Monday, May 31, 2010

Comfort Zones

The Comfort Zone

Someone made a really great business suggestion to me today, to get my online
business listed in GooglePlaces. It actually sounded pretty good, except that I
am a home business and would never ever give out my home address online.
But since I use a "PMB" and that has a physical address that is good enough for
Fed-Ex, I figured I would try it. Three lines into the application I hit the one
and only roadblock I cannot surmount: required phone number.

I can not, will not, ever talk on the phone nor accept any phone call I am not
specifically expecting from a known individual at a pre-planned time. It's not
a matter of being unfriendly or unavailable or not wanting to, I actually CAN'T.
Like a blind man cannot see or a deaf person cannot hear or a paraplegic
cannot walk, I CAN'T talk on the phone. Period. Maybe I should take this
issue up with the ADA or the ACLU: The law requires accomodation.

I am autistic. High functioning Aspergers, but still that is what I am. I actually
do not consider what I am to be a "disability", it is who I am and I have many
gifts "normal" people wish they had which I would not trade for all the social
gracefulness in the world. BUT I do live unfortunately in a world that is mainly
run by and for those socially graceful people who are ready without notice or
preparation to chit-chat on the phone and accept uninvited visitors at their
door. I recognize that I will never be one of them. So in the sense that I am
absolutely physically incapable of performing this function which "normal"
people take for granted, well then yes, I am disabled. I am not "shy" or "socially
awkward", I am autistic. I live with it every day. It has prevented advancement
or at least success in most of the professional environments I have experienced
over the years. It's life. I have spent most of my life since I could talk
apologizing for being different. Once again, I am sorry. My feeling at age 55
is I am tired of trying to accomodate and "fit in" and try to be like "normal"
folks. It's time they accomodated ME. Meet me on MY level.

Talking on the phone is outside my comfort zone. I can email with you till the
cows come home but I don't talk on the phone. I have one lifelong friend in
Florida who calls me about once a week. When the phone rings at 9pm on a
Sunday, I KNOW it's her and that's OK, I'm comfortable with this person who
has known me and my quirks for nearly 50 years. She is the safe zone.
My ex is a safe zone. I don't need prep time for them. I do for anyone else.

ONE local person, for whom I built a website, SCHEDULED a phone
conversation and a personal meeting with: that was planned in advance,
I could prepare for it. It went fine. I got plenty of sleep the night befiore,
I went over my skills checklist: make eye contact, offer food and drink,
see to their comfort, speak in a normal volume, show them around, introduce
them to my companion by name, etc that "normal" people don't have to think
about, and Kat will tell you (I think/hope) that I seemed "normal" to her.
That is a far cry from just publishing my number out there for any stranger
to call any time without warning.

"Oh but they won't really call you." Wanna bet?? Once on Ebay a 'customer'
called my home several times in a day and late at night, waking my terminally
ill daughter at least once, demanding to know when some item they purchased
like the day before would be delivered. This was a GROSS invasion of my
privacy and freaked me out for days. I then changed my Ebay phone number
to my work number and the following month a different jerk tried calling me
at work several times and then emailed me saying "I couldn't reach you
at work". WHAT THE HELL! Don't call me! There is no reason to call me,
ever, period. I answer email.

A few weeks ago when I signed up for my new domains, I found the cheapest
ones at Godaddy, and they can be hosted anywhere (I like my own host) and I
foolishly gave my phone number on the domain registration. after
all never called me or bothered me. DAMN if these clowns did not call me not
just once but FOUR times and left me messages wanting to sell me this or
that (under the poorly veiled guise of "welcoming" me) and THEN they emailed
me and said "sorry we couldn't reach you on the phone".

Sorry, I get real emotional about my privacy and people assuming
they have any right at all to just casually invade it.
Maybe that's OK with you, it is NOT OK with me.

By trade I am a visiting nurse. Been doing this for over 30 years.
Tried other jobs, can't make it in an office environment or really anywhere
I have to have prolonged and/or unexpected contact with humans. Maybe
I should have been a vet, animals love me on sight. Anyway, I am great as
a visiting nurse: any contact is preplanned, and of limited duration, AND I
have the advantage that in that environment, I am the expert, the authority,
the boss. My function is to do whatever nursing task I went there for, and
leave. Short and sweet. Most of my time these days is spent documenting
those tasks on a computer (before it was reams of paper). And even with
all this planning and organization I do to prescript my day, it is still hugely
stressful and exhausting, and takes an actual toll on my health. Mind you
I am a great nurse, great IQ and I know my stuff, and I am actually a
pretty good teacher too. I see things 'normal' people don't see and that makes
me even better. And my patients love me and thank me, saying things like
"no one else ever helped me before" and "you're the first one that cared".
It makes me feel good. But it's still hard.

Hardest is to remember eye contact: it is something I have to think about
constantly, and remind myself to do. It does NOT come naturally, even
after years of dedicated practice. If I am tired or not feeling real well, I
forget, and then the encounter doesn't go so well. Likewise I forget volume,
or speed of speech, or to smile or please and thank you or say something
inappropriate or a thousand other little things that you never think of if you
are not autistic. WE think about it (or are painfully reminded after the fact)
every day. Every human encounter is accompanied by at least some degree
of pain: life becomes about controlling and limiting that pain.

So once again, I apologize for my disability. I do not mean to make anyone
feel uncomfortable -- believe me I know how that feels and strive to avoid
doing it to anyone else. You can email me day and night, but I can not talk
on the phone. I will freely give my mailing address and email contact
information. That should be enough. And any site or entity which requires
me to give a phone number just will not get my business. Just
like those that require paraplegics to climb stairs to access their
business. GooglePlaces is not disability-accessible.

No comments: