A Crazy Busybody

by admin on June 25, 2013

So, here’s a weird thing that happened to me last week: I work in a grocery store and this particular day I was working the express line. It was very slow so I was passing time by making bags of double paper bags (plastic is outlawed in our town) to expedite the check-out process. I had made a bunch for myself and was making some for the other cashiers. I brought the next bundle over to a girl who is relatively new and she was so thrilled she asked me “Can I give you a hug?”

To which I said “Of course! I’d have to be crazy to turn down a hug!”

At which point a customer standing nearby rounded on me in a furious rage, berating me for implying that only crazy people don’t want hugs because she has Asperger’s and doesn’t like to be touched but that doesn’t make her crazy and how dare I…and on and on in that vein for awhile. Being that I was working and value my job all I said was “I’m so sorry” about sixty times until she left. But on the inside I was fuming and I thought I would submit this to see what everyone’s take is on the matter. Did I say something insensitive or was she actually just bonkers?

Now, I’ve frequented this site enough to know that people like their details so here are a few:
-we are both female, she is 18, I am 25
-the customer was not being helped by either of us, she had actually just checked out with someone else and was walking by on her way out. She had one bag in a shopping cart and clearly wasn’t expecting help to her car or anything so we weren’t being neglectful in any way by hugging
-the hug lasted about thirty seconds
-the company I work for is famous for it’s informal atmosphere, they actively promote strong relationships between their employees (by which I mean friendships) if our CEO had been standing nearby he wouldn’t have been even slightly bothered by the hug
-the lady called my manager to complain and I did not get into any trouble
-the point I made jokingly to my manager was that I didn’t say “a person must be crazy to refuse a hug” only that I would be crazy, as in: if you knew me and heard me refuse a hug you would think “has she gone crazy?”

Okay, have at it!  0624-13

Congratulations.  You have encountered a meddling busybody on the warpath to find something to  be offended about.

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Allie June 26, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I would chalk this one up to an unfortunate encounter and put it out of your mind. You did nothing wrong.

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Lola June 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm

@Ergala. “Hell” is not a curse word, otherwise we’d accuse many a preacher for cussing up a storm.

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Library Diva June 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Everyone knows that the best way to prove you’re not crazy is by screaming at strangers in the grocery store!

OP, of course you didn’t say anything offensive. It’s a commonly-used phrase. I quit worrying about offending others with common phrases when we had a legally blind governor. He was always going around saying things like “I can see the value of this proposal” or “It’s a vision that’s finally been realized” or “This looks great for the state.” It made me realize that common phrases aren’t offensive even in uncommon circumstances.

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Huh June 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I would just guess that custy has no one at home to hug her, and thus, is angry at seeing other people get hugs.

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Goodness June 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm

“However, two of the hallmarks of autism/Asperger’s Syndrome are taking things literally, which this woman did, and not picking up on social cues, like not interrupting/eavesdropping, which she also did.”

Jeeze, this describes my entire, extremely confused, childhood & adolescence — and occasionally, my adulthood. My family called it ‘foot-in-mouth disease.’

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Marozia June 26, 2013 at 3:44 pm

@Allie, I agree with you. Chalk it up to experience.
I always find giving the customer an icy glare while they are ranting about personal stuff usually works.

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Jaxsue June 26, 2013 at 6:04 pm

OP, you did nothing wrong. I have a son with autism, and he does take things literally. Even if he were walking past and heard your comment, however, it would not even register with him. He’d be too busy checking out the cars in the parking lot (he loves cars!). We use a lot of words that are not meant to be taken literally; some PPs have already mentioned some.

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SJ June 26, 2013 at 6:30 pm

It’s an expression. Obviously, someday you might refuse a hug, and you wouldn’t be crazy. It’s an exaggeration to make a point about how happy you are to hug your friend.

Like, if someone asked me to dance and I said, “I thought you’d never ask!” I’d mean, “I have been looking forward to it.”

She really over-reacted. One comment about her feelings MIGHT have been enough, but the ranting, yeesh.

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Michelle C Young June 26, 2013 at 9:36 pm

This morning, I was in pain, and I had to take a pain pill. I said that these pills take the pain away, but they “make me stupid.” Later, my mother said they “make me crazy.” I was, by then, fully under the effect of the stupid pills, and stood up and firmly declared that they do NOT make me crazy. They make me stupid. There is a huge difference! I know stupid, and I know crazy, and of the two, I would much rather be stupid, thankyouverymuch!

Stories like this are why I prefer stupid to crazy. Also, my grandma. “Do NOT compare me to Grandma! I’m on stupid pills, NOT CRAZY!”

She laughed, but I think she may have seen my point. She thought Grandma was crazy, too.

Stupid – having difficulty to form a complete sentence, and forgets that it’s a good idea to dress before going outside.
Crazy – thinks it is appropriate to ask your son to give you his daughter to replace the child you just lost.

BIIIIIGGGGGGG difference.

And, yeah, do not engage the crazy. You handled it about as well as you could have. And I’m glad you have such a nice workplace!

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Michelle C Young June 26, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Also – my stupid pills make me take things literally, but even so, I can tell the difference between an *I* statement and a general statement. “One would have to be crazy to refuse a hug.” That is, even taken literally, not so much offensive as it is simply a mistaken premise. I refuse hugs when my back, neck, and shoulders are in severe pain, and I am not in sufficient emotional pain that the need for some physical affection trumps the need to avoid exacerbating the physical pain, by means of a hug.

See? Even on my stupid pills, I do not find what you said to be problematic, at all. The woman was all in the wrong, here.

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Ergala June 26, 2013 at 10:00 pm

@Lola to some people they are considered curse words. It all depends on who you talk to. I know that in school we were NOT allowed to say those two words at all. Not even Damn.

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Barbarian June 26, 2013 at 10:33 pm

I agree with Stacy and Michelle P that “crazy” and ” retard” are not appropriate words to describe people. I even dislike using the word “disabled”. A person who appears that way may easily have special abilities and gifts that others do not have. Only one part of that person might be disabled, like not walking, but there have to be many more functional parts of that person beyond the problem we see.

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OP June 26, 2013 at 11:24 pm

@ Tsunoba: I didn’t want to write this before because I feared it might upset some people but I honestly doubted if she actually has Asperger’s at all. I encounter a lot of “self-diagnosed” people (don’t even get me started on the gluten free people). Obviously, I lack proof to confirm or deny her claim so I figured I’d let it slide. But the thought crossed my mind.

Again, as several of the posters guessed, the hug really wasn’t 30 seconds. I fail at judging time. I swear, it wasn’t weird or creepy or anything.

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Aeonic Butterfly June 27, 2013 at 3:45 am

Speaking as someone lightly touched with Aspbergers or PDD-NOS (I remain at the latter), I think she was a little overboard. I too have a bad habit of taking things literally, and being *too* truthful. I must love the taste of my shoe, it seems.

Once a teacher got mad at me in 3rd grade and told me to go home. I took this to mean I needed to go walking home, rather than her intended go to the office and wait for your mum. My mother did eventually find me walking home.

Another one that used to happen a lot is that mum would try to get off the phone with a certain Aunt by saying she would need to make sure I got in the shower, and I would yell back “I already took one!” Mum taught me a little thing about white lies…

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Amanda June 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I have Asperger’s, and I fancy myself as rather huggable. However, a large portion of people that share my disorder tend to be quite the opposite. A friend of mine has the same disorder, but with more severity than I do, and if that were him in this situation, I would not be shocked if he reacted this way. How someone with Asperger’s might react in a given social setting really depends on their severity, as well as what kinds of social training they may have received. However, the onus rests with them to develop these skills, and it’s quite rude to blame every social misstep on their disorder.

OP, please do not feel that you were in the wrong in any way. You had no way of knowing, and the fact that she used her disorder as a scapegoat was extremely rude on her end.

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LadyPhoenix June 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm

On tumblr, we call these people “Social Justice Sallys”: people who try to find every comment you make to be racist, sexist, ablest, etc. just so that they can make you feel awful while they themselves feel like glorified heroes for protecting the “minority”.

In other words, they make big tirades just to feel good about themselves.

Not to say Tumblr is against social justices. A lot of us can be quite politcal, considering how much and quickly the word spreads on a lot of events — Russia, Greece, Brazil, the US, etc. However, a lot of us tend to realize when there is an ACTUAL issue that is attacking people of race, gender, sex, orientation, etc . . . than a bunch of Sallys crying “Ablest Scum” for singing “Your Drive me Crazy” by Britney Spears.

The best way to deal with a Sally is to ignore them.

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AnnaMontana June 28, 2013 at 3:26 am

I work with a LOT of aspergers’ students. (They usually have a myraid of different social issues, emotional behavioural disorders, educational difficulties, special social/educational needs and other issues. Oh and they’re all in prison.)
The word ‘crazy’ is tossed around my workplace a lot, by the students, themselves. They use it to describe personality disorders, odd behvaiours or simply ADHA, which is very negative in and of itself.
Whenever a student calls another crazy or states that he is crazy, I always put in a security report and always tell that particular student that so and so is not crazy or they’re not crazy, they just have different needs to other people. Most of the time, they are attention-seeking and trying to get a reaction out of people. Usually they aim to get a reaction of ‘Oh my god, if you’re crazy, why aren’t you in healthcare/physcoanalysis/with a retrainer/on the wings.’ All of these would be seen as a positive in their eyes as it gets their ‘condition’ recongised in front of the whole class and hopefully get speical treatment out of it.
It sounds like the lady here is trying to pull the same cr*p. It seems she wants everyone to know she has Aspergers (by ranting at you.) and wants everyone around her to recongise she has a ‘special condition’ and therefore, make everyone around her treat her with more respect or recieve special treatment.
The fact that she complained to your manager? That’s just her trying to get some attention and basically saying ‘I have Aspergers. I want you to fire her because I have Aspergers.’ Which your manager is clearly sensible enough to not do.
As for the way she ranted at you? I would have said something like:
‘I am sorry. I didn’t know you had Aspergers, and my comment, which I made to my friend, was not intended to cause any harm or damage to yourself or others.’ And then I would have walked away. Let her rant and rave at thin air. Go and stack some canned peas or remove yourself from the shop floor. If my manager had asked I would have told them that there was an irate customer outside who was yelling at me and I felt it in my best interests to remove myself from the situation.
Can’t argue with Health and Safety!
You did nothing wrong. I would actually say she is completley bonkers! Her problem should not be yours!

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Cynthia's Name July 4, 2013 at 10:29 am

I’m the first to comment on this, apparently: 30 seconds is a very long hug anywhere, and especially at work. (Most hugs last about 3 or 4.)

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September Bade July 8, 2013 at 2:27 pm

She might have Asperger’s Syndrome, but that doesn’t give her an excuse to be so rude and not to mention horribly silly. Hardly anyone thinks that being crazy means that you have a mental disorder anymore. That definition of the word crazy died out years ago, and I haven’t heard it being used in all of my life!

Really, my response would have been, “I’m sorry, but did I mention any type of mental disorder in the least? No. It’s just an expression. Please stop trying to use your mental disorder to guilt people.”
I may have gotten in trouble or gotten fired, but people who bring up their mental disorders like it makes some kind of a difference really irks me. My sister doesn’t have any mental disorders, but she dislikes being touched. I have Aspergers Syndrome and I would NEVER turn down a hug from anyone! It has nothing to do with our state of mind. Sometimes it’s just genetics, as in we’re born not liking being touched, sometimes we are raised by someone with that mindset and it rubs off on us and sometimes something bad happens that makes us not like human touch anymore.

I feel like it’s similar to people getting offended by ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘that’s so stupid’. It’s not meant to be offensive towards everyone, and getting your panties in a bunch won’t help anything.

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Samson July 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm

As someone who has struggled with mental illness entirely separate from the autism spectrum, “crazy” is not an appropriate word to use and perpetuates stigma against people with mental difference. Big clue here: you asked at the end whether you were insensitive or if she was “bonkers” (another word that ought to go, in my opinion) and said that you would have to be crazy to turn down a hug. You… would want people to assume that you have developed a mental illness because you didn’t want a hug?

I mean, seriously, mental illness is nothing to make a joke about–and by using the word “crazy” flippantly when you yourself do not have a mental illness, yes, that’s what you’re doing. I lost a great deal of my childhood to “crazy,” and if you had seen me as a miserable 10-year-old and called me “crazy” or “bonkers,” I think people would’ve been quite right to call you out on words like that. It is very, very not funny.

tl;dr No, I don’t think it’s appropriate for someone to jump into your conversation and berate you, but I do think you said something inappropriate.

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Miss-E August 8, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Out of curiosity Samson: when you see something like “Crazy Sale” or “Crazy Good Salsa” does that offend you too? What about Dave’s Insanity Hot Sauce? Or Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Membrane”? Or a clown called “Bonkers”? How many words should we strike from the English language lest we offend someone?

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Jess September 9, 2013 at 8:20 am

OP, you did absolutely nothing wrong! I have Asperger’s myself, but I would NEVER–and I mean NEVER–turn down a friendly hug like that. Yes, I’d be a tad uncomfortable for thirty seconds, but I’d survive–it’s not like I’d die from physical contact. This customer was just (pardon my language) b*tchy and needed to yell at someone. You sound like a lovely person to work with and I’m sorry that you and your coworker had to put up with this.

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Gwen September 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I have Aspergers and I would not be offended. People with HFA (high functioning autism) often take expressions literally though, like your use of the word ‘crazy,’ which you didn’t mean as ‘insane.’ I can tell this but many aspies can’t tell. She probably was on the autistic spectrum somewhere- seeing as she took your expression literally and then was socially out of tune enough to bring it up so rudely.

Because you were speaking to the cashier- someone who most likely understood those kinds of phrases, you were perfectly in order. If you were addressing someone whom you knew had a specific language disorder, then you would adjust.

Don’t worry. That person should get some counseling to help them navigate situations that are confusing to them.

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