Okay, so my secret is out. I love love looooovvvveeee Books A Million. Absolutely adore it. More specifically, I love the Statesboro, Ga branch. More importantly, I really like the staff.
I'm a nerd, I'll freely admit. An old school nerd at that. I don't own an e-reader of any type. Yet. Eventually I'm sure one will become mine, and that's cool. But I love (there's that word again. Gracious, how many times is this woman gonna say that word??) real books. The feel, the touch, the smell, all of it. I feel that no home is complete without a wall or two of books.
But you didn't stop here to hear me wax poetic about paper versus digital. After all, I did mention that the staff is the best part about the store. You see, whether we get to buy anything or not, we like going to BAM to browse and hang out a little sometimes. These trips to the store also include J, who does not share his parents adoration of books, magazines, and such. He is there to eat. He's there to people watch. He's there because he has no choice in the matter.
Most of the time he does well, sitting and waiting until he's bored hopelessly out of his mind and reminds the two bibliophiles he was born to that it's time to go. Loudly. We've been to that particular branch enough times that they recognize us and know that J has autism. Bless their hearts, they are always nice and polite, and have never kicked us out. (We do that ourselves.) Even when J has an accident, it's taken care of quickly and without much fuss, by the staff or us.
The other day we happened to be in town for a meeting I had. We were at least an hour early so we decided to go to the bookstore. J did well at first, but he became a little uncomfortable --and loud. He wasn't screaming, just doing his belching noise now and then and moving around a lot. When I noticed the problem, Dad took J to take care of it and I went in search of a worker. I came up to one just as an older gentleman flagged him down to advise him that "there is a man back there by the exit sign with either a mental or psychological problem." Yes, that is exactly what he said. The young man nodded and moved on. I smiled at the young man with the older gent near enough and said "Yup, it's my son. He has autism." He assured me there was no problem (the young man, not the other gentleman). I gave him a heads up on the wet chair and he took care of it without a gripe or a fuss. Simple fix of taking out what was wet and bringing in clean chairs from the break room. That was it. He simply did his job and assured me that all was okay.
Sadly, in other stores I have seen workers and clients alike frown and make rude comments when J was just being J. Not being obnoxious or loud necessarily, but just flapping his hands or giggling or whatever. Never have I run into this at BAM. Ever. I've had a customer a time or two suggest that I need to "check on him" (he's never unattended because J is usually within eyesight of his Dad if not me). The hubs has had a few strike up conversations with him about autism and even vaccines. It's definitely a family friendly place.
Even in this day and age there are still people though, who believe that kids and adults like J should not be out in public. They don't understand autism, they do not wish to understand (my opinion, although I could be wrong about some), and they do not like having to see or hear anything or anyone that upsets them. J doesn't belong at home all the time, nor does he belong in a home or institution. He's a human being! Part of our teaching him (and this is ongoing) is how to handle himself in public settings. He won't learn that holed up away from others. At the same time, I believe he's teaching others compassion, understanding, and manners. Or at least he could if people would just pay attention instead of frowning and running away.
So what does my mini rant about rude people have to do with Books A Million? Not much really, except a lesson in compassion for others, professionalism, and common courtesy. While I think the older gentleman who warned about "the man with mental or psychological problems" handled it as best he could, it's still hurtful and maybe he could have handled it differently. Maybe next time he encounters a person like J he will not be so quick to judge. Or maybe he will choose his words a bit more wisely, especially if someone else is standing nearby. I can only hope.