TW: disability discrimination, mention of miscarriage and the trigger warning debate
So I have a story to tell you. It starts with my computer blowing up on New Years Eve, and will end in a few days when my new computer is set up and accessibility-modded. In the middle, we have people treating me like I am stupid (either because of my brain not making words, or because I’m currently unable to pass as anything but female), and we have being banned from Officeworks by virtue of being unable to talk.
It goes something like this. I had to quit my New Years Eve show, because apparently Adelaide Oval don’t allow people with piercings in, and I was given three days notice of this. With no time to organise retainers, and no previous indication of this ever being a factor, having basically abandoned Christmas in order to attend rehearsals (leaving me no spoons for anything else), and memories of the last time I taped them up (irritation, discharge, and drama), I didn’t really have a choice. Consequently, it was mid-afternoon when I woke up, turned on my computer, and it turned itself off, smoking slightly and much warmer than the heatwave justified.
I borrowed my mother’s old laptop and ordered a new one. However, being New Years Eve, most places were closed or on the way to closing, and I need a custom build in order to, you know, do things. I let people know I would be uncontactable, and took a bunch of days off the internet, magically becoming free of wrist pain in the process. (I used to have an internet free day a week. Circumstances being what they are, I hadn’t had one since February. Time off has been so wonderful.)
So by Thursday, when I hadn’t heard anything and the order was still marked on the website as pending, I was concerned. I went in, and got yelled at for not being contactable by phone, because if they just could have called me, they could have informed me that they had listed the base system as in stock and it actually wasn’t. (By this time, too, they could have ordered it from the supplier and built it.) But you know, semantics. They promised me it would be ready Friday.
Except, when I went in to collect it on Friday… ‘are you okay? do you need help?’ a different person asked. See, without my computer, and specifically my computer, I can’t do my thing where I plan what I need to say, type it, and print it out to take in and show people. Apparently, presenting photo ID while pointing to the box with my name on it, is not clear enough to indicate that I’m there to get the box that I ordered and this guy built. I say he built it, but um, when I got it home and was able to check the receipt (there was skulduggery on that, but I wrote it off initially) it was missing parts.
So I went back in at 9am on Saturday, and asked for a refund. ‘Oh sure, just let me call the manager,’ another guy said. The one I’d dealt with the day before? Couldn’t get further away. …
‘Are you sure we can’t just fix it? It’ll only take a few minutes.’ he said, when he came back. ‘We can’t do a refund because the manager isn’t here.’ Never mind he’d just promised me one, and since, you know, it wasn’t what I ordered, I was entitled to a refund. Apparently, to get a refund, I had to go back between Monday and Friday. And he wanted me to take the box home again in case I changed my mind.
Monday morning, 9:30am. Manager: “We don’t know how to do a refund. IT’s really hard. We’re new to online shopping and we don’t know how, and there’s two banks involved, and it’s really hard. Can you wait here an hour while we look it up?”
I tried to explain to them that doing a refund does not require my presence, and it was a simple matter of them going into the portal and pressing like, three buttons. “But we might need your bank details!” he said. (Bear in mind, the dude on Thursday had harassed me for my street address for courier delivery, despite me selecting click and collect on the site and therefore not paying the courier charge.)
I walked out, came home, borrowed my mum’s computer again, and wrote them an email detailing every single thing that had happened, and informing them that if they did not process the refund by the end of the day, I would be filing a chargeback. (This is a necessary step in lodging a consumer affairs complaint.)
I received an email back which went into detail about how hard the refund was and how they had to ring technical support and get told how to do it step by step and they’re very sorry and they didn’t mean to mess up and they were so busy they just didn’t read the order and they didn’t mean it. (The implication was I was supposed to let them “fix it” and accept something that was different to what I ordered because it was easier for them, and being stupid, I was meant to take their word for it that refunds were really hard. And, given my computer blew up because it overheated because heatwave… the lack of an inbuilt cooling system was a dealbreaker.)
Fast forward to yesterday, and the two hour round trip of hell to collect a box from the other place which does custom builds. I customised this one from scratch, right?
“Do you know what kind of monitor you have?” the guy said. I nodded. What a stupid question, right?
“This has DVI. You have to use DVI not HDMI.” he said. He opened the box and pointed.
It’s a custom build. I chose that. WTF????
Anyway, so I got home, got the box inside (amazing how heavy it is when all the parts are actually in it, right?), and passed out. Driving that far in the heat caused a pain spike.
So now I have the box. It’s a different shape – sure, it’s still a rectangle, but it’s a fatter rectangle, meaning I have to rearrange my computer area to fit it in. It also, because technology happens, has fewer USB2.0 ports, which are in a different place. (And I do need a DVI cable, actually.) This was meant to mean a quick trip today to the electronics store on the corner, for a new USB hub with more 2.0 ports and a DVI cable, except they didn’t have any hubs. What’s surprising about this is that normally, presenting female, I go in and the staff won’t let me look around. Today? I got left alone the whole time. WOW!
That’s how I ended up at Officeworks. I don’t like Officeworks, normally. There’s always lots of ambient noise, because it’s a warehouse-style store which echoes, and the staff are the kind who block the end of the aisle so you can’t move around and find things on your own (and their layout is so counterintuitive and the aisles aren’t very well labelled, so you do need to wander around to find stuff). It’s also really bright. And they seem to specialise in low-end multi-purpose things, which aren’t always suitable for me. Today, they were my best chance at a hub, and I haven’t been able to eat for a few days, so being close to home was super important, meaning I couldn’t just go into the city or another specialist store.
The only hub I could get was powered, meaning I needed a powerboard, to cover the extra plug, and while I was there I was like, you know ‘oh, that mousepad is nice! I kind of need one and I’m rearranging anyway! I like those pens! That’s purple!’, enough that my wrist was burning just trying to hold everything in the line. I was dizzy, and I couldn’t hear properly. While I was in line, an announcement came over the speakers and sent spider tingles down my spine (this is why I don’t like ambient noise).
Finally, I got to a person, and paid. Fine, right? But she wouldn’t give me my bag. I couldn’t close my purse. She kept talking, I kept signing that I couldn’t understand her. She held my bag out of reach. I tried to give everything back to leave but she wouldn’t do a refund. A man came over. I couldn’t understand him either, over the other people checking out and the speakers and the sounds of people in the store. I just kept signing that I couldn’t understand. Over and over. She wouldn’t give me the bag.
“I know you can understand,” the man said, finally speaking louder and more clearly. But not enough. Not even in that slow, overenunciated way that people sometimes use for people with obvious disabilities.
Then she gave me my bag. “But you can’t come back.” the man said.
Whatever. I got outside, the spider thing stopped, I could have a drink and I wasn’t as dizzy, and since I don’t like going in there anyway, it’s not trouble to me to not return.
But what the hell? I am slowly getting used to expecting people to treat me like I’m stupid because I don’t talk, but this is the first time it’s gotten me banned from a store.
I have to spend the next few days setting up my computer so it’s how I like it; so I can sit at it with a more optimal balance of pain and length, so everything is accessible by keyboard, etc, etc, etc. I tried to clean the bathroom during my internet-free time and ended up sitting on the floor unable to stand because I was shaking so much, so I expect this will take some time still.
But I felt like expressing my utter incredulity at being treated this way couldn’t wait for me to process it and rationalise it and make it a thing. And, naturally, I know other people who can’t talk, so I have let them know not to go there. (They actually do go there regularly, goodness knows why.)
“Why don’t you complain?”they have said. Another thing I have learned from all this is that complaining rarely works. People get defensive, or they double up on the stupid (see above – first I was meant to accept the computer without all the parts because “it does the same thing”, and then “it’s too hard” to do a refund I’m legally entitled to.), or they just don’t listen, because they see it as “tumblr SJW stuff” and not an issue, like the people who think trigger warnings aren’t necessary because they think people should just suck it up and deal (rather than comprehending that trigger warnings enable people to make decisions about how they consume content). (Incidentally, another one of my internet-free activities was Witcher 3, and well, I really would have liked to know that the main story involves chasing a ghostly deformed miscarried fetus around the countryside before ir just showed up on the screen.But we’re meant to spend hours researching every possible thing that could be a trigger even if we don’t know it’s a thing yet rather than the people who wrote it making a list and putting it up somewhere… I pre-watch things for my mum because my limits are much further out than hers, and this got to me. So.)
But yeah, no loss. And maybe soon I’ll be able to eat again, and have my computer set up, so I can talk to people again and stuff. But I need to rest first, because it’s hot and the heat makes everything worse. (And also, I tried to cook and dropped the saucepan because I couldn’t hold it, and there is literally one thing I can get delivered and I’m sick of the delivery people. Either they come an hour early, or they grab the door while i’m closing it and push it towards me and jar my wrist, or they just stand there waiting for me to say something because I have my hands full and can’t sign and curtseying isn’t enough. Or something.)
12 days until the pain specialist. Please let there be a totally simple easy band-aid solution.
Update: So, without my knowledge, a family friend phoned the store and yelled at the manager. They were happy enough to give her details of my transaction. Privacy is apparently as important to them as the conclusion of that phone call – they illegally detained me on suspicion of shoplifting because I couldn’t talk to the staff. But, apparently, I’m now allowed back in the store if I don’t go alone. Or something. This is the family friend who refuses to talk to me because she thinks people should just talk to me and force me to talk back “for my own good”, so instead of including me in this dialogue she did it on her own and then told my mum. I think, perhaps, there’s conscious uncoupling in the future.
My mum was just like “Well, if they agreed to let you back in they know they stuffed up. But, you know, I won’t be going there either.”