I will always be the girl that smiles and tries to make everyone laugh. If I’m honest, I don’t do it for you. I do it because my life has the potential to crush me at any moment of the day and I just won’t let it. I don’t like crying either. I’m a sympathetic cryer and the stupidest commercial can turn me into a watering pot. But, in real life, I don’t like to cry because I look ugly when I do it and it does absolutely no good. Because so much of what I do as K. Sterling has to do with sex and just being lewd in general, I keep my mommy side a bit of a secret. Now and then, you’ll see cameos of my children because they’re adorable. But all in all, I feel it’s a bit icky to feature them heavily in a place where I discuss sex for a living.
I mention it in passing but I don’t discuss my son’s autism very often either. Not because I want to keep him hidden but because of the whole K. Sterling + kids = ickiness mentioned above. Alex is 13 and has the mental/emotional maturity of a four or five year old. Because I’m 12 and I’m married to a 12 year old, we prefer to find the humor in living with Alex’s condition. For example: Alex will say “Can I brush your teeth?”. We all understand that he means to brush his own teeth but one of us will sigh and trudge into the bathroom with him and open wide. See, since Alex was a toddler we’d say “Brush your teeth!” I suppose we shouldn’t make fun of his difficulties with adjectives but you take what you can get. And it’s a little creepy, a thirteen year old asking to brush someone else’s teeth. This delights us to no end. But, just to be clear, Alex is asking to brush his own teeth, he just doesn’t know how to correctly.
Most days, I am impervious. If my child has to fight off Siths while we’re at Target, so be it. If I’m not in too much of a rush, I’ll help. I see the looks, especially when he doesn’t understand why he can’t have the toy or candy he’s asking for. I’m not above it, you know. I call it “Hush Money”. If he behaves, he gets a toy or candy. If he doesn’t, well, he doesn’t. But, I’m constantly aware of the judgement of those that have no idea of the level of negotiation that is occurring at any given moment in Target. Though I have been know to tell an individual to fuck themselves if they get a little too nosey.
Unfortunately, the Hush Money negotiation didn’t work out quite as well as it often does last week. Now, before you judge me for using bribery to accomplish my goals, I invite you to take ANY child (neurotypical or otherwise) along with you while you run fiddy errands. $2 worth of candy or a $5 toy is a small price to pay for getting shit done with little or no drama. Anyways, we’re at Walmart. I needed toilet paper, laundry detergent, a ham, vodka and a toy. And that’s the only place I know of where I can knock a whole list like that out in one fell swoop. I mentioned I’m impervious but that doesn’t mean I don’t have help. I popped a few Xanax on the way in and prayed for the best. At first, we were kicking ass. I got the necessities out of the way and let Alex pick a Car from the toy section. I was already envisioning lunch someplace with cocktails. I. Was. Winning. Because I’m also a bit manic at the moment about Christmas decorations, we took a long detour through the wreaths and ornaments. Alex was all set because he had his car. He would have been chill for hours. God Bless Disney toys.
Half an hour later, I settled on new holiday appropriate curtains and several ornaments and was ready to approach the self check-out. I like self check-out. If the machine cooperates, I don’t have to interact with another human. We were coasting until Alex tried to ring up his car. The employee/warden of the self checkout area swooped in and snatched the toy like my child tried to ring it up with his feet. It didn’t work. The “gentleman” rolled his eyes and attempted to manually type it in about ten times with no success. I won’t belabor the point, we’ve already been down this road. He said we couldn’t buy it, I got pissed and advised him to get a manager that was even more useless. In the end, they took the toy because it couldn’t be scanned and I was forced to drag Alex out kicking and screaming. In Alex’s mind (at least this is how I imagine it) the behavior/reward system failed and he didn’t understand why. God, how I begged! I told both employes they could have charged me anything for that $5 toy as long as I didn’t leave without it. Neither gave a fuck.
By the time we got home, Alex was a disaster. He was clawing at his face, biting his wrists and choking himself as he screamed and cried. I held it together long enough to tell him to go to his room until he calmed down and immediately fell to the kitchen floor and sobbed. I’ll never be able to give Alex a legitimate high school diploma, a driver’s license, a career he loves or a beautiful wife and kids. But, I should have been able to give him a $5 car. By the time Alex was over it enough to come downstairs, I had pulled myself together. I called a few friends to vent and Kelly was like “Oh, no! Fuck that! No one treats Alex like that. I’m calling Walmart’s corporate.” The thought never crossed my mind. Why would they care? Was my assumption. The next day I received three phone calls from the local Walmart. Two store managers apologized profusely and told me a $25 gift card would be at customer service waiting for me, for my troubles. The third call was from the manager that was involved in the whole debacle. He apologized and offered to buy the car he wouldn’t sell me (fortunately, I already ordered it on Amazon and it would be in our hands in two days or less). I tried to find the line between being gracious and educating him on how to deal with disabled customers. He cried and I felt terrible and let him off easy.
Fast forward four days later and I needed light bulbs, milk and dog shampoo. Also, Alex was with a sitter. So, I decided to take my chances at Walmart. Shockingly, there was no gift card and no one at customer service knew anything about the debacle. And there wasn’t a manager to be found. Half an hour later, one was located and she had no idea who we were. “I’m going to have to look into this.” And off she went. Fifteen minutes later, a $25 gift card was thrown at me and I was sent on my way. Yesterday, the store manager called and after I relayed ALL the details she was appalled and begged us to come back for a shopping spree. It was a very kind gesture but I could already envision all the Xanax I’d need in order to return. Fortunately, our shopping spree was $100 for Alex and $100 for gifts for his sisters. You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to find $100 to spend on my two girls at Walmart. I got Zoe an Otter Box so I could stop replacing the screen on her phone.
Regardless of what amount was spent, we won.
I can clearly imagine every Walmart employee being pulled into the break room and educated on how to identify disabled customers and how to treat them with patience and respect. And we won because Alex got to be the King of Walmart for an hour despite buying cars he probably owned at least one, if not two of. I won because I grabbed a pair of headphones for Stella so I wouldn’t have to listen to her listening to Dan and Phil all the fucking time.