I Don’t Care

“Whaaa!?” he responded, like I just gave him an impossible answer.

“I. Don’t. Care.” I repeated.

It was almost like an anniversary now. Right before a mission trip, I have to have words with everybody’s favorite Box Troll.

Ever since the conflict we had a year ago, I kept a wide birth from this guy to avoid another needless confrontation. No talking, no pranks, I even go to a different breakroom than him. This day, however, I was unlucky enough to be assigned as a box maker and he was working as a stock guy, a worker who ensures that the outbound packers and box makers have enough supplies for their jobs by wheeling dozens of pallets of unfolded boxes and other office supplies into designated areas.

Sometimes a box or two would have too much glue and cannot go through the box machine. When that happens, it jams the machine and someone has to manually extract the box. Sometimes we get an entire pallet of flat boxes that can’t go through the machine. In this case, I would pull the entire pallet off to the side to be recycled and open a new pallet and start again fresh. This was the way I was trained to handle these problems and have been doing so for years.

But the Box-troll did not approve of this method. As he was doing his rounds, he saw what I was doing with the problem boxes and decided to instruct me the “proper” method of dealing with the problem. He grabbed the boxes I had thrown out and ordered me to tape them by hand later and to go through the hundreds that were still on the pallet I put aside and check each box for its ability to go into the machine. Having been a stock guy myself, I know how time consuming his job can be. I rarely had time for idle chit-chat. When I make deliveries for box-making, I just drop off the box-maker’s cargo and leave them to whatever method they wish. Why should I care, as long as the job gets done?

The first time we clashed, we resolved our differences by chucking insults at each other and were one step away from killing each other. This time I did my best to keep a lid on my explosive anger in favor of a civil confrontation.

After he ordered me to waste time checking each box for quality, I argued.

Me: “That would take too much time.”

Troll: “You can’t throw out an entire pallet just because of 1 or 2 bad boxes.”

Me: “What about 4 or 6 in a row?”

Troll: Gestures to the pallet itself, “Do you know how many boxes you would be throwing away?”

Me: “I don’t care.”

Troll: “Whaa?!”

For a moment I looked at me like my pants suddenly caught fire.

When I am set to work on something, I always aim to do my best. Even if I do hate said job. I pride myself on diligence, efficiency, and most of all, flexibility. The Troll’s method, however, was borderline obsession. Between my work-rate, bills, and other responsibilities at home, I had no time to ponder the fate of some lone boxes that can’t go into a folding machine easily.

“Why are you even working here?” The troll continued. “If you don’t like working in box-making, say something to the managers.”

Me: “I did. And they still sent me over here.”

Troll: Left to complain to the managers. Undoubtedly to report that I don’t deserve to be in box-making like he usually does. When he came back, he continued to rant.

Troll: “I can’t understand you. If you are so unhappy here, why don’t you get another job elsewhere?”

Me: “If it were that easy, I would have left ages ago.”

Troll: “Anyone can get a job!”

Me: “What about a dream job?”

Troll: Starts cackling like a villain from a cheap cartoon.

Me: Looking bemused. “What’s wrong with having a dream job?”

Troll: “All you need are the benefits.” Still amused by my optimism, he finally walked away.

He was a jerk then and he was still a jerk now. This man was truly my enemy. In fact, my opposite in a way.  He was lame, hopeless, and completely without ambition. In other words, a tool. A minion would raise an eyebrow at this guy.

If this job makes him happy, fine. But the only opinion that the Box Troll respected was his own and he fights to share his dismal existence with the world. He can rot in his cardboard coffin for all I care. I’m going to embrace the warm sun and experience life when I can, while I can.

Nobody has the right to laugh at another’s dreams. Hope and dreams are what fuel our reasons to live and urges us on to continue forward on our journeys. Without those dreams, we would become the pessimist who complain about everything and accomplish nothing with their lives.

The Monsters Still Chase Me

Ever since my time in Middle School, I saw that all teachers as heroes and advocates for students that were experiencing trouble. They answered my many questions, tolerated my ignorance and protected me from bullies. However, I soon found out that not all professors were as friendly and helpful toward their pupils.

As I said before, I had bullies in my younger years of life, but I wasn’t targeted for my autism specifically. My youthful tormentors usually preyed on me because I was seen as a loner with lousy social skills. As such, I was a good source for a cheap laugh. I wasn’t afraid of them; they were only immature jerks.

My only true villain didn’t appear until in my second year of college. The fully-grown bully was not a fellow classmate on campus or an old peer from my early years. The situation would probably have been far more favorable if he had been. My bully at this point in my life, the person who harassed me for my autism, was a College professor.

This whole affair began in my sophomore year of college when I was taking a Standard English class for my General Education requirements. On my first day in the class, I went up to the teacher, introduced myself, handed him my disability papers, and took an advantageous seat in the front row. In all fairness, upon my first meeting with my teacher, he seemed like a nice guy. My tasks in the class were simple: Read the many short stories in the assigned book, take a short quizzes based on the readings, write three papers for the semester, and study for three tests plus the final exam.

For the next few months I did my best to earn a decent grade on my appointed assignments. However, nothing I did seemed to please the teacher. During my Study Table hours at KAP, I would read the scheduled stories, memorize the key notations, and have KAP help me prepare for the quiz the following day. However, on the quizzes, he wouldn’t ask for the main ideas, Meta messages, foreshadowing, or the moral of the story. No. Instead he would ask for the details of the story that were often missed due to their unimportance to the tale; tidbits that would pass off as decoration to fluff up the story. If the short story had a street brawl, he would ask for the eye color of the mute onlookers. If the story were about a teen girl confronting a dangerous youth, he would ask about what kind of wallpaper she had in the kitchen. If the tale was about a lottery that nobody wanted to win, he would ask what kind of weather the villagers were having. And so I would get nothing but F’s on my quizzes. My grades for the writing assignments for the class weren’t much better.

In spite of my best effort, despite all my work and dedication, the English teacher would pass back my papers with an F stamped on it and not have a single comment to explain why. Three months into the class, and I was at my wits’ end. If it will help me improve, I will accept any form of constructive criticism, but all I was getting back were failed assignments, failed tests, and a improving migraine. I couldn’t understand why I was having such a hard time.

Difficulty understanding English assignments was not a new concept for me. Weather it was writing my own story or interpreting someone else’s, I would always need help. So I thought there were more unwritten rules I wasn’t picking up on. I approached the teacher many times to figure out what was going on. But he would only provide limited feedback, a smile, and say, “Hang in there.” His response gave me a glimmer of hope, but no answers.

It wasn’t until my second test I figured out what was REALLY going on. Before the second test took place, I had spent many hours each day reviewing the class’s test material and, after the test, I felt really confident in the results. But alas, there was nothing but an F waiting for me upon grading day. In dismay, I approached the teacher one last time to ask one last question, WHY? “What was I doing wrong?” I asked him.

I was expecting some form of constructive criticism, but all he said was “You didn’t answer the questions the right way.” …. WHAT!?

I snapped. “What do you mean ‘the right way’?!” I asked in outrage.

He quickly silenced me and said, “You should be grateful for the grades I have given you! I will report your poor behavior to KAP. Do you understand?!”

At this point, I had plenty to say in response with some very choice words and colorful vocabulary to this man, but before then, I had to keep myself from crying.

Bigots, racists, prejudice. I have known of their existence since I did a report on the Ku Klux Klan back in Middle School. Ever since I have grown to despise such idealism and the creatures that worship it. I despise what they have done in the past. And I despise them still what they do now. I have seen such bigots in action in the form of the annoying protestors that insists that Gods hates homosexuals.

I have come to despise the idea of judging someone for not WHO they are but WHAT they are. I can always change WHO I am through the choices I make each and every day. I cannot, however, change WHAT I am because I did not choose to be born as a human, where I was raised, my parents, or to have Autism.

Although I was aware of bigotry in all of its elements, this was the first time I felt the cold jagged blade of prejudice stabbing my heart. How naive of me to believe the threat of bullying would just end with high school. Bullying can carry into adulthood too. Never before had I felt so helpless. I knew that I was different from everyone else. But I had assumed that being different were the only extent of the damage. Things that are deviant was not supposed to be a sin. For the first time in my life, I felt absolutely pathetic.

I spent the rest of the day in doldrums, wandering from class to class, half aware of my surroundings. I tried to focus on my studies but I just too depressed to care. Helpfully, the kind organizers at KAP were as devastated and outraged at this development as I was and tried their hardest to rectify the situation in my favor. However, whenever KAP tried to contact the teacher, he would have a “convenient” excuse at the last minute to miss the meeting. When they finally cornered the rat, it was already too late for me and many others in my class. It was the first time in my life I had an F on my report card.

The semester finally ended with lackluster results. I may have walked out a little wiser, but I was mostly mad. I was infuriated at the professor for being a fat egotistic demon disguised as a teacher and mad at myself for not seeing the signs earlier that this instructor had no intention of giving me a chance to succeed.

A semester later after that horrible experience, I learned that another student at KAP was taking the same English professor I had and was having an equally difficult time with him.

It is a learned habit of mine to retain all of my notes and assignment papers of past classes just in case I might need them for future reference.

Feeling sympathy for the student, I tried to help him out by rendering all of my class notes, assignments, and quizzes that I kept from that class. I hoped that the notes would give him a fighting chance and to succeed where I have failed. He was grateful of course and used my notes. Nonetheless, my hopes were in vain. The professor still wouldn’t pass him despite his best efforts, and I felt nothing but rage.

I was betrayed! Teachers are meant to guide and protect their students and every professor before this bully did just that. How dare he deny me the one thing I ask, one chance to prove myself.

My heart was filled anger and anguish. After this episode, I thirsted for revenge. While I paced, I had countless dark fantasies of payback, each one blacker than the last. But I could not bring myself to act on any of them. Not because “revenge is wrong,” “hatred leads to more hatred,” “violence solves nothing,” “two wrongs don’t make a right,” or other similar clichés. As needlessly cruel as my pretend proctor was, I refused to become his successor and become a monster like him.

I don’t how or when, but I do know that such villainy rarely goes unchallenged. Be it of God’s wrath or karma’s cycle, he will be punished for his transgressions. Such is the way of all with closed minds, bigoted attitudes, and inflated egotists –they will get their just rewards in the end.

So, life moves on. Although I was still bitter about what happened to me in that class and how I was treated; I had to realize that life had hills and potholes and I had to learn to get over them or endure them. I learned to both choose my classes and my professors more carefully. I have also learned that it does no good to worry about the “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.” All it is extra baggage and I wouldn’t become any stronger nor wiser by lugging it around. The only thing I could do was pick myself up, dust myself down, and move on.