It’s Not A Game To Some People

, , , , , , , , | Hopeless | August 15, 2019

The weekly game night at my college was just starting for the night and one of the regulars had brought a less common game called “Betrayal at House on the Hill.” I had already signed up to play, as had a new gamer who had never been to our game nights before. A classmate of mine, who I’d only seen at our game nights one or two times before, arrived and asked to join, as well.

This classmate was, without a doubt, the smartest person in our class; he had to be removed from the grading curve of one of our tests because he did so well he threw off the curve. However, he had a severe case of ADHD and was also somewhere on the less severe side of the autistic spectrum. He never explicitly told me his diagnoses, but I could recognize the symptoms from having volunteered with special needs children for so long. His ADHD meant that he could get overstimulated quickly when excited. When he got too overstimulated he would need to take a break to calm himself by “stimming,” basically repetitive actions to work out his stimulation. In his case, the stimming involved bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet and making a loud sort of keening sound in the back of his throat. While I recognized and understood the symptoms and why he was doing it, I could understand how this stimming could grow annoying to people who didn’t understand.

The owner of the game told my classmate that the game was already full, which I knew wasn’t true. I didn’t like the lie, but he was the owner of the game so I supposed he had the right to refuse someone from playing. My classmate accepted this and, after failing to get any of us to join in the game he wanted to play, he wandered off to ask people in other parts of the room if they wanted to play with him.  

While my classmate was away, a friend of the game owner arrived and joined in to the game. Unfortunately, my classmate wandered back over a little bit later, apparently having failed to find anyone to play his game with him, and noticed the addition of another player to our game.

The classmate said, “I thought you didn’t have room for more players?”

The game owner responded, in a very gruff and uncaring tone, “Yeah, well, we found more space.”

The classmate just said, “Oh,” in a dejected way.

Then, the new player spoke up, gesturing to the game owner’s friend. “Yeah, he’s taking my place. I didn’t know how long this game was when I signed up for it. I wouldn’t have had time to finish it, so I let him take my spot. I was planning to watch for a while, but if you want, maybe we can find a shorter game to play, instead?”

The new guy had jumped in so fast, and managed to sound so honest and casual about his statement, that I don’t think my classmate ever guessed that he had made up the excuse on the spot to explain the extra player. The two wandered off to play a card game, and my classmate did seem to enjoy himself, judging by how often he got overstimulated and had to stop to take a break for some stimming. 

As for me, I struggled to enjoy the game because I kept feeling really guilty for having been witness to such rude behavior and not having done anything. I’d like to think I’d have gotten around to doing something similar, but I was still processing how cruel the owner was by the time the other play had spoken up. Either way, I was very thankful someone was able to come up with a way to prevent my poor classmate from feeling rejected on one of the few times he tried to come out of his shell to socialize.

The new player who had sacrificed his spot at the game came to more of our game nights later, so I got to know him well and became friends with him. I learned later that he had been really excited to play “Betrayal” because he had only gotten to play it once or twice before but had really loved it. He also confessed that he never liked the card game he got dragged into playing with my classmate, instead, but leaving the game was the only idea he could think of at the moment to keep my classmate from being hurt. I’d eventually help to explain to my new friend about stimming and why the classmate acted the way he did; my friend had figured that the classmate had special needs but didn’t know any specifics beyond that. I also ended up eventually buying the “Betrayal at House on the Hill” game myself — being a board game addict who can’t help buying new games anyway — just so I could invite my friend to play his favorite game with me.

As far as I know, my classmate only attended a few other game nights that semester, it was pretty intermittent when he would show up. However, whenever he did come, my friend and I would both try to go out of our way to find a chance to play a game with him so he wouldn’t feel rejected.

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Don’t Question The End Result

, , , , , , | Hopeless | August 13, 2019

I work with a group of elementary school students who need extra help in math. Right now I’m doing multiplication flashcards with three students: two girls, and a boy. They’re all brilliant students, but the girls have a lot more self-confidence, while the boy frequently has fits where he keeps saying he’s stupid and the worst at everything. It breaks my heart because he’s shown that he knows the material, but if he gets the tiniest thing wrong — or even if he gets it right! — he goes into a full meltdown. Often he will say the wrong answer just so he can complain about being dumb. 

During this practice, the girls are on a roll, and the boy is getting increasingly upset. He’s getting the answers right, but he doesn’t say them fast enough so the girls are getting all the points. I try to remind him that it’s just a game, and what matters is that he knows the correct answers, but he’s not having it.

After a little bit, I notice that one of the girls is being more hesitant about answering the questions and even starting to answer them incorrectly. Soon, the other girl starts to do the same thing. I realize that they’re doing poorly on purpose so that the boy has a chance to give the right answers.

Normally, I wouldn’t want the girls to sacrifice their practice time, but as the boy gets more and more points, he gets visibly happier and stops speaking poorly about himself. When the game is over and he sees that he won, he’s through the roof! The girls seem genuinely happy for him. I know it’s not the most honest method, but all three of those students are equally good at math; the boy just needed a confidence booster to get him out of his rut.

At the end of the year, the school hosts an assembly where the principal reads the names of the students who tested at or above grade level for math and reading. All three of those students’ names are called, and to see that boy’s smile as he is recognized for his hard work is beyond worth it.

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Just A Little Stroll

, , , , , , | Hopeless | August 12, 2019

I work in product allocations for a well-known children’s store chain at their head office.

One day, I get a phone call from a store that has a bit of a strange and upsetting situation.

A woman and her seven-year-old son have gotten into a car accident, as pedestrians. He is severely autistic, as well as having several other disabilities that mean that he cannot walk for long distances. He has a special stroller, which has since been discontinued. The stroller was destroyed in the car accident.

The store phones me because they cannot find a way to order the stroller anywhere. We literally don’t sell it anymore and we were one of the only places in the UK that did. The mother needs it ASAP because they are being released from the hospital and don’t have a car. She is injured so can’t carry him. She is a single mum.

I manage to find the stroller in the stock files of a store about 80 miles away from me — 350 total miles from the mum and child. I phone the store, but the manager isn’t helpful. He just says he is too busy and that they don’t have it, even though their files very clearly say that they do. 

Their stocktake was only last week, so I am certain it is accurate.

Lucky for me, because of my job, I can schedule impromptu store visits. I drive down to the store and search the stockroom for this hidden stroller for a few hours before finding it. I phone the mother’s local store and tell them to expect it.

After loading it onto a truck to travel another two hundred miles, the local store assistant meets the truck right before her shop closes and drives the stroller to the children’s hospital to give to the mum. She does the full demonstration and then drives the woman and her son home and gets them settled.

When I speak to the store assistant later, I learn that she and the woman have become close friends.

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The Magic School Bus

, , , , , | Hopeless | August 10, 2019

(In high school, I catch a bus once from school to a friend’s house, a bus I have never taken before. The moment I get on the bus, a young man — who I recognise immediately has an intellectual disability — smiles at me.)

Man: *loudly* “Hello!” 

Me: *smiling back* “Hello!”

(I take my seat on the bus as the man turns to me.)

Man: “You’re very beautiful!”

Me: *breaking into a grin* “Aww, thank you!”

(I could tell the guy was harmless and just meant to put smiles on other people’s faces, and to that end, he was succeeding. But I worried that other people on the bus might get annoyed at him or worse, start bullying him for his disability. But it never happened. I watched as he loudly said, “Hello!” to everyone that got on the bus, and even to people who had been sitting on the bus for some time that he’d already greeted before, and everyone cheerfully said, “Hello!” back. He told many passengers they were beautiful; they all smiled and thanked him. He cracked “jokes” with punchlines that didn’t make sense, but everyone still laughed and cheered for him. Every time a new passenger got on the bus, I worried that this would be the person who would be intolerant or nasty, but everyone — schoolkids, young adults, the middle-aged, the elderly — EVERYONE seemed delighted with him. The entire half-hour trip to my friend’s house, I don’t think there was a single frown on that bus. When I got to my friend’s house, I asked her about him, and she confirmed that he was a regular on that route and everyone loves him. Sadly, I never got the chance to take that bus route again, but that memory remains as one of the sweetest moments between strangers that I was lucky enough to be a part of.)

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A Picture Perfect Finish

, , , , , | Hopeless | August 9, 2019

Due to very complicated administrative reasons, my partner and I could not get married in a timely fashion in either of our home countries or the country where we currently reside. After much research, we hit on Denmark as our best possible option and applied to be civilly married there. Our application came back approved a week later and we started planning our trip. Neither of us makes very much money and we’re both fairly thrifty by nature so we make things work the best we can. We plan to spend the minimum amount of time possible in Copenhagen, we book the cheapest possible non-refundable flights on a budget airline, and we decide to stay in a hostel dorm with access to a kitchen so we can self-cater.

There is one thing I want to splurge on: I want pics of the big day because I have a terrible memory and because it’s just the two of us basically eloping and we both have friends and family who wanted to be there but couldn’t.

My partner thinks I’m being a bit silly about it but agrees, if we can find someone in budget. I look for professional, reputable photographers but I can’t find anyone in budget and I rapidly realize that all listed options that I’m finding are much more than we need or want.  

Finally, I come to the conclusion that it would be cheaper for us to fly and accommodate a third person out with us to do the photography than it would be to get a professional. I ask colleagues and local friends if anyone’s free for a random two-day jaunt to Copenhagen. 

A friend of a friend is free, and he and I sit down together and book his tickets and hostel. All’s well until we go to check in online before our flight. My partner and I check in with no problem. [Friend of Friend] goes to check in and it turns out that somehow, despite having two sets of eyes on the whole booking from start to finish, I somehow managed to book him the wrong way round — Copenhagen to our city and then our city back to Copenhagen. Since we did the cheapest possible booking, the tickets were non-refundable and the price has since dramatically increased.

My partner accepts this all very philosophically but is annoyed about the lost money. I am incredibly upset and can’t believe how stupid I was.

In desperation, I try a FB page related to Copenhagen and I pour out the whole story of my stupidity with the booking and begging someone, anyone, to come to take pictures of us in exchange for a few mementos from our city.

Someone does get back to me and says he can do it.

I am happy but don’t want to be too happy in case it doesn’t work out. My partner is much more openly skeptical. But on the day of, our impromptu photographer shows up and spends the morning taking pictures of us! He is so thoughtful and has such good ideas for places and poses! I couldn’t have asked for a better photographer! Thanks to him, we have beautiful photos to show our friends and family!

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