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Friday, July 20, 2012

"Ahem!"

I have to admit a strange thing; as I wrote yesterday's blog at the Indianapolis airport I already had an occurrence that morning in my ongoing series of Asperger's Everyday and knew what I would be writing about today. It was hard to write knowing that, but anyway here goes.

I left my sister's house at 5:15AM and made it to the airport just as the sun was starting to break the horizon. I found my way to the economy parking section and found a shuttle stop and waited. Soon a shuttle came and I got onto the empty shuttle.

Soon the empty shuttle was getting a bit crowded and this prompted me to get my phone out and engross myself within the chess.com app. Focusing on a chess match is a great way to isolate myself from the world and lower the amount of anxiety I have in a situation. There is a downside to this because I can become so focused on the game that I lose track of what's going on around me.

The shuttle now had just two open seats; one to my left and one to my right. Already people were just using the standing area instead of opting for the two open seats. I was beginning to wonder if the shuttle service had a point that they would no longer let people on because it was getting way too crowded for my liking.

We had another stop and more people got on and then we made yet another stop. I was now intent on looking at my phone and I was about as stiff as a person can be as my body was on high defense mode. I don't know how to explain this feeling as when the environment gets tricky like this I just tense all the way up. It's partly fear, but what of I don't know; partly a sense of uneasiness as so many people around creates a multitude of issues, and partly a sense of being alone in a crowd. At this stop, however, a person got on and hovered over me for several seconds before slowly taking a seat. I was as focused as I had ever been in my life and the object of my focus was how to trap this person's rook. I had no idea who was besides me, what they looked like, and I didn't care because if I looked up and saw the mass of people around me I was sure I would spontaneously explode.

The chess games continued, literally and figuratively, and I heard the person beside me say in a very meek voice, "ahem." I thought nothing of this because why would she be speaking to me? Now this is different from when things are normal because I process everything and am always concerned that, when I hear a person speaking a thing like ahem or hello, I am the one being spoken to. Yet, in a situation like this, I will do everything I can to ignore the situation, but what was the situation?

Once again she said, "ahem" and I continued playing out the possibilities on the chess game I was playing on the phone and ignoring the figurative chess game going on all around me. Several seconds passed and the person across from me made a noise much like "ahem" yet it wasn't but it was loud enough to break me out of my safe world had created so I looked up at that person and he had a nasty scowl on his face as he tilted his head to my left and I looked that way and standing beside the woman who had said, "ahem" was a man. Now I must say for you, the reader, that you're finding this out in the same time frame that I did because as I saw them I saw that they were up there in years. I'm horrible with age, but 80 or so would be my estimate.

I stared through the older man for several seconds as I pieced everything together. At this point in time I could feel the eye gaze of most everyone in this part of the shuttle now descending upon me and I didn't know what was going on. To say I was lost and clueless would be a highly accurate statement. Then it hit me, she wanted her husband to not have to step over me for that seat so she was trying to send me the cues that she would like me to scoot over one seat and when I was off in the world of pawns and bishops I fell oblivious to this. Although I will admit I don't know if I would have naturally thought of moving over one seat without prompting.

Quickly, once I realized all this, I made the switch and did notice that those around that saw this were looking at me as if I were a gigantic jerk. If asked, I would have instantly given up my seat but I wish I could have frozen time right then and there and explained to those people what had happened and that I meant no disrespect; it's just that I have this thing called Asperger Syndrome and I don't pick up on those social cues that come so naturally to others.

The terminal couldn't have come fast enough after this shuttle incident and once we made it, I made sure to vacate myself from all those people as fast as possible.

After that incident, the trip to Utah was the smoothest trip I've had all year with nothing strange happening. As for me, now I am off to the track for the SKUSA SummerNats. It's going to be a great weekend!

4 comments:

  1. Aaron, that person should've just tapped you on the shoulder or something like that. Also, they should've simply said what they wanted from you, instead of just saying 'ahem' and staring at you.

    My sister (who doesn't have autism) said she wouldn't have understood it if it happened to her either. So this isn't just you, they were being unclear.

    Have fun this weekend! :)

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  2. Thank you Aaron,,my son has autism (3 and a half years old) so it helps to learn as much as I can, I know I'll never learn everything.
    Like Lssha I think "we" all miss social cues to an extent..I'm certainly not minimizing..your struggle at all..as I see how my son has difficulties understanding social cues..I could tell because my daughter does not have autism and did not need all the different information/preparation that he does.
    The woman in your situation could have said excuse me would you mind moving in so my husband can sit down. It was their own embarressment creating a part of the problem, not your's. Sometimes I'm just in my own little world oblivious to what someone else wants when I would probably say "OH! Okay I did not know realize you were "talking" to me, and then move over. You did nothing wrong. I know a LOT of people that suffer from anxiety in general and would probably not even get on that bus, so bravo to you for doing that. I can only hope my son can do the same when he becomes an adult.
    Thank you for sharing again:)

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  3. Being a 64 year old Aspie I have had this and similar situations occur many times over the years. You have said something like, "I know therefore you should too". I feel this is not just an Aspie thing as people with their "ahems", "hrumphs", and glares instead of straightforward requests seem to be the usual. I am fairly certain that nobody exists who can read minds, Neurotyp or Aspie.

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  4. Aaron I agree with all the other post here. This was not you missing a cue, this was people being rude. If they had any manners they would have tapped you on the shoulder or she could have directed a question to you. They were just being rude thinking that a noise is enough to make a statement. They were in the wrong, not you.

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