I had my job in a supermarket as a cashier for 2 months before I decided to quit. I found that as I went on with it, the more difficult it got. The fast pace encounters with lots of different customers, as well as sitting in a chair for 4 hours straight and having to count up money fast was not good for me. Even though I only worked Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon, and Monday evening, I felt as though from Tuesday – Friday work took up 90% of my thoughts with anxiety. I don’t know why I felt this way though, all I was doing was sitting there scanning people’s items, I barely had to talk to the customers either. Now I feel guilty because I’m no longer independent with money and will have to rely on other people again.
When people ask me why I left I find it very difficult to explain. The reason why I left was because of my Asperger’s… that’s it. So you either know how Asperger’s affects someone and can even make it almost debilitating to live with in some situations, or you don’t. My ADD and Dyscalculia only really affected me because I couldn’t add up or stop daydreaming and spinning on my chair, but that’s nothing compared to how my Asperger’s affected the job. Sometimes I thought that I was actually faking my own symptoms (which I will talk more about in another post as well as acting neurotypical to get by which I spoke briefly about in my previous post) because I made myself do exactly what I just said and act neurotypical. What people don’t seem to realise though is the more someone with Asperger’s does this, the more tiring it gets. So each time I went and sat on the till for 4 hours, I was getting more and more exhausted; it didn’t get easier to be there like most people thought it would. The anxiety I had that someone would see through the act as well as having to do the act in general was very overwhelming. And then I quit without notice. My Mum just dropped in my uniform and resignation letter she wrote for me and once I knew for sure that they weren’t going to ring me because of quitting so suddenly, a weight had been lifted. I had told my supervisor a few weeks into the job that I have these conditions, but she said no one needed to know my business except for my line manager. I explained on my resignation letter that I was quitting because of my ASD and that I couldn’t cope, so I’m guessing they understood.
Apparently being a cashier is one of the worst jobs someone with Asperger Syndrome can have, and now I understand why. Aside from the lack of communication skills, I also had to work extra hard to make my mannerisms and behaviour like everyone else’s, and ignore my sensory issues. I’d keep questioning myself if I was doing something the same as how the other cashiers were doing the same thing, and I’d keep having to stop myself from having a sensory overload meltdown. The noises and smells were very overwhelming to the point were I just could not go in anymore. If someone had hot food from the deli counter, I’d just have to do everything I could to block it out, or if there was a screaming child or the Coinstar machine running, I’d just have to work extra hard to focus on what the customer was saying. And then there’s my touch/proximity boundaries. I can deal with touch if I know it’s coming, eg. giving my nieces a kiss before they leave. It’s routine so I know it’s coming and don’t even have to prepare myself anymore because it’s just what we do when we say goodbye (although my nieces are probably the only exception to my touch/proximity issues because I know that spending time with them requires close proximity and touch so I’m just constantly prepared. They’re also very gentle so I’m not complaining). When I don’t know that someone is going to touch me or get very close to me, this is when I get on edge. I don’t like the feel of people close to me, it makes my skin itch and I feel like I am boxed in which makes me anxious, and when someone touches me and I didn’t see that they were going to (I have to see that they are going to if they don’t tell me they are so then I can either prepare myself or tell them not to. Sometimes it’s hard to judge if someone is going to or not though which also makes me anxious) it makes wherever they are touching hurt and also makes me jump and I don’t like the feeling of being jumpy. So whenever someone stood very close to the scanner right in front of me when I was sitting at the till, this made me extremely anxious.
I’m very surprised that I didn’t have a meltdown right there on the shop floor in my uniform in all honesty. The way some people spoke to me I could have just cried right then and there and said “I don’t understand why you’re angry at me, all I do is exchange this food for your money! It’s not my fault that I can’t sell you alcohol, it’s not my fault that the barcode it unreadable, it’s not my fault that this item is more expensive than you thought!”. I just don’t understand why people were so rude, I get that grocery shopping isn’t the funnest thing to do, but it’s not exactly a holiday scanning items for 4 hours straight either. Think of it this way, customers were in the shop for maybe 40 minutes and were rude, but I was in there for 4 hours and had to pretend that I was having the time of my life whilst also pretending I don’t have a form of Autism, I don’t lack the ability to focus, and I don’t lack basic Mathematical skills! It’s safe to say I don’t think I will be working in shop again (especially a supermarket) for a good few years.