I've written more than once about my two strange co-workers who can be referred to as Dopey and Lucky because they are a fascinating corner of the human condition. Yesterday the contract owner of the post office where I work asked me what I thought of them. "They do the work of one person," I pointed out. "Have you ever looked at their hours? One of them clocks in for an hour and a half a day, the other for three. If one of them ever left it's not like the other couldn't do everything."
"Gee," he admitted. "I never thought of it that way." The reason it came up was because our charming friend Lucky has met someone on line. She has been quietly working at coming out of her shell. When someone comes to the counter and asks for a parcel, if she feels up to it, she will retrieve it. If she doesn't she ignores them. She still hasn't figured out how to say "Someone will be right with you." And even if she obviously knows who is at the counter, for example, her father's business partner, she will never admit she recognizes anyone. She won't, for example, say "Mr. Smith needs a book of stamps." She will come get me where I am processing parcels and say, "'Someone' needs to buy 'something."
Our part time seasonal helper, I'll call her Karen, pointed out to me excitedly that Lucky does know how to use the postage meter. She has been using it to generate postage for her book exchange club friends. Lucky was nice enough to help Karen make postage one morning before we opened up to the general public. So one must assume it's the cash register that still stymies her? Or perhaps the distaste she has for interacting with people? Frankly I'm pleased to see Lucky has a friend. She's nearly thirty, and clearly no one else in her family is happy for her. If her very charismatic, popular dad wanted her to have a social life, there's no reason he couldn't take her with him when he goes to watch boxing matches at our local pub and introduce her around. Or why not help the young woman get a driver's license so she could take advantage of one of his five vehicles?
When asked by my boss if I thought Dopey could learn Lucky's job if Lucky left I said no. My theory is that Lucky would have been a normal person if she hadn't been twisted by her family circumstances. Clearly something is wrong with Dopey, something that has neither been explored nor diagnosed. Her family's culture is non introspective, and I doubt they had health insurance at any time. Of course they could have gotten some free testing via the public schools, but the parents seemed united in their efforts to ignore anything wrong with Dopey.
So what is wrong with Dopey? Is she autistic? I wondered this at first because she has a vacant look. There's no light on, and no one is home. If she exhibits an emotion, it is only rage, when she comes across a post box that is full and in unable to stuff the day's delivery into it. Like a robot she will stand in front of the box for six or seven attempts at stuffing more objects into the packed space, cursing under her breath. I have heard that autistic people have no filter for stimuli, there fore bright lights and loud sounds annoy them, or frighten them. Dopey appears indifferent to her surroundings. Left to her own devices she won't turn on lights or the radio. Yet on her FaceBook page she mentioned some teeny bopper groups she likes. If her sister turns on music when she enters the station, Dopey shows no reaction pro nor con.
Mental retardation is another possible diagnosis. But I think of such people as slow on the uptake of arcane knowledge usually they don't have problems with spatial relationships like a mail box full of mail won't accept another object. And although Dopey will not speak to anyone, not even when a customer engages her, she speaks articulately enough when her father pops by and addresses her.
I considered the genetic possibility of Downs' Syndrome. Her parents were "older" when they had her, in their thirties at least. She has the characteristic body type: short arms, Asian looking eyes, a smooth round face. But I never met a Downs' Syndrome person who wasn't a real love. If anything those individuals trust too much and are vulnerable for it. They are generally happy people, a joy to the parents who enjoy them. I never met one, before her anyway, that would spend an hour cursing under their breath oaths that would make a sailor blush.
So what's really wrong with Dopey, Ms Muffintop, you say, isn't it possible she is just a shy inept co-worker? Why do you think she has a disorder? Let me explain to you some odd things that you would notice right away if you met this person: Lack of eye contact. Lack of response. Inability to communicate. I remember one day her older sister Lucky called in sick. Dopey stayed later than usual and picked up standard mail after the first class was done. In lieu of her usual hour of working, she stayed a total of four. She KNEW her sister would not be in, yet she was incapable of relaying the message. She clocks in every day half an hour before the mail truck arrives. She arrives at the post office about 15 minutes after her clock in time, and sits staring vacantly out into space or looks at her nails. I'm not even sure if she is aware she's milking the clock or if she dutifully believes it's part of her job to sit there with nothing to do. She could of course put away left over third class mail from the day before, but she doesn't.
Her inability to make decisions is one pronounced hallmark
of her condition. Any mail that doesn't
match, whether is permanent or temporary forwarding, a bad address, a deceased
person whatever â gets thrown into one bin for her older sister to sort through
later. It wouldn't be hard for a
thinking person to discern forwarded mail ought to be sent to the provided
address, bad addresses back to the sender and so on, but it's more than Dopey
can memorize. Because she's never
received any mail herself, or moved anywhere, or had a hobby or a job or
purchased anything at a store â she apparently can't tell the difference
between the importance of a check and a solicitation for money.