Bad With Faces But Good With Lollipops

, , , | Working | April 14, 2019

(I was diagnosed with prosopagnosia, which is a disorder which makes it all but impossible to recognize faces, when I was about eight years old. I’ve learned to use ears or hair or necks along with types of clothing people wear to know who they are. After a few years of landing a job with a dream company of mine, where I’m on the phone and not doing any face-to-face with customers, we get a department transfer to my department. For some reason, I get the feeling he doesn’t like me because he’s always very brisk with me and never really says, “Hello.” While I’m friendly and easy to get along with, I don’t generally have a lot of time to chat with my coworkers, but when passing through I might quick small-chat with them if I notice something interesting on their desk, a nice new outfit, or if they catch me and want to know about how my days off were or the like. One day, I’m suddenly called into the office for a meeting with Human Resources. I have absolutely no idea what I could have possibly done and am ready to defend myself against any possible customer complaint. When I get there, the HR manager tells me who she is, as I’ve only had very limited exposure to her, and seated next to me is the guy who transferred to our department about a month earlier. I’m told I was brought in because the transfer felt I didn’t like him and had some kind of vendetta against him. Completely caught off-guard, I adamantly tell both of them I have no idea what they are talking about.)

New Guy: “I know you don’t like me because before I transferred over you had filled out a ‘coaching form’ for something I did wrong, and ever since I transferred over, anytime you see me you just stare at me in disgust.”

Me: “I stare at you in disgust?”

New Guy: “Yes! Anytime I walk by you, you’re staring at me like I’m from outer space or something! It’s because I’m Chinese! I find it offensive and racist!”

(I hear a bit of thunk, and look over to see the HR manager dropping back in her chair, putting a hand over her face and slumping a bit.)

HR Manager: “[New Guy], what do you know about [My Name]?”

New Guy: “What do you mean? I’m not interested in learning that much about someone who hates me because I’m Chinese!”

Me: “What she means is, I have a disorder that makes it hard for me to know who I’m looking at. I literally cannot tell people apart by their faces. I’m staring at you because you’re new to my department. I am looking at you because I’m trying to figure out who you are every day. You wear the same type of clothing as [Supervisor], have the same skin tone as [Supervisor], are the same height as [Supervisor], and have the same large muscle mass as [Supervisor]. You come in wearing a heavy jacket like [Supervisor] and I don’t want to say, ‘Hey, [Supervisor]! I have a question,’ and it’s you, or vice-versa. I’m looking at you like you’re from outer space because… well… everyone looks like that to me.”

(It’s dead silent for what feels like an eternity, but couldn’t be more than a couple of seconds in real time.)

New Guy: “I… Is that real?”

(The HR manager starts is nodding her head rapidly.)

Me: “Extremely rare, but very real. I have to use other means to know who I’m talking to. [HR Manager] knows about it because I let her know before I was hired. It’s actually why she said exactly who she was; I can’t tell who she is, even though we’ve spoken a few times.”

New Guy: “I’m really… really sorry. I had no idea. Really, I had no idea. I guess that’s why people thought I was odd for saying [My Name] didn’t like me.”

HR Manager: “Sooooo… is everything okay, then? We all good?”

Me: “I’m fine as long as [New Guy] is!”

New Guy: “As long as there are no grudges, yeah, I’m okay.”

Me: “I don’t hold grudges; don’t worry. Hey! If you see me staring and say like, ‘Donut!’ or something silly, I’ll always know it’s you!”

(Both the HR manager and he started laughing and we dismissed the meeting. Anytime he walks by now, he goes, “Lollipop!” so I always know who it is and say hello with his name after chuckling.)

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