Episode Fifty Nine
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Monstrous Agonies E59S02 Transcript
[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]
Monstrous Agonies: Episode Fifty Nine.
[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-well it's how a lot of people feel-” and more pop music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]
-take cover – it's starting to hatch.
Time now for our advice segment. Our first letter this evening asks how to handle insensitive co-workers.
The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)
By sapio standards, I'm blind. My genus is best suited for underground environments, which means that I don't have the kind of eyesight that's expected for navigating the modern above-ground world.
I can sense light – my species doesn't have eyes but we have photoreceptors under our skin that help us tell light from dark. And we've got a whole array of other organs that help us find our way, sensing changes in air pressure, or the chemical make-up of the atmosphere, or the tiny vibrations of life all around us.
On the surface, though, I need a bit of assistance. I use a cane to help me navigate, which is brilliant for avoiding obstacles and not smacking my face into random pillars. Mostly. The one downside is how people treat me differently.
Don't get me wrong, I'm proud to be a part of the creature community and the disabled community. None of us are exactly the same and I love that. It's just that sometimes people see me – a perfectly ordinary creature who happens to be using a mobility aid – and talk to me like I'm a child wandering alone. It's demoralising, to be honest.
I started a new job a few months ago, and I love it. My co-workers are a diverse and overall very chill group. I've gotten a few "concerned" comments from people who don't understand that my lack of eyesight and my cane don't render me helpless, but I don't like to start conflict and for the most part we've been getting along well.
Then, last week, one of my co-workers asked if there was anything she could do when others talk down to me. I wasn't sure how to answer. Honestly, I was a little surprised she even asked. I told her that I appreciated that she'd noticed, but usually I just try to present myself confidently and hope people catch on.
It's got me thinking, though: is there a way to confront people about this? Not necessarily strangers, it doesn't seem worth the energy if I'm never going to see them again. But for co-workers and casual acquaintances, can I say something to them besides answering their "concerned" questions? When they think they're being polite, how can I assert myself and tell them to stop without coming across as overreacting?
The Presenter (as themselves)
You can certainly say something without it being an overreaction. In fact, I think it would be very healthy for you to assert your expectations about how you wish to be treated. I appreciate that you don't want to cause conflict. But by avoiding any confrontation about your co-workers' attitudes, you're doing yourself a disservice. You deserve to be treated better. It's really as simple as that.
That's not to say you have go in on Monday morning with all guns blazing. You know your own situation, and the relationships you have with others in your workplace. Take these incidents as they come, and make a decision in each instance whether or not, and in what way, you might push back.
In those instances when you decide to pursue the issue, keep things professional and be specific. Instead of saying, “You're being ableist” or “You're undermining me”, state clearly what behaviour you're talking about, and how it affects you. “When you ask questions like... it makes me feel...”
You also need to let them know what they can do to resolve the situation. A simple apology and an end to the behaviour in question is all that's necessary.
I'm very glad to hear that your co-worker has come forward to let you know she's noticed these microaggressions, and offered her support. I suggest you take her up on it. Just make sure she's clear about what kind of response would be helpful, and what you hope the end result will be. You're trying to change specific behaviours, not transform everyone in your workplace into a dyed-in-the-wool ally.
The fact is that people tend to respond to the culture around them. Right now, the culture in your workplace is one where the non-disabled sapio is considered the default. People are assuming that anyone who doesn't fit that description must be in some way lacking.
It's also a culture where offensive words and actions are left unchallenged. That's not fair to you, and it's not fair to your co-workers. Together, you can change that culture, creating a space where people's differences are respected, and their mistakes are opportunities for growth. All it takes is someone to get the ball rolling.
[a door opens and closes]
Oh, for heaven’s sake, will you please stop interrupting!
What is this?
It’s a pot plant. Get out.
It is a pot plant! Do you know where I found it? Sitting on my desk where nary a plant had been just hours before. So I said to myself, [bad cockney policeman impression] “‘ello ‘ello ‘ello, what’s all this then?” And I asked myself why on earth there might be a pot plant upon my previously plant-less desk--
You like plants!
I wanted to say thank you for helping the other week, with the call-in. You were... It-- It was... good.
It’s a polka dot plant. It’s from Madagascar.
You went to Madagascar?
I went to the garden centre. And it looked... It reminded... Oh, get out, would you?
[laughing] I’m going to name her Angharad.
Harry, for short!
[The door opens and closes once more. The Presenter laughs gently.]
[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]
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[End background music]
Our second letter tonight is from a listener wondering how to raise a sensitive subject with a friend.
The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)
Normally, although I listen to your advice segment a lot, I have nothing to add. I’m fortunate enough to have had very few bad experiences being part of the community. This time, however, I think I really should write to you about a fairly pressing issue that has surfaced over the past couple of weeks.
For a bit of background, my friend and I run a campsite, and the problem at hand has come up in the past once or twice. Since we’re open to everyone in the creature community, as well as a few sapio hikers and campers, we make sure to cater to as many dietary needs and preferences as possible. It is, might I add, extremely easy for visitors to get in contact with us to ask about food and drink, and I always try my hardest to help.
Recently, however, some sapio campers have... gone missing! [laughs nervously] All of the night folk currently staying at our campsite have perfectly manageable diets, and I have to say, I’m pretty sure they’re not the ones causing trouble.
My friend, on the other hand, is prone to getting a bit over-enthusiastic when it comes to feeding. He’s been trying his best; for the most part he can survive on animal blood, as long as he has it regularly. Although he won’t admit it, I think he’s been struggling with this lately, and on the rare occasions that animal blood hasn’t been enough, well. [sighs] It normally ends badly.
To cut a long story short, I’m worried that his feeding has been getting out of control again. We’ve been trying to sort out something healthier and safer for him – like the blood bank donations mentioned in one of your other letters – but when it comes to protecting the residents of the campsite, I can’t take any more chances.
I hate to even suggest that he’s behind the disappearances, but at this point I don’t know what else it’s likely to be. Not only that, but I’m getting really worried about his general well-being; he’s been very careful about this, and a sudden slip back to old habits could cause him some pretty serious health complications.
How can I bring this up and ask him about it without making him more short-tempered than he already is?
The Presenter (as themselves)
Oh, listener. This is a very sensitive issue. You need to bring this up with him. The trick will be doing so in a way that doesn't leave him feeling blind-sided or undermined.
Schedule some time with your friend to talk one to one. Use your knowledge of his personality to judge what kind of setting he would find most supportive. Some people appreciate the structure and security of a formal meeting, while others might respond better to a more casual setting, perhaps going for a walk together.
Whatever you choose, make sure you can maintain a fair degree of privacy. I know you mentioned he can be short-tempered, but it doesn't sound like he's a physical threat to you. If I've misunderstood that, please, by all means, take more precautions. Your safety is more important than his comfort.
However you hold the conversation, it's important you don't frame it as an accusation. Instead, ask him how he's feeling. I think it's fairly likely he'll know why you want to talk to him, and it might help to give him the opportunity to tell you about the difficulties he's been having without being asked outright.
If he doesn't take that opportunity, you bring it up yourself. Be gentle, but clear. Tell him plainly that the recent disappearances reminded you of the struggles he's had in the past controlling his feeding, and that you're concerned about his well-being.
This isn't about assigning blame. It's about your fears for your friend's health. And the safety of your campers, of course. Though I personally think people who choose to sleep outside are beyond help.
Nevertheless, you have a professional duty of care to your guests. I suggest he takes some leave, and spends it in a larger settlement where alternative feeding options will be easier to come by. As his friend, you might also suggest he finds some professional support, to help him gain some more effective coping strategies in case this issue recurs in the future.
In the meantime, you both need to commit to finding a sustainable solution to his requirements, on the understanding that he will return to the campsite when that system is in place – and not before.
[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]
131.3FM – the voice of liminal Britain.
[End background music]
Next tonight, we discuss the best at-home dampening methods to keep your home and furnishings comfortably moist...
[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-I, I would love to believe that he was sorry-”, classical music and pop music before fading out.
Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]
Episode Fifty Nine of Monstrous Agonies was written by H.R. Owen, and performed by H.R. Owen and Elizabeth Plant
Tonight's first letter was submitted by PachydermSupernova, the second letter came from A Suspicious Leaf Pile, and today's advert came from Robin. Thanks, friends. See the show-notes for details on how to submit your own advert ideas.
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This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.
Thanks for listening, and remember – the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.
[Fade to silence]