Too Quick to Judge?

KittyYou can be sure that every judgment you make, every conclusion you reach, is absolutely, positively the correct one. 

A few years ago, Ameriquest Mortgage ran a television campaign that was very well received. Thanks to a very indirect tagline and just a simple logo ID at the end, the spots have been appropriated for general fun-and-games YouTube use ever since.

They are remarkable both for their excellent use of humor and for the seemingly obvious common sense of their messages.

As usual, America laughs at, and blithely shares, the vehicle used to deliver the message … then studiously ignores the message itself.

I was reminded of this by two recent related Facebook posts – one a share from a FB friend*, the other a more widely-circulated account of event at a fast-food restaurant. Perhaps you’ve seen it. Guy is waiting in line at a Burger King. Here’s how he describes it:

I hadn’t had the greatest of days and I had a headache coming on. It was a very long line and I was at the end of it waiting patiently. When behind me comes this woman yapping on her cellphone with a little monster of a child. This kid was out of control, screaming, punching his mother throwing around a gameboy whenever something didn’t go right in the game. The mother didn’t seem to pay any attention to him and his continued yelling of ‘I want a F—ing PIE’.

He asks the mother to calm the child down, and first gets ignored, then scolded. So when he gets to the counter to order, he decides to get even.

I order every pie they have left in addition to my burgers. Turned out to be 23 pies in total, I take my order and walk towards the exit. Moments later I hear the woman yelling, what do you mean you don’t have any pies left, who bought them all? I turn around and see the cashier pointing me out with the woman shooting me a death glare. I stand there and pull out a pie and slowly start eating eat as I stare back at her. 

I first saw this story in a friend’s link to Right Wing News (which, in retrospect, should have tipped me off that I shouldn’t follow it). And then I got to the comments. Which are pretty much the same kinds of comments that have followed this story wherever it’s gone:

This woman is just another clueless low life Mental Ameoba that should not be having or raising any children.

I thought his act was brilliant! And, the mother of this child is the dregs of this earth.
Someone needs to teach this mother as well as her child that you don’t get everything you want … nor, do you raise a child to become a selfish, obnoxious sociopath.

Go get ‘em! Way to fight back! That’ll teach that bottom-feeding bitch and her brat how to behave!

I don’t know about you, but I find this horrifying. Unlike the BK Pie Avenger and the raving asshats engraving his pedestal, and like many other people I know, I have walked a mile in a different pair of shoes. As the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I’m open to the possibility, if not probability, of another side of this story.

Mom, too, has had a rough day it work. It got rougher when she went to pick Junior up at school. Junior has autism, but he’s high-functioning enough that he’s in a mainstream school. But other kids pick on “the weirdo,” and on some days the anxiety sends him into a total meltdown. This is one of those days, and he’s still amped up to about 250% when Mom comes to get him.

Like most kids with autism, he has things that can calm him down … to a point. With Junior, it’s his Game Boy. It creates a whole little world in which he can withdraw until his cortisol levels come down and his serotonin levels come back up. And because he’s had such a rough day, Mom decides she’ll get him a treat to help him calm down: his favorite, a Burger King pie.

But the line is long, the store is loud and crowded, and everyone is way taller than Junior – things that overstimulate him, launch a closed feedback loop in his neurological system and increase has anxiety. To the point that even the Game Boy can’t handle the overload, and he goes into full meltdown mode again … just because he wants an effin’ pie.

At this point, the guy in front of them turns and tells the mother something she’s heard at least a thousand times: “control your kid.” Something she’s spent the last three hours trying to do. Something that she’s standing in this very line in desperation effort to do. Something she’s dreamed of doing since she cried herself to sleep for weeks at the realization that her newly-diagnosed, two-year-old baby boy was never going to be just like other kids.

Mom’s got her emotional limits, too. So she snaps at him.

And that’s when the judgmental douchebag in front of them decides to behave as deplorably as the 11-year-old classmates who taunt Junior as a “weirdo.” He buys all the effin’ pies, just to spite an 11-year-old with autism.

A child with autism who is in meltdown is not a brat. It’s not the result of parents who don’t – or won’t – properly raise their child. It’s not a sign of stupidity or moral weakness. It’s a parent trying to contain and defuse a situation caused by a serious, poorly understood and – for the parent – a heartbreaking developmental disability that often operates largely out of her and her child’s control.

If the boy had epilepsy and went into a grand mal seizure in the queue, do you think Mr. Smug would have reacted the same way? Of course not.

But we are so quick to judge. We are so quick to jump to a conclusion and be absolutely positive that, because it is OUR conclusion – and because that conclusion generally renders us morally, intellectually, ideologically, even genetically, superior– it simply must be the correct one.

Here’s a piece of advice from someone who’s learned (as I have most everything) the hard way: You can be sure that every judgment you make, every conclusion you reach, is absolutely, positively the correct one. And it takes only one simple, painfully, stupidly obvious step.

Learn the whole story.

Until you do, your judgment is worthless, and you are not morally superior. Like our Burger King hero, you’re just another dick with a half-baked opinion.

* The link a friend posted, also about judging a mom, is here. What I find amazing about the Burger King story is that it took place in Montreal. The guy doesn’t sound polite enough to be Canadian. Follow-up stories suggest the tale may not be true; either way, though, the comments are.