Monday, July 24, 2017

The Tale of Two Shop Owners

I struggled this morning with a shop owner and had a great experience with another shop owner. The first was a small boutique. Zach (now 16 and so very tall at 6'2"),  Lily (my spirited 12 year old daughter) and I walked into a store and Zach made a beeline through the store to make sure he understood the dimensions and layout, and possibly looked for a bathroom.

The lady behind the counter was helping a customer and shouts at me, not kidding, "Um, I don't know what he is doing or where he is going... But... ."

I looked up from the cute jewelry to see Zach returning to me from the back of the store. I replied, "He has autism and is just checking out your store."

I looked at Lily and told her to follow me. Zach then became very happy to see the large mirrors in the changing rooms. Beautiful clothing, accessories, handbags, jewelry, home decor and gifts were left untouched as the woman then approached me and said, "I am sorry that was just weird." I asked Zach to go wait outside the front door. I smiled at the woman, I took Lily by the hand and we then walked slowly to the front door without saying a word to her. I turned as I reached the door and said thank you and walked out. I could have been rude, but biting my tongue was the best thing to do.

Lily and I then had a great conversation about never returning rudeness with rudeness. She asked a lot of questions about why that lady acted so weird because of Zach. I told her how people's words and actions  are often due to ignorance and lack of understanding. She got it. She totally understood that I could have let that woman have it and made a scene in front of her four other customers. But I didn't. All she needed was my direct eye contact, a smile, the fact that I left without spending a penny and possibly the knowledge that I will never return. It was my Julia Robert's moment from Pretty Woman. "Big Mistake. Huge." - but without saying a word.

My amazing son is tall and handsome.  He is able to speak and have his needs met.  He is inquisitive and enjoys becoming familiar with the lay of the land in each new location.  He wears large black noise blocking headphones which help protect him from sensory overload when he feels assaulted by loud noises. His mannerisms are often viewed as atypical and it is quite apparent that special needs come into play when he is out in public. I struggle as a parent when adults are not kind, or act as if my son't physical presence is a nuisance.  I often wonder where many adults were on the day when God handed out compassion, because I have witnessed far too many people who do not possess that trait when interacting with my son.

Then, this afternoon after a couple errands, Zach and I stopped in at Paragon Bakery. They have been there for over a year and I didn't know. Very reasonable prices, cute dinning room, super friendly wait staff. The owner was very interested in understanding my Gluten Free needs, showed me everything, discussed pricing, call ahead orders, and ingredients. She also made sure I knew the specials and had bread for my family for dinner tomorrow night.

It was an amazing interaction. Zach would have to agree. He ordered a still warm chocolate chip cookie as big as his head that was $1.35. I ordered a GF cupcake with frosting $2.35 (amazing!) Zach yelled thank you to her and she said you are welcome. She asked his name, what his favorite treats are, how old he is, if he will want to come back again and if he wanted to sit in the comfy chairs in the dining room. He loved the attention.

She then looked directly at my son and said, "Zach it was a pleasure meeting you today.  I am so glad you like the cookies. Next time you come back, bring your mom." My heart swelled with joy.

She observed my neurodivergent man sized child, included him in conversation and made sure his needs were met. She met him where he is at. She didn't startle when he went to enter the kitchen, but smiled at him and welcomed him in. She showed him around and let him freely roam and only came near to protect him as he approached the hot ovens. He smiled at her and pretended to breathe in deeply, taking in all of the delicious smells.

Two stores. Two completely different experiences. I have a feeling the bakery will now receive a lot of my business.

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