The more I learn about Autism, the more I think I’m autistic, or at least was. I have overcome some symptoms by overcompensating, but i’m always aware of when i’m compensating.
Here’s one example. Until I was well into my teens I would get almost uncontrollably frustrated over telephone numbers. All telephone numbers? NO!
- Numbers that contained an “O” (the letter) or ‘0’ (Zero).
I would want to scream and tear my hair out if it wasn’t clear whether it was the letter or the number.
What’s worse is that I always got it WRONG. And if you remember rotary phones, both an “O” and a ZERO both took a long time to go ‘tick tick tick’, my anxiety and frustration growing exponentially with each tick.
Less so were the exchanges. my home phone was ARlington 1-6221. Do you spell out Arlington on the phone or not? All my friends numbers started with HAmilton 1, HAmilton 3 or HAmilton 7. What did ARlington have to do with me? What did HAmilton have to do with them? The photo below begs the question, “did Columbus have a phone?” Was Henry Hudson Impressed when he sailed under the Verazzano and George Washington bridges in 1609 on his first trip up the river to Albany?
How could anyone communicate if you have ambiguities in the numbers? The “code” was explained as in the photo, but it’s not explaining anything that you need to know at all. In fact the directions make it worse by distracting you from the issue and throwing in a bunch of irrelevant content that requires sifting. That the letter is black and the number is red is just NOISE when someone is ambiguous when they write O or say “oh” instead of “ZERO”.
I don’t know if i was the only kid to have huge problems with this simple instrument but I feel like i was. To this day when someone says “oh” i stop them and insist to know whether or not it’s a zero. overcompensating.
And even back then, the very last line in the photo informs you how easy it is to use. This means if you’re having trouble you have no one to blame but yourself, because you’re a dummy!
If you gave a kid a rotary dial phone today, he’d want to know where the ‘send’ button is. Just like when cell phones first came out i was upset that it didn’t have a dial tone up front. We do things backwards today. Or we did back then. It’s difficult to say.
My last example was a question on my learners permit test that I got wrong. it’s the only question I got wrong and i argued and was very upset about it.
How many sides are there on a stop sign?
Everybody knows that a stop sign is octagonal. Everybody knows that a stop sign, by definition, is a sign. It has 8 sides around the edges and a front and a back. That’s 10 sides. It’s a fact. That fact can NOT be changed. Not even by The State of New York Department of Motor Vehicles.
If 10 isn’t the right answer it should NOT have been one of the multiple choices. When I complained to the proctor/grader, she looked at me like I was nuts and said “you’re supposed to pick the MOST CORRECT answer.” GROAN I want to pull my hair out, 10 IS the most correct answer, indeed it’s the only correct answer.
I passed my learners permit test with 90% and an incredible amount of frustration.
I noticed this in a discussion about kids eating dinner. The age old line “clean your plate, don’t you know children are starving in Africa?”
I took that too seriously and in all earnest said “let’s send it to them.” I was accused of being a wise-ass. I never understood that, still don’t.
One of my mentors warned me about doctors. He told me about 20 years ago that all my doctors were older, venerated and trusted. But they would retire and I would have to find replacements. True to HIS word it has started to happen to me.
My new doctors look like children. Brilliant, thoughtful, kind, up-to- date on the latest medicine, but look like children. That’s my rule from now on. I want every ‘replacement’ doctor to look like a child. i don’t want them retiring before I die. Good doctors are hard to find. I also find some of the old ones are really just coasting into retirement.
My new orthopedist specializes in left knees. I need to find another one for my right knee. Actually i’m just kidding, (I crack myself up sometimes), but there is a lot of super specialization going on in these fields. The orthopedist examines me and starts by informing me that there are a lot of miles on my chassis, This I know. It’s interesting how my focus has changed from protecting my knees and joints, but now that they’re hosed, it’s like who cares. Make them NOT HURT until I am a candidate for replacement. It’s a dramatic change in attitude. I make them understand that I live to my self image of a 26 year old athlete, and that i’m going to skid in a four wheel drift sideways into my grave with the throttle wide open and the gas gauge on empty. 62 is the new 16.
There is a new word in my skeleton. it’s called Osteoarthritis. My Primary Care Physician admonished me:
“If you choose to live on a planet with gravity, then osteoarthritis is inevitable.”
Apparently it’s my fault. I knew that 55 years ago. It’s always my fault.
The world is a strange place.