Today I had to return something to the library, and while out, started to feel hypoglycemic and needed something to eat in a hurry, so I decided to get a sandwich from the nearby Subway.
When I approached the counter, the guy behind it said with a big, mischievous grin, “I’m sorry, we’re closed today.”
I replied, “You don’t look closed.”
“We’re closed,” he said.
I just stood there for a few seconds, not sure what to say next. He then said something to me, and I didn’t understand what it was, but I could tell it wasn’t “May I take your order?” or “What can I get for you?” So I asked him to repeat himself. He did, but I still didn’t understand him.
I froze for a few seconds trying to make sense of his words but I couldn’t. Then I panicked and turned around and left without another word. I’m sure he thinks I’m insane.
This same guy made things awkward for me the last time I was there too, but that time it was with aggressive upselling attempts. It started with, “Would you like to add bacon?”
“No thank you, ” I replied.
“Why, don’t you like bacon?” he asked, smiling playfully.
“Ummm… Yeah, I guess, but not all the time.”
“Do you want extra cheese?
“No thank you.”
“Why, don’t you like cheese?”
“I do, but in normal amounts. I don’t need extra.”
“Do you want to make this a combo with a drink and some cookies?”
“No thank you.”
“But you’ll need something to wash your sub down with, won’t you?”
“I’m taking it home. I have drinks at home.”
“But I bet you don’t have cookies at home.”
“I don’t want cookies.”
“Why, don’t you like cookies?”
So anyway, I now feel like I can never go to that Subway again, which is really frustrating, because that’s the only one in my neighbourhood, I don’t have a car, and I normally really like it. I like it because I can get a sandwich made with exactly what I want on it (and therefore not risk aggravating any of my food sensitivities), and even though there’s a lot of talking to get it, it usually follows a predictable routine, so even if I can’t always understand their words (due to my auditory processing issues and their thick accents), I know what they’re likely asking at each point in the process and can make a safe guess about how to answer. But this particular guy keeps jacking me around and turning it into an ordeal and now I don’t ever want to go back there. And the way I am with things like this, I will be thinking about this for hours or even days to come.
Just to clarify, I’m not saying this guy is a terrible person; I realize he’s just joking around. But I don’t know how to deal with it, and it adds a layer of complexity to something that used to be very simple.
It really shouldn’t be so hard to order a freakin’ sandwich.
I’m told that I was a quiet child. But I’m also told that I was a talkative child. Both are apparently true. This is a contradiction that has continued to this day and that I and others have often found confusing. It’s something that I have in the past found difficult to explain, including when I was in counseling, but I will try to break it down here.
Before I started school, I was a chatterbox. I had a cheerful, sing-song voice and a mild speech impediment (an inability to say the letter L) that adults apparently thought was adorable in a little girl. People called me a “Chatty Cathy” after a popular talking doll from the previous decade. My mom says she used to worry about me because I would go up to complete strangers and talk their ear off. I even once offered some random elderly man a lick of my ice cream cone, which he accepted.
After I started school, I stopped talking as much because of the way my peers responded to me. Adults had enjoyed my chatter, but other children tended to think I was weird and they didn’t understand the things I talked about. I soon learned that not everybody wanted me to talk to them. This made me retreat into my shell. And since I didn’t really understand how to play with the other kids, I was often on the sidelines, quietly observing them.
However, when I would hit it off with someone, I would have great one-on-one conversations with them. I was still capable of being talkative, I was just far more cautious and selective because I had learned that I needed to be.
But even though I talked a lot, I was never noisy. This was one area where I really differed from other kids. I didn’t yell or scream or shriek the way they did. I used to hear other kids shrieking while playing and wonder why in the world they would want to make such horrible sounds. It’s something I just never, ever did.
There were also times when I wanted to say something and couldn’t. Like the time I was falsely accused of breaking a window and couldn’t make any words come out of my mouth to defend myself. Or like the time in grade 8 when for some reason our girls’ PE class was required to sit in the bleachers and watch boys play basketball. Our teacher was trying to teach us school spirit or something like that, and was telling us to cheer the boys on. I was usually very obedient to my teachers but unlike the other girls I could not bring myself to shout anything. She noticed and got right in my face and started yelling at me, telling me things I should shout, like “Go team” or whatever. I opened my mouth to do so and no sound came out. Selective mutism, I believe this is called, but at the time I had no clue what was going on. My teacher was angry, thinking I was deliberately being difficult, and I was ashamed.
On the other hand, even though I had trouble defending myself, injustice bothers me so much that I’ve never had any problem speaking up in defense of someone else. I have always felt compelled by my own conscience to verbally jump to the defense of anyone being falsely accused, criticized, or being treated unfairly. I have gotten myself in bad situations and incurred the wrath of bullies many times for doing this, both as a child and as an adult.
Another unusual thing about me as a child was that even though I had crying meltdowns when overstimulated, I never had temper tantrums. I did not have an angry bone in my body. My mom often talks about how lucky she was compared to other moms because of this. If I saw something I wanted in a store, she could say no and I would accept it and carry on.
My odd combination of quiet yet not quiet confuses people to this day. At a family dinner a couple years ago, I was introduced to a new family member (new through marriage, that is) and really hit it off with her. We were sitting next to each other, and the acoustics in the restaurant were ideal enough that despite my usual auditory processing issues in group settings I was able to carry on a conversation with her. We were even laughing and joking, completely in tune with each other’s sense of humour. Suddenly another person present, the person who shall remain nameless, snapped at me, “And you say you’re so quiet!”
Suddenly, I came crashing down to earth. Having my behavior scrutinized and commented on throws me for a loop every time, and this particular person does it a lot. I didn’t know what to say. I felt that I should offer some kind of explanation, but I had none. For starters though, I could be wrong, but I don’t think I ever said I was quiet. That’s what other people say about me, not what I say about myself. I did tell this person once that I am an introvert, as a way to try to explain myself when this person was criticizing me for not yet having made any friends in the new city I’d moved to (trying to offer an explanation in that case was a mistake anyway; this person didn’t understand what I meant by “introvert” and started telling people after that that I “don’t mix well with others”), but I don’t think I ever used the word quiet.
Anyway, that one comment put a damper on my rare experience of carefree socializing with a new person. I went back into my proverbial shell, feeling paralyzed because of the scrutiny.
Perhaps it’s a topic for another post, but that’s one of the hardest things for me to endure: All the scrutiny I seem to attract.
People want to put other people into boxes, and in many ways, including being quiet but not quiet, I am difficult to categorize. This puts me into the position of feeling like I need to explain myself, but that rarely seems to turn out well.
This is a follow up to my post My Worst Sensitivities. Here are some more of my sensory issues. I consider these ones to have less of an impact on my life than the ones in my previous post.
Aversion to water. I hate the feeling of water on my skin, and especially in my eyes. I have never learned to swim for this reason. One of the very small number of spankings I ever received in my life was because I was refusing a bath. When my husband and I shower together, he says I have a look on my face like I’m in pain the entire time. Despite how much I hate it, I do shower every day, because I hate feeling dirty and smelling bad more than I hate the feel of water. But sometimes when I can get away with it, like when I’m not working, I put off my shower until later in the day because I’m not a morning person and that horrible feeling in the morning is too much for me.
I don’t like bright colours. I dislike animated TV shows and movies for this reason. I never really liked most children’s shows or cartoons when I was a child because of the bright colours. I especially hate bright red and orange. But the colours I do like, I love. My favourite is a soft greeny-blue.
I have sensitivities to loud noises and auditory processing issues.
When the fire alarm in the building I live in goes off, I shake uncontrollably, even if I know it’s a false alarm. It’s the noise itself that rattles me.
I can enjoy loud music if it’s music I like and have chosen to listen to, but it drives me nuts if it’s someone else’s. Conflicting noises also drive me nuts. My dad has the tendency to put the TV on, get bored and leave the room without turning the TV off, go into the next room, and put the radio on in there. When I can hear a TV and a radio at the same time, it makes me feel like I’m losing my mind or like my head’s going to explode. It is very, very unpleasant.
I also have trouble in crowded, noisy environments picking out the one voice that’s talking to me. This has always made church attendance difficult for me, as standing around in a crowded church lobby and chatting with people is the expected thing. Trying to skip this is frowned upon, as churches are big on “community” these days and I would even go so far as to say many of them worship community more than they worship God. Going home to read the Bible and pray? Bad. Standing around making small talk about the weather? Good. (I realize if you don’t believe in God, this may not seem like such a bad thing, but for me, believing in God is the one and only reason I’ve ever gone to church. I’m not there for anything else.) In these situations, I stand there and smile and nod and hope they’re not asking me any questions. I have sometimes told people I have auditory processing issues and I can’t understand what they’re saying to me. Sometimes we then stand there in awkward silence before they excuse themselves to talk to someone else, but more often they just keep chattering away and I keep nodding. I don’t know why I keep doing that after I’ve already admitted I can’t understand them. I think it’s just because I hate making people feel bad or uncomfortable.
There are some sounds I like that you wouldn’t expect me to. I love the sound of traffic on a highway. I find it quite soothing, even when I’m trying to fall asleep. I live near an airport and I don’t mind the sound of planes overhead. I also love the sound of rain and howling wind.
Other issues I don’t know how to categorize include:
Sensitivity to hot and cold. This could be related to my hypothyroidism or other health issues. It’s getting worse as I get older.
Motion sickness, when I sit in the backseat of a car. This makes me not want to go anywhere with others unless I can sit in the front, but obviously insisting on sitting in the front seat on outings with people can come across as pretty obnoxious. It’s easier to just stay home.
Oddly enough, I love roller coasters and never get sick on them (although it’s been a while since I’d ridden one because I don’t know anyone else who can tolerate them). I think it’s because a roller coaster ride doesn’t last long enough for the motion sickness to kick in. I’m usually in a car for at least 10 minutes before I start feeling sick.
I might have more issues I’m just not thinking of at the moment, but the ones in this post and my previous post are the ones that immediately come to mind.