Monday, September 12, 2011

A new workplace = anxiety for various reasons

Furry Bottoms' post about the struggles of being a deaf person in a hearing world inspired me to write a post about workplaces.

I am always anxious each and every time I start working at a new job. The first reason is communication and learning how. The "learning how" part refers to how everyone uses their mouths...some people will talk tiny while others will mumble. What I mean by "talk tiny" is little mouth movement which makes it hard for me to lipread. Oh boy, that reminds me of a story for another post and that will be published in the near future...I promise! :)

The second reason is discrimination. I have seen far too much and experienced way too many times to not allow any wiggle room on this matter. I will not entertain or accept any argument on what is pretty much the white elephant in the room for those who have never known firsthand what it is like to experience discrimination as a person with disability in a workplace.

Here we go...

My first negative experience happened on the first day of my first job. How's that for an auspicious beginning of my work career? My dad knew this guy who was the supervisor of bag boys at the commissionary and the supervisor's deaf son also worked there. For those of you who don't know what the commissionary is, it's basically a grocery store on the military base. The bag boys there did not work on a hourly basis - they worked for tips only. I had been stiffed few times and the smallest tip I ever got? A fricking dime. Jeez!

While on a break, I sat down to read a newspaper. One of the bag boys came over to me with an incredulous look on his face and said, "You can read that?" When I told him I could, he did not believe me and asked me for the newspaper. After giving it to him, he randomly pointed to an article elsewhere in the newspaper and asked me to read it out loud. I lasted only two months; when the supervisor told me if I left early again due to my illness, I should not bother to come I didn't. I didn't appreciate that despite coming in to work every day.

I worked in a warehouse for a company that primarily dealt with retail and rental stores for movies and music. You can imagine how vast the place is - it takes 10 minutes to walk from the front entrance to the back exit. The company was amazing in terms of working with my deafness. I first started as a warehouse worker who did whatever was asked of me. They realized the potential in me and promoted me to being in charge of a locked enclosure containing promotional items of high value. They paid for a phone signaller so I could hook it up to my TDD. Every time the phone signaller flashed, I would know the call was for me and that meant there was a special job for me - a customer was going to get the goodies. I never messed up an order because the TDD always printed out the conversations so I could easily refer back for accuracy. For those who don't know what a TDD is, it's a teletype device for the deaf which looks like this:

The shortest duration ever on any job was three days at Wal-Mart in 2009. Worst two days ever and I thought nothing could come close to what I experienced in my job at a government center. Wal-Mart came extremely CLOSE SECOND to that. I skipped the 4th day (Friday) by claiming that I was unable to find a babysitter for my girls. Then the weekend came and went and I called few minutes before I was supposed to start on my "5th day" (Monday) to say I wouldn't be able to work anymore due to babysitting issues. 1st day was nothing; I was paired up with a worker who had been there 10 years and he showed me everything I needed to do. We got along just fine. He asked me about me and why I was here.

Then...along came 2nd day...I was paired with a female worker who was slightly older than me, but alcohol had taken its toll on her - making her look to be in late 50s instead of mid 40s and I could smell it in her pores, as if she had taken a sip right before coming in to work. She acted like I was the stupidest guy she had ever known. She insisted on showing me how to take out a trash bag in the office area and how to replace it. She did not believe me when I told her I had already taken care of trash in the break room - she made me follow her to the supposedly full trash cans. Yeah...duh. When I was cleaning the bathrooms, she put up a sign on the door that said, "Closed for cleaning". I saw what she did and went back to cleaning. She came over to me and told me to go read the sign...I told her I had already read it. She became indignant and demanded that I tell her what the sign said while blocking my view. I repeated the sign verbatim and said, "I can read." Things were tense between us the rest of the time.

3rd day...oh boy...the worst was yet to come. I was supposed to work alone, but the alky must've complained about my attitude instead of telling the truth so I was paired with a young man. Everything seemed to be going well until it was time to clean the bathrooms and I discovered how ugly and petty people could get. In the ladies' room, he immediately sat down and started working on the sink pipes with a rag at a leisurely pace. I shrugged and cleaned the stalls and moved on to the men's room. 5 minutes later, a supervisor came in and sternly told me to clean the ladies' room. I tried to explain that I did while that guy cleaned the pipes, but the supervisor wouldn't listen. Fine. I re-mopped the floor. The guy came in and watched me mop. I left to clean the men's room.

Guess what? I got chewed out...because she said I didn't clean the toilets. Oh yes, I did the first time around. Fine. I got another bottle of bowl cleaning solution and used up the whole bottle in all 4 toilets. The supervisor watched me the whole time. Then she ordered me to clean the men's room and I got yet another bottle and she watched me while I cleaned everything all by myself. Yep, that young worker claimed he did the work while I goofed off. To punish me for that, the supervisor made me help workers re-stock the products. Haha...I actually enjoyed that part and the supervisor came to fetch me at the end, thinking I'd be wishing I was cleaning the bathrooms. Her shocked reaction upon seeing my face (I had enjoyed the re-stocking and was rocking at it) was priceless!

I guess I will write in depth about my job at the county government center at a later time (in two weeks) since this post was SO LONG. Sorry about that. Just sharing my experiences and you'll see why there is absolutely no wiggle room left by the time you finish the second part.


Furry Bottoms said...

Oh dear, I know how all this feels. The stupidity part, especially. Why do they always assume that because you can't hear, you can't read or do simple tasks?

The walmart experience, wow. I am so sorry they put you through all that.

We are always having to push harder, work harder, and accept less from management. Thats the thing most people don't "get".

Look at you though. You've got a great little family with a great wife and a good life. Hang onto those with all your heart!!

AllenTesch said...

I've seen people just shout louder and use wild hand gestures like they were talking to a baby.

Chloe said...

It truly is amazing...the stupidity out there in the world. It makes me want to choke each and every one of those idiots.


DCHY said...

Furry Bottoms - why should we have to work harder than our hearing counterparts? That's what kills me. Thank you for recognizing my life away from work.

AllenTesch - and we wonder why people treat us like we are stupid...ah yes, we don't speak "stupid". ;)

Chloe - too bad there's nothing to "justify" all those homicides. LOL