I am a frequent Dollar Store shopper. The check-out lines are sometimes too long for my liking but I admit three or more people ahead of me is what I consider a long line. I reckon it all depends on your point of view as to what “long” or “short” is.
On one of my shopping trips as I approached the check-out line, I was relieved there was just two ahead of me. The store manager was manning the register. He was checking out a red-headed freckled-faced boy who was grinning from ear to ear. I’m guessing maybe 10-years-old. The youngster had his dollar bills ready and gave to the manager. I had my head down when I heard the manager say in a stern voice, “What are you doing?”
I did not see what happened but I saw the boy’s hands near the gadget customers use to purchase with a credit/debit card. He was probably playing with the buttons. There was what seemed like a long pause and a red-headed slim woman came up who was probably the boy’s mother. She just said to the manager two words, “He’s autistic.”
I felt like an arrow hit my heart since I’m on the Spectrum, too. The manager maybe felt an arrow in his heart, too, because he said in a softer tone, “Oh, okay.” Nothing more was said.
The boy reminded me of the students I work with as a substitute teacher’s aide. It is rewarding to work with students like this boy. It is sad, though, to hear of “shopping tales” that are such a nightmare that parents/caretakers are reluctant or give up taking their child with them shopping.
The incident replayed in my mind over and over for the remainder of the day and into the night. It took me back to my childhood when a 7-11 store manager was correcting me for something I had no idea was wrong. His stern warning left such a mark on me that I still remember it a half a century later.
I watched them walk out of the store. I dare say it wasn’t the first time she had to tell a stranger, “he’s autistic”. It probably won’t be the last either. Perhaps she had left her boy at the counter to see if he could handle paying for something all by himself. He did fine except for the last part. He just needs more practice, that’s all.
The boy didn’t drop his smile the entire time. He seemed oblivious to what had happened. I hope he has no memory of it. But I’m sure his mother did not get off so easy. She was the one who took the hit.