|Viral Support for Grocery Store Employee With Asperger's Berated for Slowness|
|By CHRISTINA NG (@ChristinaNg27)||Nov 12, 2013, 1:59 PM|
At a Wegmans grocery store in Clay, N.Y., today, Chris Tuttle has a line of customers eagerly waiting to be rung up by him. The two cashiers beside him have no customers and the people in Tuttle's line won't leave.
They are waiting in line because on Saturday a disgruntled customer chose the wrong employee to pick on and a Facebook post written by his sister about the incident went viral.
Chris Tuttle, 28, who lives in Baldwinsville, N.Y., about 270 miles northwest of New York City, has Asperger's Syndrome. He has worked at the grocery store for seven years.
He usually doesn't work at the cashier, but was asked to help on Saturday when the store was busy.
That evening, his sister Jamie Virkler, 43, came over for dinner at their father's house, where Tuttle lives.
"He's always telling us his day's adventures at work," Virkler said, but Saturday's story was unusual.
"He just started in, 'I had the worst day ever' and tells this story about this woman who came through his line and she was just complaining, 'You're so slow. I can't believe this,'" Virkler told ABCNews.com today. "He was just so upset."
The customer yelled at him during the transaction for being slow and loudly complained to a manager, Virkler said. Tuttle was so shaken he dropped a candle the woman had bought on the floor and it shattered. Before she left, he still told her to have a nice day.
Hours later, Tuttle was still upset and Virkler said she and her family tired to explain to him that he was going to encounter people like the woman every day and that he shouldn't let it bother him, but he was inconsolable.
"He couldn't hear it. It just fell on deaf ears," she said. "It just really bothered me."
As Virkler tossed and turned in bed that night, she had an idea for a way to get through to her brother -- Facebook.
Her brother loves Facebook. She said he knows everybody, the number of friends he has and that it's "his pretend world that he lives in."
"I thought, what if I just ask a few friends if they can send something positive or say something about him?" she said.
In the Facebook post, she recounted the story Tuttle told her as well as what the woman didn't know about him.
"What this woman doesn't know is that 10 hours later, Chris told me the story as if is just happened, he was just as stressed and just as upset," Virkler wrote. "She has no idea how damaging her actions were ... to one person. Part of Asperger's is the inability to move on, to not be able to wrap his mind around the fact that his woman isn't worth it. To hear him tell the story, your heart will break. He doesn't understand why someone would be so nasty to him and for him, he takes it personal."
"Chris deserves better and if he's ever put a smile on your heart, could you let him know?" she wrote. "Could you leave a comment or the next time you go to Wegmans, could you tell him? I want him to have a better day."
She wrote the post on the page of her bed and breakfast, the Turtle Landing Retreat in Granby, N.Y., where she said for the past three years people come in frequently to tell her stories of how they love her brother.
"He's that kind of personality that if you know him, you know him and have some story. It's been that way his whole life," she said. "Whoever he interacts with, it's always personal. It's always a big personality. He just walks with life."
Virkler said she couldn't have anticipated what was about to happen, "not in a million years."
She posted the message at 8:22 a.m. on Sunday and by the time she finished work that afternoon she had more than a hundred text messages and friends telling her to check the Facebook page.
There were hundreds of responses. As of today, the post has more than 92,000 likes, over 14,000 shares and nearly 15,000 comments for Tuttle.
"I automatically started crying," Virkler said. "I got chills. I was just so happy that people could come forth and share a little something."
She said her brother has been thrilled by the outpouring of kindness.
"He is absolutely trying to read and comment or at least like everybody," Virkler said. "I don't want even one comment to go missed. Total strangers are making them so personal."
"Hello Chris. As a child I was taught a song in church. I don't know the title but the song went "this little light of mine I'm gonna let it shine....and the song goes on," a post from a woman named Myra Hilliard said. "Anyway. Don't allow someone else's action to blow out your light. You are at Wegmans for a purpose. You are the light that brings joy to people. Keep the light within you shining and share it with all. You are a blessing to all that come in contact with you."
"May he be able to move on from this awful experience. Chris you are a wonderful special young man," Jackie Vega Marrero wrote in another post. "My son is 13 and has disabilities as well and it is difficult for him to deal with people yelling. We have special kids that will teach people kindness and patients. May God continue blessing him."
Thousands of other messages convey support and other personal stories. The notes are from all over the country and around the globe.
Virkler said that strangers have been coming to the grocery store all week to see her brother. One woman came in to drop off a thank you card for him and another couple drove from 30 minutes away to meet him.
"He's absolutely on cloud nine," Virkler said.