My daughter Ashley reminded me of the time three years ago when she worked for a temping company. She really hated the job especially when she realised she was assigned to a senior citizen home. Not that she hates old people, but she really preferred office work, and nothing that would involve cleaning up after people.
So Ashley decided to do something really politically incorrect and morally disgusting- she pretended that she had learning difficulties and suffered from a really low IQ, she also affected a limp. She let this be known when she arrived at the place. She explained she could do menial tasks and was great at taking orders so she was given a job washing the dishes in the vast kitchen.
She didn’t want to deal hands on with the elderly people as basically she doesn’t like touching people she doesn’t know or handling their dirty laundry.
Ashley popped in her IPod earphones and happily carried on cleaning cutlery in the big dish-washing machine. What she discovered was how patronising people are to folk who have learning problems.
“It’s just as well you are pretty Ashley because you there is nothing going on in your wee head and will get nowhere in life” one woman would often say as she chatted to my over educated daughter.
Ashley would smile and the woman would pinch her cheek and pat her head.
She also told me that people openly speak about your disability in your company, for example one older nurse said to the gathered staff when Ashley was eating lunch “You know years ago people like Ashley were put in a special home and left to rot, nowadays they let them into society, but she is good at washing dishes and can sing really good, have you heard her singing away when she has her wee music box in her ears?”
“Yes, she can sing and she is really good at working the dishwasher as well, it’s a real shame she is backwards because she will never get a man”
Ashley would sit there horrified that people could say that in front of anyone!
Ashley would go round the old people’s home giving out cups of tea and singing away to the elderly folks, they all loved her. Though one old woman sussed there was more to her, and said to her one afternoon “You are smart, very smart and you don’t really have a limp, nor do you have learning difficulties, do you?”
“I don’t know what you mean” Ashley said in her happy smiling way.
“I watched you texting on your phone, your thumbs moved like lightening and you were reading big heavy book out on the lawn near the hairdressing room last week”
Ashley gulped and said “Yes, you are right I can’t lie, I am only pretending, I really don’t like working here and my mum said I had to get a seasonal job, but I really have issues with touching people and their stuff and the other women are so annoying its great that I don’t have to chat to them, I am sorry if I have offended you and I will go tell the matron now, I don’t mind getting the sack actually”
The old woman laughed loudly and replied “No, I won’t tell, its ok, you really cheer us up singing to us and your happy nature is wonderful, I don’t mind”
Ashley felt terribly ashamed and sang all day with people in the lounge.
Ashley worked in the old folk’s home for another five weeks until her contract ended and the women bought her a big colouring book and glittery pens, which they presented to her in front of the residents. Ashley actually loves colouring in and took the gift gladly! Though there was one old woman sitting there laughing her pants off as Ashley thanked them all and sang The Great Pretender and left with her lovely gift.
She told me he gained such respect for people who do have learning difficulties and will never under estimate or patronise them ever in her life time and she had learned an amazing lesson, even though it was borne of deceit._