To The Cashier at Register 14

Hi there, cashier at Register 14. I don’t know you, but I’ve heard of you.

Yesterday, a parent who has walked alongside me through what has been quite a journey shared a Facebook post with me, and it was about you. A woman who is married to a successful medical professional, who runs his offices, made a comment about her experience in your checkout line. She was turned off by what I will assume was an intelligent conversation you were carrying on … by yourself. And she summed up her commentary at the end of her post with, “eek.”

Eek. Well, yeah … eek. Eek is right. She nailed it. That we agree on. That is where our commonality in this regard ends.

“Eek” was my first thought about a woman who has been exposed to children, teens and adults in her husband’s practice who have faced many challenges medically, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually to be so quick to judge someone else who behaves differently than she.

I don’t know you at all. I don’t know if you were muttering a thought or two to yourself, not knowing someone was listening. I don’t know if you needed to verbalize what was in your head because you had a need for the words to come out right at that moment and avoid panic. I don’t know if you were using self-talk as a coping mechanism to relieve anxiety during your busy day at the checkout. I don’t know if you were repeating the steps of a customer transaction to ensure that you don’t miss a beat and ensure stellar service that your customers deserve.

I don’t know you. And she doesn’t either. We don’t know your story.

Let me tell you mine. I’m the mother of a 20 year old with autism, and we have fought HARD, damn hard to reach the milestones that we have. Once a cherub faced little boy with less than 20 words in his vocabulary, self injurious behaviors, sensory dysfunction, limited social skills, and a slew of biomedical afflictions, my son proved the world wrong. He moved through several years of intensive interventions with a team of unstoppable teachers therapists doctors angels that changed his life. He became a self-advocate – an activist if you will – and graduated with high honors and two scholarships. He told his senior class he wanted to be remembered as the boy with autism who was bullied but overcame many obstacles, saying “none of you understand what I’ve been through.”

College and vocational training was too much for him at this stage of his life, so he’s currently working at Giant Eagle as a cashier – just like you. I have been told by his managers and other customers and friends that he is one of the most polite employees working in the front of the store! He is as thorough as can be, and makes every effort not to miss a detail. He often recites the steps to a transaction to make sure he processes payments correctly – oh, how he struggles with rainchecks and WIC checks! Sometimes, he gets really overwhelmed, and then he’s carrying on a full blown script as a means of calming his nerves. He’s been “scripting” since he acquired expressive language as a child. You know, admittedly sometimes I still get confused and often say “huh?!” or “what?!” when I hear him speaking aloud in his room or from our downstairs. I have to check myself and learn to wait until he says “Mom” or addresses me in some way so that I am not making him uncomfortable or interrupting his processing. He taught me that. My God, he has taught me so much.

Talking to yourself, to me, is not only a sign of intelligence, but is also pretty doggone common! I made a screenshot of the original post and shared my views on my personal Facebook page last night. After I read a string of replies complete with emojis of laughing faces and rolling eyes, I needed to speak out. The replies to me were from parents of children or their adult children who engage in self-talk (and I mean BOTH the children AND their parents) and one individual with Aspergers herself who runs her own successful medical practice said that she and her son on the spectrum talk to themselves frequently. I don’t know what medical needs you have, dear friend (may I call you a friend?) from Register 14, but I hope that when you’re in need of a caring physician, that you have the pleasure of being treated by this woman or someone as caring and accepting as she is to her patients.

I don’t know you, friend. I have no idea why you were talking to yourself. I don’t know your story and I likely never will. What I do know, is you deserve better than a callous, judgmental comment from a professional, wife and mother who identifies as a Christian that passes judgment on your actions. That’s middle school bullying behavior and it’s just unacceptable to me. Rather than have an adult conversation with me and discuss how we can all contribute to positive change in our world, spread love, and heighten awareness, she chose to block me. I can only pray that she thinks about what I said, and thinks twice before making a hurtful and offending comment like that on social media and reacting like a 7th grader. We can all do our part to practice compassion and empathy. Accept more, judge less, and be accountable for your choices. I’ve been “her” before, and have been called out on the carpet. I’ve learned a valuable lesson. I hope she does, too.

I don’t know you, but if I’m ever in your hometown and need to grab a loaf of bread and a roll of paper towels and some O.J., that I have the opportunity to choose Register 14 as my checkout line. You can talk to me if you want to. I’d love to know how your day is going, what your favorite food is, why you like your job – just a quick conversation between two human beings existing in this crazy world. And if you don’t want to talk, that’s ok too. I hope your self-chat helps you to complete my purchase, stay calm, or make you happy. Most of all, I want you to be happy.

I wish you peace, love, and abundant happiness.

Your friend,
The Caffeinated Advocate

Author: Catherine Hughes

Passionate Advocate. Innovative Storyteller. Engaging Strategist. Author. Editor. Blogger.

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