Ok, Ok, I admit it. I talk to people.
I talk to - everyone. I will strike up conversations with people in the street, waiting for a train, in the supermarket. It drives my family crazy but I like to be friendly and – you find out so much! Which is just great for a nosy-parker and writer like me.
The other day I complimented a young man stacking shelves in my local supermarket on his perfect diction. It's rare to hear such precise BBC tones these days. Apparently though, according to this chap, it is quite normal within the autistic community to have this attention to pronunciation. He has to be precise because it compensates for the fact he has little emotional expression he told me. And of course, as one of the other features of some forms of autism, he told me in great detail and at great length. Fortunately I had all morning, and his supervisor was around to gently but firmly request that he return to his job.
Our local supermarket employs a wide variety of people. I met Tanya there. At least, when I first met Tanya she was Jack, a delightful young man on the tills. It was Halloween and we chatted about our favourite Halloween practices as he scanned my ghoulish party purchases – until the grumpy man behind me told Jack that he could chat on his own time and not in the store! I liked Jack. He always had a smile and we would always talk. One day I noticed that Jack was wearing makeup (and not in a Captain Jack Sparrow way). I quietly asked Janet, another till person I was friendly with.
"Oh yes," she said, smiling brightly. "Jack's now Tanya."
Yes, I realised. That made sense.
And when I had a chance to speak to Tanya later she explained about how she had been nervous about coming out as a woman and how she had expected to lose her job or be bullied and how supportive every member of staff had been. The store supported her all through her treatments and operations as she changed from a boy to a girl.
You wouldn't necessarily expect to find, in your local supermarket, such acceptance and support of and for people who are a bit different, would you?
They have helped and supported me in my bad times too; detailing staff members to push my trolley for me when I've been too weak and wobbly to do it for myself. They have provided chairs and glasses of water when I needed to a have a little rest. There are quite a few staff members who have seen me through several bouts of depression and watch out for me.
Your local supermarket may be a faceless and inhuman entity to which you pay your weekly dues and where you try to get round without actually killing anyone, but – just give it a chance. You may just find it has a kind and compassionate soul within.
A Moodscope member.