As part of my Asperger syndrome I am extra sensitive to members of the public who I perceive as rude or aggressive regardless of who they are, where they’re from, how old they are etc. This is similar to my previous post on encounters with strangers but a little more intense.
The earliest example of this I can recall was when I was in Marks and Spencer in Muswell Hill sometime in 2007 or 2008. I was in a rush to get to a meeting at my former care home and when I was at the checkout I realised I forgot to pick up an item so I went off to get it. When I returned a lady seemed to take my place in the queue so I told her to excuse me but she quite rudely responded that I should have said please. Even though I did find her response quite rude because I didn’t find it necessary to say please before or after excuse me (I must have been pretty rude myself then as well), I feel she actually did me a favour and taught me a valuable lesson.
In March 2011 I was in Pizza Hut near the Finchley Lido with a member of support staff from my former care home. There was a family of four with two young boys in it and I got very distracted by them because the father seemed to be making threats to his eldest son. Towards the end of our meal the eldest son ran up and down, much to mine and his mother’s annoyance. To make matters worse the father confronted me saying he noticed me giving him and his family dirty looks for the past half hour. The support worker told him I had sensitive hearing but the man told me to get some earplugs and even said I’d have kids one day. I found it very rude and distressing of him to confront me like that and I have never returned to that particular Pizza Hut since. With regards to his earplugs comment I worked further on that by starting the following coping strategy.
Since the incidents involving the woman in M&S and the man in Pizza Hut, I have started listening to music on my iPod through my headphones as a coping strategy more often by blocking out unwanted noise whether I’m at home or out in public. Unfortunately this such strategy has led to the next two incidents I’m going to mention in this post.
In March 2014 I popped into Tesco Express round the corner from Aldgate East Station on the way to university and I was in a rush and in a daze. Without looking and thinking about it I accidentally walked into another lady. Although I apologised she snarled, “I did tell you to excuse me!” or something like that. Apparently I didn’t hear her reply because I had my headphones on and she may have taken offence as if I didn’t understand a word she said. I honestly found that woman intimidating and certainly did not want her as a friend. Because I was so scared by her aggression I ran out of the shop but accidentally ran into the automatic doors as they opened and caused them to temporarily jam.
A month later I was on the bus to Bounds Green Station alone (I originally thought of going with staff but there turned out to be a shortage of them that day) on my way to a family visit over Easter and I stood in the pushchair area with a man because there was nowhere else to store my suitcase. He apparently asked me if I wanted him to move to make room for my suitcase but I didn’t hear him because I had my headphones on. I suddenly started to hear him call someone a cow and I assumed he was calling the person on the other end of his phone that name (he had his phone to his ear but was only talking to me) but it turned out he was calling me a cow for ignoring him, even though I didn’t intend to. I was so upset by this I got off the bus after just one stop and phoned my house support staff in floods of tears. Unfortunately the staff member said that ‘cow’ was an animal (she may not have known it was an insult at that time) and told me to go to the toilet, which I found very unlikely of her to say especially if I didn’t need to go and was nowhere near a toilet but it turned out she was saying these things because she was pregnant at the time and may have had ‘baby brain.’ Despite these confusing things she said I remained in contact with her throughout my journey and even when I arrived at my parents’ house. I even asked for a member of staff to accompany me back home after my stay in case someone would insult me again.
In December 2014 I was in Costa in Crouch End with my parents before a nearby Christmas show. I went to use the toilet but I pulled the handle down without realising someone was already in there. Waiting outside the toilet was a big mistake because when the door opened I heard someone ask quite angrily, “why didn’t you wait?” I turned around and saw that it was a woman quite similar to the one in Tesco Express in Aldgate East (except the woman in Costa was pulling a suitcase). After I used the toilet I told my mum about how rudely the lady spoke to me and my mum advised me she’d have a word with her but unfortunately we never found her after that. My mum also witnessed her getting annoyed by a young child somehow getting in her way so she was obviously having a bad day.
Unfortunately more members of the public were rude to me in 2015 than the year before. There were so many of them that I cannot write about them in such detail but let’s just say most of them took place on public transport, like the incident involving the man who thought I ignored him, particularly on buses and the Tube while another also took place in a shop.
If anyone out there reads this please be aware that someone may react sensitively to your public actions whether you have children or not. If they have headphones on they are not being rude or ignorant, they may have autism or Asperger syndrome and may be using them as a coping mechanism.