Because apparently being treated for Ménière’s disease (note the careful legal waffling on diagnostics) falls under the umbrella of an American labor law known as the The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).  Basically, taking care of sick family members, birth, adoption, or one’s own illness (covered by the Act) is protected so the worker can get unpaid sick leave without worrying about job security.

I cannot be dunned for absences related to bouts of vertigo.

My principal was of course very polite and helpful in the process of explanating this unexpected coverage.  I was asked about accommodations that might be helpful.  Alas, none of the things suggested by the Job Accommodation Network are applicable to my job (but that’s a great site if you need ideas for accommodations for most any sort of affliction or difference).

However, I was giving some 60 days of sick leave for absences related to — and only to — Ménière’s.  Despite my initial relief, my job status still feels as wobbly as my gait some days.  Stay tuned for further developments.

Thieves!

Grocery stockers are well-familiar with the sight:  random empty boxes that are the hidden leftovers to stolen goods.  Cold medicine.  Hair coloring.  Condoms.  Diapers. Candy.

A couple days ago I found a different wrapper stuffed behind the tidy stacks of soap bars, a small cylinder of fish food, with the plastic lid missing and the foil seal compromised.  About a teaspoon of flakes were gone.

I showed it off to my coworker, Becky.  “Don’t you just hate it when those damn goldfish come into the store and steal things?!”

The Catch

I’ve been having intermittent bouts of vertigo (some severe), along with worsening tinnitus and resulting difficulty understanding what people are saying. My GP said I got poor results on the tympanogram, and is sending me to an ENT, whom I see next week.  I’m no longer driving on the highway, and take extra care if I’m carrying my grandson.

Meanwhile, someone at school told the principal that I was “doing the wall thing”, meaning touching the wall to steady myself as I passed down a hallway.  This resulted in being called up for a Official Meeting.  By the time I left, I was feeling queasy and light-headed for entirely different reasons:

  • Being a couple hours late to phone in my absences due to migraine and due to a Emergency Room visit for vertigo, had previously earned me a stern warning for procedural lapses.
  • Going to or staying at work if feeling dizzy is prohibited because an educator with vertigo is a liability.
  • Leaving work 30 minutes early for a doctor’s appointment must be taken as sick time.
  • No “flex time” is allowed for appointments (i.e. leaving a bit early and making up that time by staying later another day).
  • Thirty minutes, half a day or a whole day all count equally as an incident of using a sick day.
  • Taking 19 sick-day events by October due to viruses, migraines, vertigo or doctor appointments is excessive, and any further such absences can result in termination of employment.
  • Which specific number is unmentioned, but up to the Powers That Be in the Human Resources department.
  • Any employee who is feverish with a virus must stay home.

Alas, this is all legal, and there seems to be a large limbo of being disabled by irregularly re-occuring conditions without actually being Disabled enough for some kind of accommodation.

Even if I somehow negotiated with H.R., the interpersonal climate with the school admin is too prickly to stay.  This is a shame, because I have a great relationship with my classroom staff/faculty.

I’m looking for a different job, hopefully something full-time that also pays well enough so I can have just ONE job in my life.  But everything I’ve seen pays fast-food wages, or else is so technically specific that my skills profile is a mis-match.

The free-floating anxiety is just HELL.

Role-Playing

I’ve role-played in various capacities over the years, from the “acting-out student” in a staff safety seminar, to the novice thief in a D&D game.  But the other week I was asked to try out a far different rôle:

“If you were Melba Toast, where would you be hiding?”

Melba Toast … gee, were I a small box of cardboardy toast slivers, where would I be hiding?  Hmn …

Such queries fill chunks of my life now, as I am working two and three jobs for 65-70 hours a week, which should explain the general lack of bloggery.  It’s not a lack of interest, nor a lack of subjects worthy of blathering about.  (The sad part is that I still have plants sitting around in pots that I bought back in June. That, and another goal is to finish my grandson’s quilt before winter sets in; he’s nearly three months old already!)

These oddball encounters always hit me out of the blue, when I’m otherwise preoccupied with squinting at the shelf tag UPCs to figure out which peg the -48699 fancy chandelier light bulbs should hang upon, or am trying to line up a stack of shiny toothpaste boxes without knocking over its companion rows.  (Why do we have to stack all those wobbly boxes three tiers high?  Because the boss like them that way, that’s why.  But hell if I’m going to try stacking up some of those styles of maxipads, because even single packs don’t want to stand upright.)

Melba Toast … The problem of course, is that every store has a set of random products that are difficult for customers to find.  So there we are, grocery stocker blinking and trying to remember to smile and make eye contact and parse the unexpected conversation from the background noise, and customer trying to find the right person for help.

“Do you work here?”

[No,] says the tired-and-cranky part of my brain, [I just like standing around the local market wearing a dress shirt with the corporate logo, knee pads, compression gloves for my arthritis & Raynaud’s, and a box knife holstered to my waistband.  I sure as hell better work here, because I’m getting so nearly OCD about “facing” groceries that I’m starting to pull forward and straighten out merchandise even when I’m just shopping for my own groceries.]  Working two shifts a day doesn’t make me as cranky as going two weeks at a stretch without a full day off.  Damnit, I want a life.

Savvy customers ask me, “Do you work for the store?” because they’ve learned that the burly guy stocking cola works for the cola-distribution company, or the little old lady giving out food samples works for a food conglomerate or a temp agency, and neither of these people knows where our market stocks the sun-dried tomatoes, oat bran, or tiki-torch oil. Actually, we don’t stock tiki-torch oil, which is why that customer couldn’t find it.  You’re shocked, I’m sure.  Or maybe not; we get all kinds of crazy-ass seasonal shit to sell.  Maybe we did have tiki-torch oil once-upon-a-time.  By my 13th work-hour of the day, tiki-torch oil sounds perfectly reasonable, and I can just about hallucinate bottles of sunset-gold tiki-torch oil by the tins of cigarette-lighter butane or the blister packs of Tropical Paradise air freshener candles.  Blarrrg.

Sometimes the senseless placements are simply accidents of history, like the display of snack cakes that migrated inward from and aisle “end cap” and are now juxtaposed to the tinned soups for no particular reason other than some space existed there once, and no one’s since bothered to move them over to the sweets aisle.

Sometimes the senseless placements are just that, like the forlorn bags of barley that are slumped against the soup powders, instead of with the rest of the dry grains and beans. (Well yeah, people put barley in soup, but people put damn near everything else in soups, too; so what?)

Customers are usually so apologetic when they can’t find something;  they don’t want to “be a bother”. 

“Oh, now I’m messing up your nice display,” frets the gentleman as he fumbles to remove two packs of liquorices.

“No, no, that’s okay!  If you don’t buy it, then I can’t re-stock it, and what would I do for a job?  You’re keeping the economy running!”  Seriously.

They worry that I’m going to think less of them because they can’t find something that’s staring right back at both of us, which is also silly, because sometimes we’re both staring at the shelf, leaving me mumbling,

“I know I saw it right around here the other day, unless it got moved the day I was off …” 

“Oh, here it is!” exclaims the customer, who actually has a “search image” for a product, unlike this store employee who neither stocks the item nor buys it.

“Ayup, I remembered seeing it around here … is there anything else for which you are looking?”

Of course, there’s the person stalking up and down an aisle because they too have that feeling of it’s-right-in-front-of-me, and they finally break down to ask me as I’m passing by with a trolley artfully crammed full of cartons of chocolate bars and thirteen flavors and sizes of toothpaste, or a handtruck heaped high with bags of charcoal. (Nothing says, “Working Hard” like having coal schmutz on your cheek.)

“Um, have you seen the — Oh!  Here it is.  Sorry,”

“No worries — we do that at home all the time:  ‘Hey Mom, where’s-the-nevermind’.”

My canned joke, with its carefully-honed wee bit of wry camaraderie, usually prompts a reciprocating expression of familiarity.  Small talk is hard for me, so after I’ve had the same type of experience a few times, I make myself up some scripts to add to my standard lists of “Grocery Stocker Small Talk” or “Grocery Cashier Small Talk”.

But of course, there’s the inevitable ad-libbing.

“Melba Toast … you know, I don’t think I’ve ever role-played bread before,” I replied.  Fortunately, my off-beat attempt at levity worked, which bought me some time as I stood there, staring up into space to access my mental store map.  “Well, let’s go check Aisle 5,”

We get there, cruising past the peanut butter and jelly selections, in our grocery manager’s dual homage to cheap sandwiches and suggestive product placement.  “I already looked in the bread aisle,” volunteers the customer, but we’re both familiar with scenario of missing something right in front of us, so we give it a look-through just to be sure.

“Okay, another likely place would be in the cracker aisle,” I offer, as we pass the end-cap display for the other brand of snack cakes (located in another part of the store, naturally) and make a U-turn to cruise fruitlessly past the chips and crackers.  Before my customer gets too dispirited (or embarrassed),  I offer an explanation, “The problem is, there are some things for which there are several perfectly logical places to keep them … and every store has its quirks.  Well, if it’s not down here, we’ll look in the Import Foods section by the Dutch rusks,”

“I already checked there,” says the unusually diligent shopper.

“Wow, most people usually miss — ah-HA!  Here they are, next to cereal and the toaster pastries.”  Hooray, this mystery is solved, and I can go back to fighting with the Halloween bags of Twizzlers candies, which are refusing to stack neatly and have taken to suddenly slumping off the shelf and slithering onto the floor as I get halfway down the aisle.  It would take no less than five episodes of this before I finally got the heaps stabilised.  Such repeated incidents of fruit-carting would be funny later, but there are only so many ways you can stack and re-stack and re-stack and re-stack and re-stack bags of individually-wrapped cherry-flavored twists before getting utterly twisted, too.

12 Days

Man, but July just oozed by in a protracted mental fog.  One of the huge blocks to regular bloggery was the incredible 12-Day Headache.  It got slightly better at times, and it got worse at times, but the “Ten Kilos of Lead Atop Me Head” pain just would NOT go away!

It made working the three jobs worse, despite my adamant determination to not miss more than a day’s work from the para or grocery jobs.  I couldn’t even consider missing a day from the professor job, because summer semester runs at twice the speed, and we had no wiggle-room in our schedule for covering everything that needed to be covered.

As before, putting thoughts together was like stringing beads while wearing heavy ski mittens.  But this time I didn’t have a handy excuse, other than, “I’ve had a headache for over a week now,”  Being in pain means not sleeping well, and increases stress, and all three of these factors combine into a viscous circle.

  • I tried acetominophen (paracetamol), in addition to my daily naproxen sodium that I take for arthralgia.
  • I tried soaking in a hot bath in a dim room.
  • I stood under a strong shower and let it beat upon my head.
  • I laid down with cold compresses.
  • I took two-hour afternoon naps because I could not keep my eyes open.
  • I took a vigourous 1-mile walk and gardened, and avoided afternoon naps in hopes of getting better sleep.
  • I had a hot toddy at bedtime.
  • I ate cold ice cream to the point of “brain-freeze”.
  • I massaged my head.
  • I vigorously brushed my hair.
  • I took Imitrex, my migraine medication.
  • I did Tai Chi Chih-like stretches.
  • I layed with my feet higher than my head.
  • I massaged my feet.

I thought to myself, “This can’t keep going on!  I can’t live like this.”  But of course it can, and people do.

Initially, I kept saying, “I’ll do that tomorrow when I feel better.”  But the mañana list kept getting longer and longer.  After a week, I finally came to the grips that for whatever reason, I was going to have to deal with The Damn Leaden Burden of Pain as a chronic issue, whether long-term or short-term. It forced me to pare down my Daily To Do lists to the merest essentials:

  1. This morning I will shower and shampoo.
  2. After a nap, I must write at last 75% of an exam.
  3. I will eat something nutritious for dinner before working tonight.
  4. I will set out a complete change of clothes before I go to bed.

What hellish demands upon my time and energy!  That was of course, a day when I wasn’t teaching a class, just doing the morning para job and a few hours of stocking groceries after tea.

Oh crap, I forgot one:

5.  I will refill my daily pill minder.

You know you’re exhausted when dosing out a few bedtime pills is too much of a bother.

Finally I gave up and went to my GP.  “I’m exhausted.  I’m even falling asleep at work, and at dinner, even though I’m sleeping seven to ten hours a night, with two hours naps during the day.  My joints and muscles ache.  I keep getting bruises, and cuts heal slowly, and my gums bleed when I brush my teeth.  My hands and feet are cold.  I’m sensitive to light, my ears ring most of the time, and I’m having dizzy spots.  I get disoriented, and have the worst mental fogginess, despite taking my ADHD meds. I have dry mouth, and am thirsty all the time and drinking two or more liters of water a day.  AND I’VE HAD THIS HORRIBLE HEADACHE FOR TWELVE DAYS.”

I mentioned a family history of diabetes.  The doc sent me down to the lab for blood draws, also checking my thyroid and some other factors.  Additionally, he gave me a heavy-duty pain reliever that I took when I went to bed.  The next day was much better, although I could still feel headache lurking around the edges, so I took another pill the next night.

The Damn Leaden Burden of Pain finally went away.  My blood tests all came back normal, thankfully.  I don’t know what caused such an intractible headache, but I sure hope it doesn’t return.  Or if it does, I’ll smack it down a lot quicker with the pain med.  The pain-exhausted-stress cycle gets so hard to break.

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