Slapping Some Sense Into Them

, , , , , , | Working | September 17, 2019

(Before our shift starts, we always have a thirty-minute meeting to make any announcements and do training. I’m sitting in front of a coworker who I know pretty well, since we do both of our weekly volunteer days together. As the supervisor’s making an announcement, she slaps me on the back of the neck.)

Coworker: “What did he say?”

Me: “He just explained the changes they’re making to the schedule. He’s handing out the new schedule at the end of the meeting.”

(A minute later, she slaps me again.)

Coworker: “But if we have a new schedule, when will it go into effect?”

Me: “He just said next week. If you listen, you’ll find all of this out.”

(Another minute later, someone else mentions an upcoming event that we can mention to tourists. I get slapped a third time, this time so she can ask if tickets are still available for the event. All of this is information that she could get if she just stopped smacking me and listened to the announcements. After the meeting…)

Me: “If you have questions, ask the people making the announcements. I don’t like being smacked every time you’re not paying attention.”

(She looks suddenly very sympathetic.)

Coworker: “I forgot. You don’t like being touched.”

Me: “Touching is fine. Slapping me to get my attention isn’t.”

Coworker: “Because you’re autistic.”

Me: *baffled* “I’ve never been autistic, but if I were, why would that be the only reason that I don’t like being slapped?”

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Did Not Volunteer For This Treatment

, , , , , , | Working | July 4, 2019

(I volunteer at a miniature science museum during summer break, which is characterized by its “Mess Kits,” little boxes with science experiments for children in them. Volunteers work at the Mess Kit Desk and provide information or kits to anyone who comes up to it. The owner is rather lenient when it comes to phone usage during lulls in activity. I’m 16 and quite obviously autistic, as I tend to stim in public. One of the paid workers has been on my back for several months, constantly berating my work, speaking to me in an extremely condescending tone, and telling me that the way I speak and treat people is very rude. She screeches at me for drawing, reading, or checking my phone no matter the situation and has nearly brought me to tears several times. My brother and another volunteer are working at the desk with me in this story. My brother notices the painful lull, takes out his phone, and sits in front of the desk. The other volunteer glances up and looks back down at her phone. I finish sweeping, which was the only other job available, and sit on the floor behind the two since there’s no other chairs up front. I’m there for not even a minute when the paid employee walks up to the front of the desk.)

Paid Employee: “[My Name]! You need to stay off your phone! We’ve discussed this. Do I need to take it away?”

(I gape, as my brother and the other volunteer are in her direct line of sight on their phones and she has to strain to see me specifically, clearly singling me out.)

Me: “B-but…”

Paid Employee: “You need to learn to follow directions!”

(My brother’s phone is a foot away from her face.)

Me: “I j-just swept…”

Paid Employee: “Then find something else to do!” *leaves without saying a word to the two volunteers directly in front of her*

(I barely make it to the bathroom before I start crying, inconsolable, and my mother picks me up. My brother backs up my story, so she urges me to draft an email to the owner explaining the rude and condescending treatment I’ve suffered thanks to [Paid Employee]. The owner apologizes, saying she will speak to the employee about her behavior, but also suggests I just work shifts the employee doesn’t take. I work up the nerve to return as a volunteer, and to my luck, I see the rude employee about halfway into my shift.)

Brother: “Look out!”

Paid Employee: *blanches as soon as she sees me, quickly looks away, and rushes to finish her task!*

(She avoids me as much as I avoid her, now. I guess she really didn’t expect anyone to report her discrimination!)

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His Actions Were Far More Interesting Than His Story

, , , | Friendly | January 15, 2019

I am a committee member for a local writing group. The committee is fairly small, maybe 10 – 15 members including the chair and vice chair. We are all volunteers, so none of us get paid.

During our big annual writing competition, the committee pulls together to keep on top of the extra work it creates, including the influx of emails in the group inbox, as well as the general administration of the entries. We receive hundreds of entries every year so this is quite a hefty task, especially considering we all have day jobs and other various responsibilities to juggle as well.

Despite this, we usually have very few problems. One year, however, we had an entrant who was nothing but trouble. The day after emailing his entry, he contacted us, demanding to know why we hadn’t posted him a receipt to say we had received his story — all he got was an auto-reply email. For the record, all entrants receive an auto-reply. This acts as a receipt. The message in the auto-reply asks recipients to take it as such, and the website specifies this, too. That said, we’re always happy to respond to entrants who just want to double check or need extra reassurance.

Thinking this was such a case, I duly replied, assuring him that we had received his entry, and explained that we simply didn’t have the resources or manpower to offer personal receipt confirmations to every entrant. He replied almost immediately, threatening to withdraw his entry due to our “unprofessional behaviour.” According to him, email was unprofessional and lazy. How could he trust us to do our job right when we couldn’t even send a simple slip in the post?

I told him if he wanted to withdraw, that was fine; all he had to do was confirm and we would refund his entry fee, though I warned him he could only do so until the deadline. After that, he would no longer be entitled to a refund. I also explained we could only send confirmation by post if he provided us with a stamped self-addressed envelope. We’re a small, non-profit organisation, and small expenses like stamps can soon add up.

We didn’t hear anything more from him until the day of the results. He emailed us at four am demanding to know who had won. He pointed out that the website and social media pages said we would reveal the winners today, yet there was nothing on any of them.

I reminded him that the results would be announced today at 20:00 at our prize-giving gala, and then the results would be released online at 22:00. All of this information was available on our website and social media. I finished by inviting him to the gala, giving him the full details.

Unsatisfied with my answer, he continued to demand the results now. I knew he hadn’t won, but we were bound to secrecy until the official reveal at the gala. I couldn’t even hint that he had been unsuccessful. When I refused to tell him the results, he accused us of being a scam and threatened to report us. I didn’t have the patience to deal with him anymore, so I told him he was welcome to report us if he wished, knowing that even if he did, we had done everything by the book, so nothing would come of it.

Thankfully, he didn’t respond.

That evening, the gala went really well. Everyone had a great time. The winners were ecstatic, and those who didn’t win congratulated them graciously. Best of all, there was no sign of the difficult entrant.

The next morning, however, our inbox was full of emails from him, calling us scammers and shills. He claimed there was no way his entry could’ve lost, as he was a top graduate from [UK University known for its strong creative writing program] and had been published several times. He accused me of fiddling the results. As far as he was concerned, that was the only way his story could’ve lost. He demanded not only his entry fee back, but he also wanted the prize money that was “rightfully his,” as he put it.

This is when the committee chair stepped in. She told him she would not refund the entry fee because he didn’t win, that the results had not been tampered with or fixed, and that she most certainly would not give him any prize money. All entries were judged anonymously. The adjudicator had no idea who had written any of the stories submitted.

The entrant became nasty, hurling insults both at her and me – including questioning our competence due to our gender (we’re both female). The chair calmly wrote back and told him he was henceforth banned from future competitions.

The entrant then threatened to sue. This worried many of the committee members. A small non-profit like ourselves would struggle to afford legal action, but the chair dutifully wrote back, informing him he was free to seek legal advice if he wished. She assured him we would fully cooperate with his chosen legal representative, adding that we wouldn’t hesitate to provide ample evidence, including copies of the abusive emails he had sent.

In response, the entrant left several nasty reviews on various pages, claiming we had swindled him, were rude, unprofessional, and incompetent, as well as claiming we insulted him. He made up several fake accounts to make even more negative reviews.

We were worried this would impact future competitions. However, several members and entrants found out about this incident and immediately rallied to our defence, leaving shining reviews to combat his toxic ones. The following year, we received a record number of entries. Best of all, we didn’t hear from the entrant ever again.

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Freebies Aren’t Free

, , , | Right | September 10, 2018

(I annually volunteer to run a shop for a charity when they have a stall at a country and outdoor fair. This isn’t by any means a ‘professional’ shop; the charity corporate sends items and prices and I set up the shop and basically watch that nothing gets stolen. The bulk of our stock is promotional leaflets and informative things, but also free badges, lanyards, magazines, and kid’s activity books. Most of the items we sell are also promotional or charity endorsed, such as bronze badges and DVDs. All of the funds go back to the charity. A family are milling around my table: a couple of kids, their mother, and their grandfather.)

Me: “Please feel free to help yourself to the things on that table. Would your kids like a badge each, perhaps?”

Guest: “Oh, great!”

(They gather round the table and help themselves, mostly to badges and kid’s activity books. I don’t mind the badges — corporate sent hundreds — but we don’t have that many kid’s activity books and I’m watching a good chunk of them disappear when I’ve still got a good two days of running the stall. But, I realise that I can’t really fault them because I told them to help themselves!)

Guest: *holding up lanyard* “Is this free, too?”

Me: *smiling, not knowing what else to say* “Yep!”

Guest: “Great.” *proceeds to pass one out to all her family members*

Daughter: *looking at the gilt lapel badges for sale* “Can I get one of these?”

Guest: “A pin!” *to me* “Oh, she wants to be like her granddad; he’s a [Charity] member!” *calling* “Grandad come look at this!”

Grandad: “Ah, I’ve got one like that!” *to Daughter* “Tell her that your granddad’s a member, and you get a discount!” *laughs*

Me: *smiling, knowing most of our customers are also members and HQ would have my skin if the money-box came back short* “That’ll be £4.60 for you today, please.”

Daughter: *gets the money out of her own pocket and is very polite* “Thanks!”

Me: “Thank you! Enjoy your day!”

(They leave, I restock my very depleted freebie table and think that’s that. They weren’t exactly the worst possible customers. Then, an hour or so later, the whole troupe spills back into the stall.)

Grandad: “She’s lost her badge. We were up at the archery.”

Me: “Oh… I’m sorry to hear that.”

Grandad: *tugging at the one I have pinned down on the table* “Yes, she wants another one.”

Me: “We still have several here under the table, I’ll just get you a new one.” *I do* “£4.60 please.”

Guest: “Didn’t you hear? She lost it.”

Me: “I understand; that’s very unfortunate. I’m really sorry, but I can’t give you a replacement for free.”

Grandad: *irate* “But she lost—”

Older Volunteer: “Is everything okay here?”

Grandad: *quickly thrusting a five pound note in my direction* “Fine, fine. The wee lassie here was just seeing if you’d any more badges in stock!”

Me: “And here’s your change. Thanks again!”

(They did leave for good after that, but not before taking another handful of lanyards and buttons!)

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They’re All American Idiots

, , , , | Working | July 23, 2018

I just started a new voluntary job and am being shown around before going to talk to the manager about my application form; I missed a page by accident. While being shown around, I am introduced to the cashier, who seems like a nice old lady. She immediately begins questioning my accent.

I have autism, and my autism has given me a strong American accent, despite being English. I explain this as clearly as I can, and she nods happily, returning to work, so I go to the meeting without a second thought. I have this conversation a lot. It’s kind of sad how everyone asks the exact same questions, honestly

When I finish the meeting, I start working. After a while, the assistant manager walks over and asks why an American on holiday is volunteering.

The cashier told my new coworkers and any regulars in the store that I was an American on holiday and was saying I was English because I was embarrassed about my “American heritage.”

I have no memory of what followed, since I think I had a minor meltdown, but apparently the manager ended up having a “long talk” with the cashier and bought me chocolates as an apology, and the assistant manager set it up so I was working as far away from the cashier as possible.

Regulars still don’t believe me when I explain I’m English and reassure me I have nothing to be ashamed of.

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