Monday, January 09, 2012


Maybe it’s because the holidays are over, or maybe it’s because it’s getting bitterly cold out there (as January should be), or maybe people are suffocating from the lack of sun and not getting a sufficient amount vitamin D. Whatever the reason is, I’m noticing a lot of cranky little critters running amuck. I had to take a ride to the grocery store the other day to pick up a few things and the place was just swarming with people. I had to go into the aisle where they had the Progresso soups and wait on a line to just see what was available. There was an employee stocking more onto the shelves while some customers were grabbing what they wanted. One lady grabbed a can of soup, looked at it and then put it back down on a lower shelf. The employee looked at her with such intense rage and screamed, “What the hell are you doing lady? Can’t you see I’m stocking these and you’re placing them in the wrong sections!!!?? Now put that back in its right place! I’m sick and tired of customers not giving a shit!!!” His face went bright red and well, so did hers. He looked like he was actually going to hit her. She was so shocked by his anger that she stared straight at him the whole time she was slowly placing the can of soup in its proper home. She looked scared for her life. Usually I say something to people who are absolutely rude to others, but this guy looked dangerous. He was an employee though! Because I was so upset seeing this woman traumatized by his inexcusable behavior, I got a manager and told him the entire story. I was never one to tattletale, but this was just downright psychotic. He should have been walked out in a straight jacket.

Then I thought about it a bit more while checking out my groceries. It seemed as though all the cashiers and baggers were mentally challenged. The cashier took my credit card and started jumping up and down pointing at my card and then screaming, “Pasquella! Pasquella! Pasquella!” When I looked up and smiled to see why he was doing that, he quickly got distracted and pointed outside and started yelling to his coworker who was bagging my groceries. “Look! Look! The sun is coming out Joe! Look! Look!” Now you may disagree with me or not, but I’m not so sure hiring mentally challenged citizens is a good idea for a major food chain. While I think it’s terrific that they’re out there working (sometimes harder than most people who aren’t mentally challenged), I also think it poses a great non-threatening OR threatening awkwardness or moment that can result in a very ugly scene. For example, the guy in my first paragraph that went absolutely nutty on the woman who put the can of soup it the wrong place - I had no idea he was mentally challenged. He was a nice looking guy in his mid-twenties dressed in khakis and a nice dress shirt with a smock. He didn’t appear to be mentally challenged, but as it turns out, he was. There are no social cues. There are no lines that they can see that shouldn’t be crossed. I used to think it was wonderful for stores to hire them, because it gave them a sense of worth and that people need them. They interact socially and perhaps, gain a better understanding of society. But when does it come to the point where we’re risking other people’s comfort zones and overall safety? Am I way out of line with this?

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Nancy said...

"There are no social cues. There are no lines that they can see that shouldn’t be crossed."

Not true. This may apply to some people with developmental disabilities, but most parents are hard at work teaching children with disabilities what is socially acceptable, how to relate to other people appropriately, and how to get by in the world. It's an uphill battle but it's doable. When these people grew up, there weren't as many resources for their parents. Even now, I have had strangers glare at me because my kid held their hand or climbed up into their laps. Guess what? He doesn't do that anymore. And not all people with DD are the same. They have different abilities and disabilities. Lumping them into one category isn't fair. Obviously, some of these folks have been seriously set up for failure in jobs that aren't right for them. I find that incredibly sad. Maybe your feedback will assist the people helping them find a more appropriate job.

I know my kid won't be a doctor or a lawyer. I grieved for that long ago and am now busy preparing him for other opportunities that match his interests and abilities. The future is terrifying.

Love you xoxox

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

When I encounter someone as angry as that stocking clerk, I realize that it normally isn't the present situation that enraged him as much as a previous one. He was primed to blow up by something he encountered before and when the can incident took place, he exploded with all of the anger that he'd been previously holding in. That's the normal progression of things.

Deb said...

Nancy, Sorry to have sounded as though I lumped every disability out there. It wasn't my intention. I meant it more as those who have a hard time with social cues and behavioral skills. I know someone who is autistic who does very well working along with other people. But, what if that one person who has a disability, perhaps a few in that grocery store who cannot process social interactions as well as Erik can, that poses a potential threat to customers? That's what I'm implying. To screen them to see if their behavioral skills are suitable for working around the general public. Just the other day I was the Target bathroom. There was an instructor along with a group of mentally challenged adults - probably about 10 of them. They were kicking in bathroom doors, kicked in mine where I had to shut it again and peeking under the stalls screaming. Again, I'm not saying "all" - I just wonder if it's a good idea if you know the person has a problem with social cues, then to perhaps be a bit discretionary. I don't know...... This stock boy had his hand raised as though he was going to start hitting this lady. It was very scary to say the least. Sorry if you thought I was lumping them into one category- I'm not. Hope you weren't offended. Love you, Nance!

Nick, I totally understand that.... but in the same breath, there is no excuse to flip your lid and scare a person to death when she didn't mean to do anything wrong. Being that this man was mentally challenge poses other questions about behavioral skills or whatever - but when a customer is endangered by bad behavior - it's time to reel it in and address the problem. Even for society itself - no excuse to threaten someone's safety or act that way. If you're having a bad day and you're kinda rude - fine - but to yell and scream at the top of your lungs and raise your hand as though you're gonna start throwing punches - eh, time to nip it in the bud. That's just me though.

Nancy said...

I'm totally with you, Deb. I think everybody needs a job with a good fit. As for Erik, his disability makes him unable to process nuances in social cues. This will forever cause awkward situations with strangers for him, so I'm not sure where he will ever fit. Hey, at least he is not on strangers' laps anymore. And I do know someone who was attacked by a man with Down syndrome, by the way, and fellow WS parents whose son pushed them down the stairs. I also learned to duck quickly at Erik's special school around other angry children throwing things. I know there are some really scary situations out there. xoxox

the walking man said...

I am for hiring the disabled but I think careful consideration does need to be made to see if the job is the right fit for the individual. I don't know what the process is for placing these folks, yet I seriously doubt it is a simple matter of looking through a pile of applications and doing an interview.

In 1990 John engler closed all the state run mental hospitals and clinics and substituted for a limited number a group home system with the idea of integrating these former institutionalized people into society.

I won't go into the extreme negative results but rather the positive, the adults i see bagging groceries and generally doing the more menial work around the store are pleasant and can focus on the job at hand. And do it but I never see these young adults and even a few older downs adults running registers, or in any managerial position, the cashier of the moment is their supervisor and it seems to work out well for them.

I have always wondered though are they a less expensive hire? Do they make the same wage as the teen age kid doing the same work.

The angry stocker--hell Deb maybe he had just spent the last four hours compulsively ordering everything on the shelf and every time he opened a new box people were reaching all around him to get what they were after without regard for him as having a zone to work in. I don't know but I think Nick may have hit on it, something primed his pump that didn't have anything to do with soup or soup not going back in the exact right place.

Yet I am willing to put money down that in the balance the man is a hard worker who broke from pattern one time and the situation was not consistent with his normal observed behavior. I don't think you were wrong for going to the manager, that is why the managers are there and they must have some kind of at least minimal training on dealing with the impaired. You may have saved the guy his job and in that his own sense of self worth.

Dorothy said...

I'm reading these comments like WTF is wrong with some of these people! There is no excuse for threatening behaviour! First of all that crazy stock boy should have been fired right on the spot. You cannot do that to customers period! If people think this is acceptable just because he had a bad day then they must approve of disgruntled employees who were fired shooting the heads off people they used to work with. There is no excuse! I do not believe in hiring the mentally challenged because its a threat to the company and the customers. They are unpredictable and have an excuse for an outburst due to their disability. It may be a harsh opinion but you have to be careful these days.

Nancy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
That corgi :) said...

Interesting thoughts of yours. I'm not sure what to say. I have a daughter with Asperger's (high functioning autism) who wouldn't be able to read cues. We were careful to not expose her to potentially harmful situations for herself or others. Yet I have a nephew with Down syndrome who would do a great job bagging groceries, stocking shelves, etc. Maybe I'm too close to the situation to make an objective comment either way. I do know though that the bagger at our local grocery store that is "mentally challenged" works hard, is pleasant, personable and always makes me smile when I interact with him.


Anonymous said...

I too have mixed feelings on this. On one hand you have special needs people working and having a feeling of self worth and accomplishment, but on the other hand depending on each individual, it can be concerning. I do agree that safety is a factor here depending on the person. In this case concerning the stock person, he could have been potentially dangerous. I'm glad you addressed it. It's a very slippery slope.


Xmichra said...

Well. Since I very well have had moments where I could have been the stock boy just sick to death of people being lazy and uncarring - I'm going to say hte line is very blurry. I wouldn't have thought that he was mentally challenged. I would have thought he was pushed into a reaction from a snowball of actions.

in the second instance, I find it a little odd that someone with that nature of behaviour dissorder was by themselves working with people. Here at least, they have a case worker who works with them, to ensure that there is a plesant interaction not just for you - but for that person too. Perhaps the person was unnerved and went into a bit of nervous compulsion because of it. Who knows.

There are many people who have dissabilities that are totally capable of working a variety of jobs (so to that comment above " I don't believe in hiring the mentally challenged" - wow. You're an ass.) and there are some that just don't fit for personality. Generally there is a person near by (a case worker or a social worker of sorts) that trys to work these thing sout though for the betterment of the individual.

But I don't think that there is much difference with job fitting for people without dissabilities. Many "capable" people go off the handle, are random, hurt others, etc and we aren't told we can't have a job "just incase". So really... when you think of it as a situation and not as a distinction of people, I think it becomes not only tollerable but understandable that mentaly challenged people are hired.