I am not embarrassed to share my identity as I see nothing wrong with having Asperger’s. However, due to some of the experiences I will be describing, it would not be appropriate to make those around me identifiable.
I can tell you that I am female and in my early thirties. I have worked since the age of 15 in jobs such as a cleaner, shop assistant, assistant manager, carer and I also assumed a couple of different roles within a bank. Each job came with its own challenges and taught me a range of skills.
I didn’t enjoy working as a cleaner. I didn’t mind the work and, despite doing little to nothing at home (the benefits of having an OCD mother – although she doesn’t see it that way), I put my all into making sure that everything sparkled. However, the manager at the hotel I worked for was extremely rude and belittling, often referring to me and the chambermaids I became friendly with as ‘scrubbers’. I was 15 at the time.
I remember breaking up from school and just randomly deciding that I wanted to earn my own income. My brother told me to ask our dad for some money to spend over the holidays before starting college, but I wanted to do it myself. I was always independent and driven from a very young age which did alienate me from my peers at times. I walked to the local newsagents, picked up a paper and started to circle available jobs. I called a few numbers, all for cleaning vacancies due to my age, and I was offered an interview the very next day. I then told my mum, as she needed to accompany me the following day, and remember that she was slightly bemused by the whole situation.
Interview day: I overdressed for the interview and recall being shown what the job entailed; it wasn’t pretty! I was too young to clean in the pub but I was allowed to clean the stairs, hallways, toilets, reception area, restaurant and attached bar. The toilets were disgusting, particularly the male toilets as there was a huge metal urinal that scaled the length of the inner wall. I was responsible for cleaning that daily. I won’t go into graphic detail as it really will turn your stomach, but a couple of memories I have include walking in on a man using the aforementioned urinal and cleaning what I then identified as ‘white goo’ and faeces from the black floor in the restaurant toilets. All this for £3.60 per hour!
I used to start work around 7am and finish around lunch time. Then I would go and help the chamber staff, for free! The chambermaids consisted of two older ladies (I wouldn’t like to insult them but I think they were in their 40’s or 50’s) who were really kind to me, so I always tried to help out where I could. The way we were spoken to was disgraceful. I respected how hard they worked but sadly the management, and many of the other staff, did not feel the same way. They looked down on us! I knew there and then that I could never do this as a job but I also felt ashamed for feeling that way! I continued to work every day in this job, switching to weekend working when college started. However, it wasn’t long before the job grew tedious and I could no longer tolerate the manager’s attitude. That, and the spiders, forced me to leave.
I then managed to get a job as a Saturday girl in a shop for £3.09 per hour. I was 16 at this point. The wages were lower but I was treated nicely by the manager and also met some friends with whom I am still close today. However, I was then thrown into the world of ‘customers’…another challenge I had to overcome!