Negative Job Experiences


Although I've had such good luck with jobs for the past 20 years (with a couple of minor exceptions, come to think of it), my earlier job life does reveal some fairly typical AS-related problems.

The first several jobs I had were arranged for me by my mother, beginning with a "helper" job at the local public library when I was in high school. I was small and looked significantly younger than my age, so most people tended to feel like I needed taking-care of. They were not surprised, I think, that my mother was helping me out in this way.

I enjoyed the library job except for two aspects. Occasionally I was asked to work behind the counter for a short time. That meant I had to interact with library patrons, and I never managed to do it well. I liked interacting with books, not with people. The worst part was when someone wanted to pay an overdue fine. I was not able to make change, nor could I explain that I could not do it. If I had looked my age, I suspect I would have been scolded and/or ridiculed. Instead, people simply took the change themselves when they realized I was not going to do anything but stand there with the change drawer open looking confused. It's possible that they did ridicule me in some way that I did not notice. (I don't remember ever looking at one of them.)

The other unpleasant part of that job was working in the children's section on Saturdays. All I did was re-shelve books, which I liked. But I often got "seduced" into looking at the pictures in the books, and the children's section library scolded me (in a way I didn't like; I wasn't used to adults "talking down" to me) whenever she caught me looking at a picture. My resentment against her lasted from that time (1966-67) until yesterday when I realized she might actually have been trying to instill "good work habits" in me. She's still wrong, but I don't feel resentment against her anymore.

After my first failed attept at college, my mother got me a job with the national American Friends Service Committee office, as a secretary. My perfectionism went over very well there and the people were nice to me.

My worst jobs were those I found on my own when I was stuck in Chicago for a while in 1969. I worked briefly for a mail-order dental supply company. The boss's instructions did not make sense from my POV, and I had no idea how to talk to him so I left.

My next job was at the bottom rung of the clerical ladder at Encyclopedia Britannica -- the only employer who ever fired me. The official explanation for the firing was that I had proven myself "unable to adapt to an office environment." I had done fine in the AFSC office environment, but at EB employees were expected to look and act "right." My clothes were not "right" and my body langauge was definitely "wrong." I did not know what to do when I ran out of work (which I did every day, because I didn't know enough to work slowly), and I was observed to be "lounging" at my work table. The two women who told me I was fired acted as if they were afraid of me. That makes me think that I probably was seen as "weird" by the other people who worked there -- possibly because I never talked to them. I didn't know how to talk to people spontaneously, and no one I overheard was ever talking about anything of interest to me.



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