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storm-petrel

Would you bother or feel able to respond to this?

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storm-petrel

I work in the rail industry. On my very early shift this morning I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the messroom. I had my headphones on as I was going through some paperwork but I could still hear the conversation going on between other members of staff.

After a while the conversation moved on to railway enthusiasts. A lot of railway staff seem to really hate railway enthusiasts which was certainly the case with everyone else present in the room this morning. The conversation was basically a rant about what a nuisance these sad people were. Based on past experience I had an idea of where the conversation might be going so I took my headphones off to listen properly.

At one point somebody said, "I bet they're all on the autistic spectrum or have Asperger's". 

They then spent some time enlightening everyone else as to what people with Asperger's were like. Apparently they are all really rude, they push past everyone on the trains, shout at passengers and are abusive, take absolutely everything literally and become really aggressive if asked not to do something. They never wash, so they stink. They also like numbers which is why they are all trainspotters. The fact that trains are predictable, always run to a timetable with the same number of coaches (some irony there), and have numbers on the side is what makes them so interesting to anyone with Asperger's. The conversation continued in a similar vein for some time with other people adding a few more stereotypes. Sheldon Cooper came up at one point. No one challenged anything that was said. In fact it all seemed to be turning into one big hilarious joke. 

I wasn't finding it particularly funny but they all think I'm humorless anyway so probably weren't surprised that I wasn't joining in with the laughter. I tried to think of some way I might be able to challenge some of what they were saying but I'm ashamed to admit that I kept quiet. Part of that is because I do not have a diagnosis and would therefore not feel comfortable with speaking for people who do, but even if I did I'm not sure I would want to share it with my colleagues. I also very easily get muddled and tongue tied, and apparently come across as very aggressive whenever I am challenging something so would probably merely confirm one of their stereotypes.

So I said nothing, and now I am angry with myself for not saying anything. It doesn't help that I spent years believing many of those stereotypes myself and denying any possibility that I could have something as obviously awful as Asperger's Syndrome.

Would anyone else have spoken up in such a situation? Would having a diagnosis make you more likely to speak up? Or less likely perhaps? Or would you maybe just shrug your shoulders and think why bother, these people are not important to me and they are never going to change their view anyway? Or maybe I really am humorless and was just being over sensitive. 

 

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.......

I would've pressed all the NT buttons, wind there wee brains up a bit and probably walked out or got the sack :D

Edited by .......
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Whoknows

Nah.

I would report them right away, and have them fired (after recording their conversation -so I can use it as evidence-). B)

It surprises me that people who hate trains work with them. :mellow:

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Myrtonos
19 hours ago, storm-petrel said:

I work in the rail industry. On my very early shift this morning I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the messroom. I had my headphones on as I was going through some paperwork but I could still hear the conversation going on between other members of staff.

 

I sometimes post on a railfan site.

19 hours ago, storm-petrel said:

After a while the conversation moved on to railway enthusiasts. A lot of railway staff seem to really hate railway enthusiasts which was certainly the case with everyone else present in the room this morning. The conversation was basically a rant about what a nuisance these sad people were. Based on past experience I had an idea of where the conversation might be going so I took my headphones off to listen properly.

2

I have got into arguments before with other posters on that site telling me I am wrong.

For example, I made claims about track gauge that someone else who works in the Australian rail industry told me was completely without merit. I also point out others things that others over there ignore. Yet they accuse me of things like going round in circles.

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Gone away
23 hours ago, storm-petrel said:

Would anyone else have spoken up in such a situation? Would having a diagnosis make you more likely to speak up? Or less likely perhaps? Or would you maybe just shrug your shoulders and think why bother, these people are not important to me and they are never going to change their view anyway? Or maybe I really am humorless and was just being over sensitive. 

As you point out, others have allegedly found you 'aggressive' when challenging people.

The problem I find is I am either too direct, or not direct enough (due to worrying over being too direct). Happy mediums are either accidents, or hard won after mammoth preparations.

It would not have gone well for you long term as your challenge would probably have resulted in them alienating you even more. Had you been able to 'comfortably' challenge you probably would. We can only do what we think is best at any given time - if you have processing delay sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. The job is a major part of your routine life and your financial security ... you can lose it with just a few words, so on balance, all things considered, you probably handled it well. You didn't feel able at that moment in time to correct their entrenched ignorance ... thats no crime.

I guess you could have said well I know an autistic person who isn't like that, or called them wankers or retrospectively said any range of things

I do tend to challenge wrongs at work but just end up ostracised for it. I'm currently suspended and being screwed from every angle for innocently challenging someone. Having declared aspergers on employment just seems to have made matters worse for myself ... and thats with a social care organisation who on paper are supposed to understand diversity. 

Regarding your ignorant colleagues (and everyone was ignorant at one time), I guess it would be interesting to find out the source of their information, but people do tend to laugh at / ridicule people appearing to be on a crusade if they are without backing. Life really hasn't progressed much from basic laws of the jungle ...

Its a shame there is no awareness info (leaflets) on aspergers/asc which could be put in the info / tourism racks.

The rail service is offering a public service. As such, staff should have some basic awareness training on disabilities and human diversity issues. I expect there is a head of training somewhere. Technically you witnessed 'ableism' (which is in Wikipedia, but not the forum spell check ;) ). Technically its a breach of the Equalities Act 2010.

I've found I can't fight wrongs alone without ending up destroyed. Whatever effort I put into exposing matters, there is countering my good intention, infinitely many times that effort put into dishonestly covering matters up and denial.

I think there is probably a gap in the awareness market for activism in the form of coordinated direct action ... but that would possibly just reinforce their ignorant beliefs. Its one of those 'catch 22' situation, damned if you do and damned if you don't. I think if your diagnosis is public knowledge it would make it easier to challenge as it adds credibility ... but equally provides a target for power obsessed bullies.

You are not humourless or oversensitive. Naturally it hit a nerve.  It just looks like the company that day was less than ideal ... I guess you just need to pity their ill informed ignorance. It was a crap day, but better days come.

23 hours ago, storm-petrel said:

Or would you maybe just shrug your shoulders and think why bother, these people are not important to me and they are never going to change their view anyway?

In the interests of self preservation maybe yes ... as change is a slow process.

I'm always told to leave things and that its not my place to say things ... but for myself its hard to keep quiet as matters gnaw away until I say it anyway.

Whatever you did or didn't do was the right thing at that moment. 

Edited by Going home
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Sanctuary

I think your immediate reaction, as Going home stated, is often the best approach. Often we go away after a situation like this and wish we had done something different but there are generally good reasons why we took the initial course of action. Given the negative things they said they would probably react badly to being told stridently they are in the wrong. There are sometimes less confrontational and more amenable ways to challenge them - as Going home said you could say you know someone with AS who isn't like that or say "that's a bit unfair - most of them aren't like that" but respond in a measured way without getting annoyed. That's not bound to work but it may help. As you've also stated you need to be careful if you are not known to have AS as you only want to reveal that to people who will be supportive. That means unfortunately it may be better to bite one's lip in a situation like this or be moderate in any criticism you give of their views.

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storm-petrel
7 hours ago, Going home said:

The job is a major part of your routine life and your financial security ... you can lose it with just a few words,

Thank you for the replies. I cannot imagine what I would do if I lost my job. 

Having thought things over, I'm glad I didn't say anything. Last time I had a disagreement with a colleague, it was like trying to talk to a five year old who just kept going ner ner ne ner ner........ I just got really frustrated with their childish responses and ended up telling them to STFU and listen to me, which really didn't help matters. I know that if I get to the stage of swearing at people I am on the verge of losing the plot completely. 

I noticed today that we all have some disability awareness training coming up in a couple of months time. I might have a word with my line manager and see if there is anything I can contribute. He knows about my suspicion that I may have AS and has always been very supportive when I have had problems. 

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storm-petrel
7 hours ago, Going home said:

I do tend to challenge wrongs at work but just end up ostracised for it. I'm currently suspended and being screwed from every angle for innocently challenging someone. Having declared aspergers on employment just seems to have made matters worse for myself ... and thats with a social care organisation who on paper are supposed to understand diversity. 

I'm sorry to hear that. It seems that so many employers who you would think might understand this stuff best are actually amongst the worst.

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storm-petrel
11 hours ago, Myrtonos said:

I sometimes post on a railfan site.

I have got into arguments before with other posters on that site telling me I am wrong.

For example, I made claims about track gauge that someone else who works in the Australian rail industry told me was completely without merit. I also point out others things that others over there ignore. Yet they accuse me of things like going round in circles.

Some people who work in the rail industry just cannot bear the thought that anyone from outside the industry may know more than them, but many railway enthusiasts have incredibly detailed knowledge about some things. I always like to talk to railway enthusiasts at work because they are interested in the industry that I work in. Most of my colleagues only seem to be interested in football which I have no interest in at all. 

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collectingrocks

Hard one to know what to do in your situation but I would probably have kept quiet too. 

Many of the "jobsworth's" platform rail staff in particular fail to understand that most rail enthusiasts are well behaved and act as eyes and ears for the railway. As a photographer (including trains), I would consider myself quite railway savvy (I have been on and around the railway for a number of years) and often report trespass incidents to drivers (which I feel is helpful, rather than poking my nose in). 

No disrespect to you storm-petrel but I will wager that many "proper" railway staff (i.e. not contractors) are on the ASD spectrum somewhere

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Sanctuary

I would say on this matter and many others the maxim "discretion is the better part of valour" is very true. There are many instances of people saying or doing unreasonable things and it is all too easy for well-meaning attempts to challenge them to go badly wrong. It's easy for arguments to occur and escalate and even for the person making a justified complaint to end up being complained about. Even if it doesn't escalate you can end up with a long-running tense atmosphere.

It can feel bad not to make a stand at times but there's no point in taking on battles you're unlikely to win - that will make you feel even worse. Challenging this sort of behaviour is best done through a position of strength. Being in the moral right isn't unfortunately enough. Instead you need to either be someone they really like and respect, and want to be on the right side of, or in a position of authority where you can put them back into line. Unfortunately people who express prejudiced attitudes rarely accept having them challenged and they take little account of evidence which is why efforts to put them right often fail. It's best all considered to leave challenging them to those with more power and influence to do so.

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Myrtonos
5 hours ago, storm-petrel said:

Some people who work in the rail industry just cannot bear the thought that anyone from outside the industry may know more than them, but many railway enthusiasts have incredibly detailed knowledge about some things. I always like to talk to railway enthusiasts at work because they are interested in the industry that I work in. Most of my colleagues only seem to be interested in football which I have no interest in at all. 

 

But remember that most railfans, as far as I know, are not autistic. That is, they most certainly went through school quite normally, and never get diagnosed.

Some people with a special interest in some area might not be able to bear the thought they those not as intensely interested might know more than they do. Let's say some enthusiast suggested converting Ireland's railways from Irish gauge to the standard railway gauge of both Great Britain and Western Mainland Europe. But those who work in the industry might not think it takes much thought to see that such a conversion is way more complicated than it's worth.

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aspiesw

I don't know what offends me more, the fact that they said we stink, or the fact that they said rail enthusiasts like trains just because of the numbers. My interest in trains is so much more than numbers, I need to be around trains otherwise I would be constantly unhappy, anxious and depressed  

 

As for telling them, I can understand why you didn't, and I don't blame you for not speaking up. I'd find it really hard to keep quiet, because o feel they were targeting me with what they are saying

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storm-petrel
On 1/22/2017 at 10:47 PM, collectingrocks said:

.....I will wager that many "proper" railway staff (i.e. not contractors) are on the ASD spectrum somewhere

One person at my location definitely is. One other I would say very likely is, and another one possibly. There are other people who I meet who are based at other locations who I think are quite likely on the spectrum also. I think the rail industry is probably quite attractive to people on the spectrum as everything is very structured and (mostly) very predictable. I rarely have to manage my time or prioritise tasks and I know well in advance exactly what I will be doing most days.

Getting into the industry nowadays though is much harder than when I started. If they like your CV then the next step is usually a preliminary interview over the telephone. I doubt very much that I would get through that step; I'm good on the telephone/radio when I have to follow formal communication protocols, but terrible when it comes to an unstructured conversation.

Edited by storm-petrel
typos

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Nesf

Based on past experiences of conversations that are in some way emotional to me, I think that I would have been completely overwhelmed by it, and not able to speak. I would then have shut down for the rest of the day, going round on automatic pilot trying to digest the conversation. I would later have thought of dozens of things I could have/should have said. I agree that it was best not to say anything.

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DavidTheWitch

Tell them bluntly that you have Aspergers and are offended!

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DavidTheWitch
On 1/21/2017 at 8:20 AM, ....... said:

I would've pressed all the NT buttons, wind there wee brains up a bit and probably walked out or got the sack :D

This is normal for any minority... People spend most of their time in their mother's basement these days. For instance there is similar thing going on with Atheist. I am actually friends with a lot of Atheist in real life and they are the nicest people. But online many times people's encounters with atheist are with crazed anti-theist. People who spend to much time on the internet think it is real life!

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Myrtonos

@tystie I do wonder if the association between railfandom and autism is really relying on stereotypes, both about railfans and people on the spectrum. One of these is that aspies not only have special interests, but their special interests are technical in nature.

That said, it seems that many railfans, and even many other quite technically minded people, do make breezy comments on many things, probably even if they are not on the spectrum. For example, while they often now recognise the importance of level boarding to all new vehicles at all new stops and stations, tram fans might make comments like "why do we need 100% low floor", this is a breezy comment on accessibility. By the way, those who've ridden low floor buses before should know what low floor means.

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