Maybe the weekend before last, I’m not even sure, I had to go to a cat handling class for work. I was told it was to be very casual; don’t even wear your scrubs, just come in whatever you have on. It should only last about an hour, just some basic information about cats.
Jack (I figure that’s a generic enough name I can use it in its entirety) was the guy who ran the class. It was just me and 2 other people. If I’m with just one other person I try to feign eye contact and smile a little bit, but when I’m with a few others I usually do my usual no eye contact, no facial expressions, no talking. I listen as best I can and try to blend into the background. I don’t like to call attention to myself, so I stay quiet, and that’s what I did there. I did notice that the other two people were very talkative and asked lots of questions. I had already done cat volunteer training, so between that and the fact that the training was very basic (this is a cat, it has 4 legs and a tail, it says meow…), I already knew everything Jack told us and just listened quietly.
I thought I did fine. I didn’t call out. I had no outbursts of echolalia (common at work because I’m anxious). I interacted with the cats Jack brought out and talked to them. I didn’t interrupt anyone. I didn’t say that I was kind of bored when asked how the training was. All those things I’m supposed to do that take work on my part, right?
Well, until yesterday. My boss called me into her office. She checked that I was at the training. I said that I was. She said, “Jack said that you were really rude and didn’t care at all what he was talking about.”
What! I was shocked. He was talking about cats! Of course, I cared! Even if I already knew the information, I still listened and heard everything he said.
My boss asked, “Did you know everything he talked about?”
I told her that I did, but that I listened. She said I must have said something offhand. I said well, to be honest, I don’t think I said a word the entire time. She said “That’s what I said. Lydia doesn’t talk; how can she be rude?” I told her that the others there were asking questions and interacting and that I was just quiet, and maybe that’s why he thought I didn’t care. She told me not to worry, that I wasn’t in trouble, and to go ahead and start feeding cats.
This frustrates me immensely. First of all, when my mom tells me if that if I just try hard enough I can “blend in,” these are the situations I’m talking about. My lack of eye contact, odd mannerisms, and lack of speech (or odd questions, when I do talk) make me stand out. This is a perfect example. People thinking I’m rude and inattentive is a very common occurrence for me. I’m a lot of things, believe me, but I really don’t think I’m almost ever rude.
After thinking it over and talking to Leigh, I emailed my boss and asked if she would tell Jack that I have autism and that sometimes I come across in ways I don’t intend. Of course, she never responded, but that’s to be expected.
I hope she does tell him, though, and between you and me, I kind of hope he feels like a jerk.