I hate working with other people, especially in matters of physical labor. In activities involving manual dexterity, I learn slower, sometimes much slower, than other people. It is difficult to embed the process involved within my muscle memory. My preferred learning style in such situations is a solitary trial and error process. I prefer to learn on my own because it is frequently not easy for me to comprehend verbal instruction from other people. Even when I understand verbal instruction regarding the performance of a physical task, my ability to translate the understanding into performance is sometimes difficult.
When carrying heavy objects, I’m frequently clumsy. For me, there is nothing much worse than trying to maneuver a heavy, bulky object through a narrow passage or trying to place that object in a small space filled with other objects that obstruct its full placement in the space. It is especially bad when other people are viewing my efforts and attempt to offer me instruction in the proper physical techniques of placing the object or even offer physical assistance in the placement. Allistic persons in the same circumstances also might be offered physical assistance or even instructed in the proper carrying techniques. But I’m very touchy about my slow learning ability, clumsiness and poor muscle tone; I feel defensive when other people try to help me although my response on the surface is never hostile. Moreover, I know that their instruction is frequently unlikely to cause me to begin performing the manual dexterity task at a solid level.
The object I’m attempting to maneuver does not have to be particularly heavy to cause me difficulty. Today, at work, a co-worker twice discerned a need to instruct me in the placing of a tablecloth on a round table. In placing the linen, he demonstrated a technique that was smooth and flawless: I felt no capacity to imitate it. At one point, the shift manager caught sight of my work and declared “looking good, he’s looking good.” Perhaps, the manager believed this co-worker was nit-picking or that, knowing my disabilities, the work that I’d done was good enough–such are the sort of thoughts that bother me at work.
A very short time later, the same co-worker offered more corrective instruction as I completed the placement of ten chairs around a round table. He stated that I’d placed the chairs a little too far under the table-cloth covered table but that otherwise the presentation of the chairs around the table was close to perfect. My nerves were heightened by this incident because standing nearby was a co-worker I’ve referred to in other posts as Marcus. Aware of my disability, this young man went through a period several weeks ago of addressing me in passive aggressive and patronizing tones in reference to the slowness and clumsiness of my work. Marcus looked at me and said “You doing ok?”–he has been relatively friendly in our recent brief encounters. I responded “yes” and he said nothing else. Was Marcus thinking that this co-worker was unduly nitpicking my work? More likely, he believed that I was displaying yet more of the deep struggles with learning my job’s tasks that has bothered him in the past. After this incident, I was overcome with the dread I’ve felt since childhood of being viewed as slow and a weakling. I felt very faintly the welling of tears within my eyes but I managed to contain them. Luckily these incidents occurred at the very end of my workday.