Yesterday I was at the grocery store with Children 1 and 2. Child 1 really likes to walk/run down the aisles and watch the food go by out of the corner of his eye, so I'm used to having to tell him to watch where he's going and such. He was walking down an aisle, and there was a woman crouched down, inspecting a can of something. He stood right in front of her, too close, and waited for her to move away. From the other end of the aisle, where I was stuck behind Child 2 and a bunch of other people, I started yelling to him "Child 1. Go around her, please!" But he didn't, he just stood there. She eventually got up, with a really annoyed expression on her face, so that he could pass.
She was quite obviously not pleased.
As I walked by her, I expected her to say something to me about my rude children, but she didn't. I said "excuse me; sorry" and kept going and she didn't say anything.
I was kind of pissed, and as I walked through the rest of the store, I played a potential argument over and over in my head. She would say "your child is so rude!" and I would say "he's autistic. And you're a bitch!" or something... I hoped that we would see her again so that I could actually teach her a lesson.
In the checkout line, I noticed she was a few people behind us. Child 1, as usual, was not waiting in the line next to me, but was, instead, pacing back and forth and stimming in the space behind her. Being unaware of social boundaries, as he is, he was constantly getting too close to her and quite obviously invading her space. "Good," I thought. "Let's see what she does now."
But it was then that I noticed the way she was holding herself as he went by her. Her arms were in tight to her sides, and she was hugging her basket as if she was clinging onto it for dear life. And the look on her face wasn't that of annoyance, it was pure discomfort. She wasn't annoyed by him invading her space, she was very very uncomfortable with it.
And THEN I noticed that she was wearing headphones. Not headphones that were attached to an mp3 player, either: noise canceling headphones.
This woman was possibly autistic, herself.
And there I was, making assumptions about her, and figuring that she was judging me and my child, when in fact that's what I was doing about her.
I called Child 1 over so that he would leave her alone and we finished up our business and went on our way, but I definitely learned a lesson there: never assume you know anything about a person just by looking at them.
I won't make that mistake again.