Tuesday, August 3, 2010


When I was first married, I was very poor at my chosen profession (teaching). So, I would often support myself (and help support my wife) with a variety of jobs, one of which working full-time at a Burger King franchisee for three years. I started as a management trainee, but my personality is ill-suited to be management, so I spent most of that time as a typical employee. One of the people I worked with was Richard. It never occurred to me at the time, at least not that I recall, that I might be looking into the future of my own children, in particular Son#1. Below the fold I'll talk about the man I met and worked with, what I knew about him, and what happened to him.

I don't know whether Richard was actually in the autism spectrum or not. I had barely heard of the disease at the time, and certainly didn't know what any of the most common characteristics were. I do remember that Richard was reliable and followed a routine very precisely, and that it was important to take a calm tone with him, all traits that Son#1 possesses. He was already at BK#1 (that is, the busiest store in the franchise) when I transferred in (as a regular employee, having trained at #2, and managed at #8 over the previous six months). He worked M-F, starting at 7am through the lunch rush. He took out the overnight trash, cleaned the outside lot, took a break, and then worked the fry bin. I got along fairly well with him, as he never goofed off nor tried to shirk his duties.

Richard had a twin brother Robert, who also worked at BK for a short period of time. Richard was very protective of Robert, who seemed less able to assimilate that Richard was, and so did not last long at BK#1. I was told they lived with their grandfather, in a house that was fully owned, so they were actually able to get by on minimum wage.

However, there finally came a day when, in the heat of the lunchtime rush, the manager yelled at Richard, and he couldn't handle it. He screamed at the top of his lungs and left the restaurant. The manager was quite shaken, and refused to rehire him. I did see him later, working in another restaurant, doing much the same thing.

Naturally, I wonder if this will be Son#1's life. Bosses who hire him out of pity and then fire him out of fear, moving from job to job without ever really progressing. Son#1 has made so much progress, and been through so many changes, that I think he will continue to do things that surprise me. Still, I worry.

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