Thursday, March 27, 2008

Epiphany at Plaid

I went into my neighborhood Plaid Pantry yesterday to make a purchase. I found what I was looking for and headed up to the counter to pay for it. When I got to the counter there was a man in front of me buying a soft drink.

The first thing I noticed was that this man was somewhat disheveled and looked like he was either homeless, developmentally challenged (and living on his own), or had mental health issues. Once I heard him say “hi” to the clerk, I figured out that he had a developmental disability.

He put the drink on the counter in front of him and handed the clerk a dollar bill. The clerk opened up the cash register and made the sale, handing the man back his change. Then the man just stood there with a slight smile on his face. He and the clerk looked at each other for about 5 seconds, until the silence was broken by the clerk saying; “OK, that’s it”. The man then said “goodbye” and walked out the door.

I found the interaction between these guys to be kind of funny, and asked the clerk if he knew the man. He replied; “Yeah, he comes in here all the time. I used to work with people like him. They’re really harmless.

I was a bit taken back by this statement. I asked him what he meant by “harmless”, and he told me that a lot of people are “afraid of people like him”.

That got me thinking about March being Developmental Disability Awareness Month here in Oregon. It makes me wonder when the general public is going to receive any real information about people with developmental disabilities. I wonder if there will ever be a campaign to inform people in general about the challenges these folks face on a daily basis.

The clerk was a good 6’ 4”, weighing well over 250 Lbs. He had a shaved head and a long pointy goatee. His eyebrow, both ears, and nose all had jewelry in piercings. Both of his bulky arms were covered in tattoos. As I walked out of the store I found myself rolling my eyes, smiling, and shaking my head.

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