Thursday, 10 March 2011

When Asperger's Customer Meets Plain Clothed Security Officer

At around midday on Saturday 26th February, I was caught up in some real drama in a frightening encounter when I waas accused (wrongly) of stealing and almost got myself arrested in the busy town. When I told my friends about what happened on Tueday, they thought it was a classic story, yet I neglected to mention a bit abuot my thought process on the day that will make it even more 'lengendery' as some will describe it. So pay attention and read on:

On Saturday morning, I had the subject of girls on my mind. Despite not feeling terribly well, I was feeling like I wanted to chat up some girls but couldn't find an opportunity soon enough on the horizon. So I decided that I would attempt to put some of what I have learnt in recent times to practice and see if I could chat up any attractive girls in the town centre. At around 12:00pm, I walked into Superdrug ad bought a bar of soap, as mine had run out. In the store I saw a girl who appeared to be promoting something, I thought of something I could say to her, but as usual, I was nervous and unsure about my 'window of opportunity.' So I left without approaching her taking just my soap and receipt.

About half to three quarters of an hour of wondering around town (didn't have much to do that day), I walked back into Superdrug thinking of chatting up the girl, this time a little better prepared. I was nervous though and I didn't want to appear to have entered the store just to approach her, so I spent a bit of time wondering around, browsing items, whilst trying to keep an eye on the girl periodically. I spent a bit of time around the batteries, as these are more of a male item in a feminine kind of shop.

Now the bag I was carrying was a Topman plastic bag, and one of the handles was broken. All I had in it was my wallet, a bank paying-in book, the soap I had bought, plus a pen and paper. After about ten minutes I decided not to approach the girl, and walked out of Superdrug without purchasing anything, and therefore not going to the checkout.

Immediately after leaving the store, I was approaching by a man, approximately 40 years old, rather scrffy and weathered looking, who stopped me and quickly said "I'm from security can you open up your bag?" I was immediately a bit concerned, as I thought this might be a criminial out to steel my money (especially as I have been mugged in the past) so I asked the man to show me his ID. He got out his wallet and showed me a card saying this was his ID (he didn't get the card out he just showed me what out me anyone's business card) and then told me to open up my bag again. I was not convinced by his ID, and suspecting I was being approached by a thief who wanted to snatch my wallet (containing my credit card and other essentials), I ran away as fast as I could for my own safety.

However, the security officer, alongside another security officer from another store who was in uniform chased after me and restrained me by a bench. I was in panic mode at this time - what was going on? I don't think I had even worked out at this point what they had thought I had done. In a panic I yelled and screamed at the security guys as I genuinely thought they were picking on me for some unjust reason. When I asked them, they told me they were doing this because they had seen me on CCTV in the store, and the CCTV cameras showed that I been slipping things like batteries into my bag. I told them and insisted that I hadn't stolen anything. I was threatened with being sent to the police station and being arrested, and this put me in even more of a panic, and I was desparate to phone up my parents and get them to come and get me out of this situation. As one might expect, everybody around was watching the proceeding.

After a few minutes I was about to agree to go back to the store with the security men to show them I had nothing in my bag (they were adament that I had nicked something, when I had not) however at this time I was abuot to be rescued from the situation. A work colleague of mine and her family here walking past (including her husband, children and Mum), and I called upon her to see to the situation. My colleague explained who I was, and that I had Asperger's Sydrome (which makes me inclined in panic more), and when the security officers were about to take me to the store, she said that they would come with me if they were to do that. At this point the securtity guys dropped the case. I did show them the soap I had in my bag, plus the receipt to prove I had payed for it and told them I bought it earlier. The security officer from Superdrug gave me his name and organisation, and I made clear to him that I was going to write a complaint. After a brief chat with my work colleague, and another man standing behind me, who was watching the proceeding (and knew I was innocent because he saw me in the store) I walked home. At least it gave me a story I could share no Facebok.

My work colleague, told me the following week, that I was looking very pale at the time, her family were worried about me. She said she had never seen someone so pleased to see her before and was glad she was in the right place at the right time.

How does this incident related to Asperger's Syndrome? Well the main issue is that by immediatlely runnning away, the security officers immediately assumed I was guilty of stealing. If they had known anything about Asperger's Syndrome, they might have considered that noe with the condition may be inclined to panic more and not been so quick to jump to that (wrong) conclusion. I have written a letter of complaint which explains my thoughts and views on the incident further, and which I will post on this blog very soon.

1 comment:

  1. This must have been so frightening for you. The "security guard" with the business card could have been anyone! You were very sensible and I am so glad that your work colleague was definitely at the right place at the right time, thank god.
    I think you did everything right in the circumstances, and the security guard and his firm need to learn that they had severe inabilities in their understanding, not you. I have an autistic member of my family and it makes me sad to see how "neuro-typical" people can hold such big misunderstandings about what can be judged by appearance (very little!) and about the differing ways that other people do things.
    I hope you get a good response from your complaint.