Martini Time

Martini Time

March 31, 2014

The Day I Met Jacob

Recently, I was in a big box retailer picking up an online order at customer service. After the desk clerk assisted me and called the stock boy, she began talking with two other employees less than two feet away from me. It was hard not to hear them as they gossiped and made fun of other employees. When the stock boy arrived, he came right up to me. He was tall, quite thin, messy hair, mismatched clothes – but poised and professional. He said to me, loudly and nearly scripted, “Ma’am, I am here to serve you! Is this order I’ll be locating yours?” I said it was, to which he replied, “Ok, ma’am, you got it. I’ll be back quick as a lick!” and he did a military style about-face move and headed off to retrieve my order.

I smiled as he walked away, unsure if he was just being silly to get a reaction or if he was being the best he knew how to be. But I smiled because he made me smile, no matter the reason. No sooner did he leave the desk clerk exclaimed “UGHH, that kid is SO retarded!” as her two co-workers nodded and giggled in agreement. Her statement physically knocked me backwards and I noticeably gasped for air. They all turned to me and I could feel my face start to burn red. My mind was racing in the seconds following her statement. I wanted so badly to smack her right across the face but I knew that wouldn’t make her understand my shock.
I managed to say to her, through gritted teeth, “Excuse me, what did you JUST say?” Her two friends quickly scattered. I took a step closer and repeated myself, “What, exactly, did you just say?” She rolled her eyes and stepped back before saying, “Um, I said that kid was retarded. Why, do you know him?”
“No, I don’t know him. Does it matter? You don’t know me. I could be his mother, his sister, his aunt, his friend. Do YOU know him?”
“Well, he works here so –“
“What’s his name? Do you know his name? Do you know anything about him?”
“Well, um.. No.”
“I do and I’ve only been here for ten minutes. His name is Jacob. Do you know how I know that? He has a nametag that says JACOB! What is your name?”
“I’m Carol.”
“Carol, what gives you the right to call Jacob that awful word? You don’t even know his name! How dare you. HOW DARE YOU!”
“Well, I didn’t say it to you! Or about someone you knew!”
“Carol, I need to speak to your manager. IMMEDIATELY.”
Again, I was physically knocked backwards by her ignorance. What Carol didn't know is that she was talking about someone I knew. She didn't know the struggles my daughter had gone through over the last fourteen months. The therapy sessions, the speech classes, the meltdowns, the doctors. She doesn't know.

I began shaking and, more than once, considered a physical altercation. She then pulled back her sweater to reveal her nametag: Carol, Customer Service Manager. I may have blacked out at this point as I said to her, “OHHH YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! You are the manager?! YOU are the one that is supposed to lead that young boy. And YOU are the one using that ugly word in front of a customer? No. Absolutely not. Give me the store manager’s number, district manager – give me the CEO’s information! I don’t care who – just so long as it’s not YOU.”
She quickly started to apologize. “Ma’am I’m extremely sorry. There is no need to make any phone calls. It won’t happen again.”
“You know what, Carol. Jacob is coming back now. I think we’re going to chat with him. And I think you owe him an apology.”
Before she could leave or say no, Jacob arrived with my item, put it right in front of me and saluted as he said, “Ma’am, here it is. Lickety splitty, just like I promised!” and he beamed with pride. “Thank you, Jacob, thank you very much.” His face lit up in that instant. He towered over me but he seemed so small and innocent as he looked down at the floor and muttered, “You know my name… Wooooow.”
I couldn’t help but choke back tears. I wondered if anyone in this wretched store had ever addressed him beyond calling for a stock boy. I turned to Carol who was pale as a ghost and I asked Jacob if he knew her name. He quickly replied, “Yes, yes I do. That is Carol the Manager. She is the boss of allllll of the people” as he waved his arm in a dramatic arc. I asked him another question, but still glared at Carol, “Jacob, is she nice to you?” He didn’t hesitate in his reply, “No, ma’am. She is not a very friendly Carol.” She quickly hung her head and sighed.
I continued, “Carol, Jacob doesn’t think you’re very friendly. What do you think about that?” I could see her face turning red and her eyes swelling with tears; I wasn’t sure if they were tears of remorse or embarrassment but I didn’t care. She softly said, “Jacob, I’m so sorry I haven’t been friendly. I will try harder.” Jacob’s eyes bulged out of his head and a smile that seemed too big for his face radiated the room. Before he could say anything, I said, “Thank you, Carol. Good evening. Jacob, are you ready to help me to my car?” He switched right back into professional mode and said, “Absolutey-tutey-lutely!”
We walked into the parking lot silently. He seemed reflective and proud. When we got to my car, I asked if I could help him lift the item into the backseat but he insisted he do it himself. After, I said, “Whoa, it fits perfectly! Thank you!” He stood at attention again and said, “Liiiike a glove!” I giggled because I knew the movie he was quoting. He noticed and said, “Do you know that’s from a movie?”
“I do! And I even know what movie it is!”
“Ok, ma’am, I’ll give you a hint: JIM CAREY, 1994, NAAAAAME THAT SHOW!”
“Ace Ventura!”
“That was AMAAAAZING…”
“I love that movie Jacob!” And I laughed with him.
“Ma’am, you’re friendly. Can I tell you a secret?”
“Sure, Jacob. What is it?”
“Well, I have high fun, I mean high fut, I mean high fluc. I mean I have Autism. But I can work and learn and stuff! I like to be goofy because it makes people happy. Then they will have a reason to laugh.”
I have no idea how I managed not to sob right there in front of him, but I just said, “You’re awesome, Jacob. You. Are. Awesome. Can I have a high five?”
His eyes got big and wide again and he stretched his arm high above his head. He smirked and said, “Jump! You can do it!” I laughed and tried but came nowhere close. He brought his hand back down to my level and said, “My mom said it’s ok to be different because that makes me special. But sometimes, I like to be normal. Let’s do a normal high five, ma’am.”
So we did. He did his about-face move again and off he went, back into the store. And never looked back.
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You never know who is listening.
You never know the struggle someone else is dealing with.
You never know who just needs someone to talk to.




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54 comments:

  1. This made my heart happy and then angry and I wanted to break stuff and then you redeemed my faith in human beings. Hats off to you and Jacob, lady. Well done! xo

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  2. Holy crap this makes me on the verge of tears. This world is full of so many awful and ignorant people. I can't thank you enough for standing up for this Jacob. I have a Jacob that is so near and dear that will hopefully work in a world where this no longer happens. Thank you. Oh and I would still report Carol because she's an asshole.

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    1. I hear you Alyson! I'm still in shock. I did report her but we went back a week later and she was still there...

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  3. YAY!! I want to meet Jacob, too! How FRIGGIN' AWESOME are you?!?!? I think we all need to tell the Carols of the world where they can stick their brand "customer service." What a complete asshat. And what a awesome human being Jacob is!

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    1. Asshat is THE perfect description! Thank you for reading and sharing :)

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    2. We taught the kids "asshead" Ironically I heard it on TV once! Hope the writers heard one of us acting goofy & saying it giggling. (would that mean I've been published? lol) I grew up with children of all possibilities. One girl had no arms, she was awesome to watch how she got herself dressed, able to meet almost all of her daily activities. One little girl, a twin as a matter of fact, had Downs syndrome, she was so happy to do crafts & participate as much as she was able to, she had some physical limitations, but loved doing everything that we did! My brother was epileptic, he played running bases and hide -n- go seek, just like the rest of us! He could do both, why shouldn't he? As a matter of fact, as he got older he was able to work with the town Little League. He was great at managing the boys & cheering them on, not screaming from the bleachers how their "kid doesn't know what a ball looks like!", no, he stood at their side, helped them learn to batt & field.
      Two of my children volunteer at a camp for children with different challenges. Some campers have Downs syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, autism, Aspergers, verbal & non-verbal. My children have more fun being their dance partner, playing instruments, learning songs, putting on plays! My kids are sad to come home! They find fulfillment in Gods gifts of the people they meet, learning as well as teaching. God Bless You! what a loving woman & an advocate for those who sometimes need an advocate & don't even know it.

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  4. You ROCK for confronting Carol. Hopefully, she went home and thought about it, a lot. My son Tucker is on the spectrum and while he's only 4 1/2, it kills me that somebody may one day say something like that about him - especially if he's working somewhere and obviously full of pride that he's responsible.
    I'm glad that you reported her. I wish she'd been fired, though.

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    1. Aww, bless your heart and your sweet Tucker! My girl isn't quite 2 yet and I still wonder how she'll be treated!
      I'm going to follow up and see what they did, if anything...

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    2. It makes me sad that people just automatically want someone fired when they do something wrong. I realize that Carol was horribly rude, but I believe that she may have learned the lesson of her life (you said she was young(?). Most retail stores don't "fire" a worker immediately. They're required to give a certain amount of reprimands and counsels before firing. I thought you managed it quite well for the amount of anger you were feeling. Not sure I would have. The way you handled it was a much better lesson to her than just turning her in. Hopefully, she realized how horrid she had been and will be more sensitive. The young man sounds like a delight. It always give me a smile to see developmentally challenged people that are able (and want) to work. Their work ethic is so pure, something that many young people (even managers) could learn from. God bless.

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    3. What a beautiful story. It sounds like Carol got a clue, and Jacob was definitely validated. Awesome!

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  5. You are freakin A W E S O M E! Thank you, on behalf of all the mom's who have kids with autism (me included) for standing up and protecting our kids when we aren't around.

    My son is 7 1/2, non-verbal autistic and I worry about things like this every time he walks out the door to go to school.

    This reminds me of the phrase "I am my brother's keeper." Yes, you are. <3

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    1. Wow, Terrye, I'm glad I'm not alone when I worry the instant she's out of my sight!
      Thinking about you and your boy today! <3

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  6. Awwww "Sometimes I like to be normal." So sweet. I hope the 'not a very nice Carol' learned a good lesson that day! Good for you for sticking up for awesome Jacob.

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    1. It really was sweet, Joy! And I'm not sure how my heart didn't explode right out of my chest! Thank you :)

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  7. This took my breath away. And now I am a total mess. Felt like I was right there with you. Thank you so much for writing this beautiful post!!!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and sharing, Ashley!

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  8. I just discovered your blog today and am moved beyond words. I'm your 996th like on FB. I am just speechless ... at this story ... at the bold way you addressed that manager's behavior, while so many people would have grumbled to themselves and just left. And I am so touched at Jacob's beautiful light and how he just wanted to try to make people smile. In one piece, I have seen your heart. And I am a fan.

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    1. Well, hello there #996! ;)

      Thank you so much for stopping by and I'm so so happy that you're glad you came! I'm grateful to have met Jacob for that short time!

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  9. Such an awesome post! and good for you for speaking up to that manager! You probably made a real difference in that kids life and the way he is now treated at his job.

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    1. Thank you Lauren! I really, truly hope it helped Jacob - or at least helped Carol think about her words!

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  10. Aw, Jeannette,what a beautiful story and what an amazing way you loved on Jacob. You are a very cool woman with a heart of gold. xo.

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  11. I read this and handed it to my husband and we both cried. What would I do in that circumstance? I hope I would be as awesome as you were. Thank you.

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    1. I appreciate the support! I hope it makes people think twice..

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  12. Your story had me tearing up, words are powerful - for both good and bad. So glad you stood up to that woman and at least for a moment held her accountable for hers. And in the process...let Jacob know he is valued. Powerful post.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading. I hope my words teach even one person to think twice before teasing.

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  13. Such a beautiful, inspiring post. Just found it from a reposting on another blog. It should come with a warning: NSFW because I'm blubbering like a fool at my desk!

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    1. Aww! Sorry for the tears at work but I appreciate the support!

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  14. This post had me crying. my wife asked me what is wrong?? I had her read your post and she stated that she wishes our son meets someone JUST LIKE YOU if only for a few minutes. he is autistic also and struggles in high school every day. he wants to work. He wants to Drive but all of his teachers say that he may not but to keep a dream alive, and to start with the small stuff. he now mows grass just to do it for all the elderly. he asks for no money but I can tell It makes him feel good just from the accomplishment he feels. He wants a new mower so he can continue and one showed up on our doorstep one morning at 5 am a brand new one. I later found that someone one his rout bought him one. I do not know who it is. but I hope they read your blog so I can thank them.

    thank you for sharing your story

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    1. Aww Jeff! God bless your son and his ambition and drive to do more! What a wonderful gesture to receive a new mower, too! You and your wife are doing a fantastic job with him!

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  15. My six year old is autistic, a little boy. He may end up very much like Jacob, if he is lucky. I am glad it was you and not me in front of that woman; I might have started breaking stuff. If Carol had been a man, I might have ended up in jail. I hope I can control my feelings if anything like this ever happen in front of me.

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    1. I hope Carol learned more with words instead of the physical altercation I considered! Thank you for reading.

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  16. I want to believe that you made a difference today not only in Jacob's life but the countless others that will come in contact with Carol. I want to believe that you have made an impact on Carol that she will never forget. I pray that she does an about face. Her losing her job would not have made things better... her changing and being a good role model, co-worker and boss would make things better. Bless your beautiful heart. I do not know what number I will be but I am going to find your page and like it too. :)

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    1. Thank you for the like and for believing!

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  17. stupid make me cry read.... tears streaming down my face.. doesn't happen often... my son's name is Jacob...

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  18. Congratulations in changing the lives of Carol and Jacob forever! Hopefully Carol will be an advocate for Autism but at very leat an advocate for Jacob! Xox I'm happy your red cape popped out of your collar and you were able to stand up and make a difference!!! So many times we don't have the gumption to stand up for our fellow man. God has blessed you with a good heart!

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    1. Thank you SO much! I appreciate you reading and the lovely compliment!

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  19. Did you report Carol to a higher up and get her fired?

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    1. I did report her and was told the matter would be investigated!

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  20. I am a teacher of students with developmental disabilities, including autism. Thank you for sharing this story. In my school of 2000 middle schoolers, we occasionally have students who throw out the R word. I often have the honor (and I do mean honor) of helping them see the light. I remember a parent calling after her son spent a day in my classroom thanking us for the experience. He came home, talked of it, and was a changed young man. Hopefully Carol "gets it" someday.

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    1. What a fantastic teaching method, Marti! I'm so glad you had an impact on even one student; hopefully many more!

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  22. I had a similar experience with my sixteen year old Josh, who is on the spectrum. My husband, Josh, and myself, were on our way out of town for a short trip and stopped at a local food mart to by some snacks and drinks for the road. Upon entering the store, Josh asked if he could get a Big Texas cinnamon roll (his favorite!). When I told him yes, he was overjoyed, giggling, dancing and laughing. He sped past me to get it, and as he did, I noticed a family with two boys a little younger than him standing nearby. As we started to leave the store after paying, I notice one of the boys pointing his finger at Josh and making fun of him. I swelled with anger, but kept my cool. I took Josh by the hand, and approached the boy, his parents standing by, watching the entire incident. I look at him through narrowed eyes, and asked him "Is there a problem here?". His eyes widened in fear...he knew he was caught. He slowly shook his head no, and began to back up. I stood up straight and smirked, saying "I didn't think so". I then put my arm on Josh's shoulder and we left. Josh asked what had happened, and I simply told him just a couple of kids were being stupid. I guess that was probably not the thing to tell him, but you know, people can be cruel and just outright stupid. What infuriated me most was the boys parents and their lack of action. They stood there and saw the whole thing, but never bothered to apologize or admonish their son for his behavior. Those boys, whoever they were, could have made a wonderful friend that day, but instead chose to act like brats. I consider it their loss. Kudos to you for standing up for Jacob. Carol's day is coming...and not fast enough.

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    1. Gosh, Patti, I'm so sorry you had to experience that! It's a shame when the parents turn a blind eye..

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  23. come on people i hope you all read this to the end i just did and i am still trying to stop the tears yes ive been through a lot but jacob made me realise next to some people im not so bad off after all peace friends thank you for sharing gwheros / dave

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  24. Thank you, not only for being there for Jacob, but for writing about it so that the rest of us could have a model of how we might handle a similar situation. Because they are out there. I've had them myself regarding my daughters who are Aspie but I could not be as rational as you ended up being.

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  25. Thank you not only for being there for Jacob, but for putting this out there so the rest of us could have a model of how to proceed when we run into like things. As the mother of 5, two of them Aspie girls, I need this. Blessings to you.

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  26. Definitely wish there was more people like you, the world would be a better place xx

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  27. My sister has Downs. Thank you for being you. :) I wish there were more people who could take 2 seconds to make someone else smile.

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  28. people forget everyone is different. i am autistic high functioning. tell your kids it's not a disability it's a diffabilty as we are different and it's our differences that make us who we are and also make the world go round. people especially kids single us out because we are different and pick on us it's a pity allot of adults haven't grown up either.

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  29. Made me cry and mad too. My son is autistic and this just broke my heart. I wish that Carol was fired .

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  30. Hi there, My name is Lachlan and I'm a South African with spastic cerebral palsy who contributes to TheMighty.com, which is where I initially found this story. I just wanted to say that I think you handled that situation perfectly and, as someone who's been called retarded several times in life, I'm grateful that instead of hitting Carol, you forced her to examine her own ignorance. Much respect!

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