Human Interest Piece

It’s not often, if ever, I’m truly angry enough to write a human interest piece, but this blog has become a platform for me, so please, bear with me My blood is boiling and I simply can’t sit by and nothing.  I have to scream this from the top of my lungs, and beg of you all to do something from my knees.  I’m going share with you a story and my appeal is that you please, at whatever the cost, boycott Office Max.

I’m posting this now … nearly the middle of the night … because I can’t sleep with it on my mind.  I keep asking myself if that were my child how would I feel … and I implore you to ask yourselves the same question after the reading …

In the area where I live there is a program for special needs children.  These children aren’t really children anymore, they’re adults — young adults living with disabilities.  Thought they have the bodies and abilities of other grown adults, the majority have autism, and live within the confines of their own minds with very few verbal or social skills. In this program, they are given the opportunity to learn life skills hands on.  They get up in the mornings, pick out their clothes, go to school (which is a form of continuing education after they have graduated out of traditional high school), board a bus and off to their “jobs” they go.  Companies open their offices and in return, they are provided with free labor.  It’s a trade.  The young adults are learning about working in big business setting in support roles, the companies are getting services at gratis for allowing this.

One of these companies is Office Max.

This post is about one student.  He will go into their building and clean all the conference rooms.  This means, he will vacuum, wipe down surfaces, empty trash and restock what needs restocking … it’s not glamorous work to say the least, but it’s honest work — and that’s matters more. He, like all the other students with their various jobs, is paid nothing for his time and effort, but he does it willingly each week without a complaint.

The incident occurred a few days back.  The young man cleaned everything required of him and he was thirsty when he finished.  The aide said to him … lets go ask the receptionist if there is a drinking fountain.  There wasn’t.  But, there was a water cooler in the break room that he could get something to drink from.  The aide accompanied the young man into the room, where he helped himself to a small cup and poured himself some water.  It was then that he caught the eye of some of the paid employees.  They, thinking it would be funny — knowing he was disabled — decided they would charge him for the free water.  The young man didn’t have any money … but the employees refused to let him drink until he paid, so his aide stepped up and covered the cost unsure of what else to do.  Speaking up could have jeopardized the students job and the schools ability to place students there.

He may be disabled, but he is a thinking, feeling individual.  He was terribly embarrassed, singled out for the amusement of others who had nothing better to do that harass a young man trying to better himself by going to school and doing a job for the sake of experience.  He was thirsty and they preyed on him.

THIS is unacceptable.  THIS is discrimination.  THIS is disgusting.

It’s unfortunate but true … we live in a world where we divide ourselves by our differences more often that we come together because of similarities.  The out-and-out humiliation of this human being only stands to highlight that fact.  And what consequences are there for such actions?  None that I’m aware of.

Why did this happen?  Because these employees didn’t see him as peer or as a fellow worker, despite the job he does so that they can comfortably conference in a clean and orderly place in order to effectively do their job.  He was nothing more than a target … and an easy one at that.

So, you’re probably wondering … why am I blogging about this?  Because the aide, whom I happen to know very well, begged me not to address corporate directly … though I’m all but gnawing off my fingers to keep myself from slamming them for such antics and allow such vitriol to take place in their local headquarters.  I’ve decided, as a compromise, I’d publicly shame them instead.  Embarrassment for embarrassment, if you will.

I writing to you as someone who works a job where I consume office resources.  Paper, ink, pens, this, that and the other … I know you all do too.  So, I’m asking you … when you need to restock, do it anywhere but Office Max.  You have options, use them.  Don’t give this company a penny of your hard-earned money.  Reblog this posting with the nifty little “reblog” button.

This man, he doesn’t have the means to speak up for himself … so speak up for him by taking firm and serious action on his behalf.

Please … and thank you.



4 thoughts on “Human Interest Piece

    • Because, in the climate of the school — as it was explained to me — they are grateful for the opportunities. It’s incredibly political. By telling the workers that’s BS … she could have put their standing in peril.

      She paid for the water, not knowing what else to do and has since reported the incident to the head of the continuing education program. But she’s, by nature, not the type to get in anyone’s face over anything. It put her in a position of possibly facing consequences herself.

  1. It does my heart good to know that there are people out there who do care enough to take a stand against injustices when they see it. It’s a shame that things like this are probably going on everyday that are not being reported and dealt with. But I admire you for taking a stand and will DEFINITELY NOT be giving any of my business to Office Max in the future.

    • Thank you, Michelle. I genuinely appreciate your willingness to boycott Office Max … and in turn, hope others commit to the same … I know I have, I know my husband and myself will never set a foot in there door and I’d personally rather go without than spending a single cent supporting this company.

      It was painful to hear … and the aide, she cried while telling me … and in turn, I cried. There we were, in the nail salon, blotting our eyes with tissue and trying to figure out a way to make this right with our limited resources. I simply couldn’t let the issue drop without bringing attention to it. It’s not my nature to back away from the uncomfortable.

      These students of hers will face a lifetime of discrimination and all they’ll ever want is to have a ounce of normalcy. There is no excuse for what happened to the student. People can be cruel and unkind, but we’re talking about a defenseless human being here. And they got a laugh by charging him a QUARTER for a cup of water. It was nothing to them … something laugh about later, a “remember when” … it felt, to me at least, like a cat playing with a mouse … batting it around for the sake of momentary entertainment.

      I realize that’s not a lot of money … but the principle in this case is extremely expensive. I’d like to believe that this boys parents raised holy hell when they were told of what happened … I know, had it been my child, that I would have been banging on doors and demanding an explanation and action.

      Office Max is a large company … with small minded people working for it.

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