Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 10: Presentation and a close call

Before I start with day 1o of my Sunglasses Experiment I would like to go back to yesterday and talk about my presentation I gave to the C.I.T. officers at the police academy.

I decided not to wear my sunglasses at presentations because it might just be too distracting for those in attendance. Yesterday's presentation in front of 62 officers was the first time my eyes have been exposed in public since July 4th.

How did it feel? I felt vulnerable and exposed. I scan the room when I give a presentation and I didn't realize just how empty my eye gaze is until yesterday. I may be looking around, but I am not looking at any person. I may look past a person, or perhaps through the person, but my eye will never meet. It was rough and I stumbled a few times in my presentation because of this.

Today I gave a presentation to parents that are currently going through TouchPoint's parent training class. Again, the sunglasses were off, and once again I felt open to the world. When my eyes are uncovered it is like having a computer with no firewall; anyone can come in and access the data and do what they please with it. This is what eye contact is like for me. If we make eye contact it is like you knowing all my thought, wants, and needs.

Again, as with the day before, I had several stumbles because of this. I never knew how strong this urge to avoid eye contact was until I wore the sunglasses.

After work it was time to go to the video game store to pick up NCAA Football 11. The store I was going to has been a thorn in my side of quite some time because I have had bad experience after bad experience. In 2004 the store refused to acknowledge that their website said that there was a special sale going on. A few years after that on a day that speech was difficult because I was so stressed saw the employees mock me and say, "What, why don't you say anything? Are you that big of an idiot?" and when I left the clerk said, "Bye idiot! don't talk so much next time!" I complained to the national office after that episode, and yet I still go back.

My last time at this store a PS3 fan boy cornered me and I was subjected to an hour's worth of information on why the PS3 is greater than the Xbox 360. I wanted to leave, but was powerless to say anything or walk away. I looked all around as if I were disinterested, which I was, but the onslaught of PS3 continued. Mercifully his shift ended and as he clocked out I did a vanishing act. Nonetheless that is one hour of my life I can never get back.

I figured because I have had so many issues there that this would be the perfect place to see what happens when the sunglasses are on.

The manager there knows my name and as I walked in I was hoping that he would not recognize me, but he did and even commented on the "shades". He was in the midst of a customer so the other clerk rung me out.

Once again it was I who was making the eye contact with him focusing on the computer. I was hoping for some sort of epic eye contact showdown, but nothing happened. No conversations, no eye contact, just ring, pay, leave.

When I left the store I was walking to my car and this random person said hello to me. This has been happening quite frequently since I started wearing the sunglasses. I started to think about this and I was thinking about this when I started my car and pulled away. What did this hello mean and why have I been getting so many of those? Is the lack of eye contact that detrimental to a conversation?

I was thinking these things as I looked left, then right to make my turn to the road that would lead me to the road that would take me home. Normally I look left, right, and then left, but not today.Today I was thinking about all these hellos and then that's when it happened, "CAR!"

I slammed the breaks as did they and I can honestly say I never saw the person when I was looking that way. The lady driver wasn't upset with me as I had the most petrified look as both my hands were in the air that showed that I had no intention of creating such a dangerous event. Our cars didn't touch, but it was real close to being a severe impact. That will teach me to think and drive!

Coming up tomorrow will be another presentation, this time three separate ones to the same CIT officers. If I come up with something in the morning to share I will, if not tomorrow afternoon will be my next post before I head to Wisconsin on Thursday (I hope the hotel has Wi-Fi!)


  1. Aaron, in my experience, no eye contact means the person is uninterested in a conversation, so I don't talk to him. The sunglasses gives the person looking at you a chance to assume you are looking at him and initiate conversation.

  2. Aaron, I wanted to thank you for your blog. I have not been diagnosed, I wouldnt even know where to start. I have a 14 year old son who has been diagnosed with Asperger's. Your blog is helping his father to understand him better, i hope. I know how you feel about the eye contact though. I get freaked out if I happen to look someone in the eye and they smile at me. As for the clerks in the store, I am stunned that anyone could be so mean to another human being. You said that you called the corporate office, what happened to these rude clerks? Good luck on your experiment and tour!

  3. What happened to them? I don't think anything, but next time I was in I had a $50 credit for no reason so somethng happened, but for them I don't think anything.

  4. Aaron, This is kind of off pace with what you were actually writing about but a simple sentence in today's blog really caught my attention.

    I can't remember if I read this in your book or a previous blog but I think you were talking about love or falling in love and I believe you were questioning if it were possible and how would you know. Or perhaps I am confusing this with a conversation I had with my own son. Please forgive me, I do not have the same perfect memory as you do, in fact I confuse memories constantly so I envy your ability.

    But the line in this blog that sticks out for me is "If we make eye contact it is like you knowing all my thought, wants, and needs".

    Try Repeating that line very slowly, several times (yes, I know, I'm telling you what to do but please just give it a try :)) Perhaps if you do this, the notion will be a little less frightening.

    I bet that someday you will meet the love of your life and you will know it because in an instant you will realize that "we made eye contact and it is like I NEED for her to know all my thoughts, wants, and needs." Only this time it will not be scary at all but the most natural thing in the universe.

    You always give us something to think about. Sometimes I want to return the favor by giving you something to think about, if you like, in return. I am not expecting you to agree, I am not expecting anything. I hope you do not mind. It is just my way of saying thank you.

  5. Sometimes this has to start from within. A lot of individuals with autism have a hard time initiating conversations. The key question we have to ask ourselves is- why are we so afraid? Is it because a bad experience at this type of environment in the past? Is it because a bad experience with this type of people? Is it because we are not good at small talk? Is it because of people's past perception of you? Is it because of any of the above and/or more? Once the answer is identified, then face the fear head on and be the one doing the initiating.