Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Hello, How You Doin'?"

This is almost too easy! Okay, right now I'm sitting at the gate at the Indianapolis airport awaiting my flight to Utah to work the SKUSA race, but two days ago I said I was going to use this three week flagging/travel stint to describe to you how Asperger Syndrome can show itself in everyday situations and, as I began this post, it's been almost too easy to come up with what to write.

It was yesterday afternoon and my nephew Caden and I were on our way to this pizza store to pick up an order and bring it back to my sister's house. We arrived at the store and went inside which is always an awkward situation for me to begin with because I never know what exactly I should say. This right here would be enough to write about because look at a very important word I used in that last sentence. I said, "exactly" but is there an exactly right thing to say each time? Probably not but I still am trying to figure this out.

So we walk in and we approach the counter and wait. An employee came to the counter and said, "Hello, How you doin'?" I stood there frozen as another hilarious episode of being asked, "How are you" was about to unfold.

The tenths of a second felt like a crushing eternity. What do I say? How am I doin'? Eventually I made some sort of noise and then sputtered out, "I'm doin'." I thought nothing more of my answer once I gave it as it seemed the most logical answer to give. After that he asked who the order was for and I somehow made things confusing as I was trying to comprehend what was going on and finally all made sense and we had a few minutes to wait.

Caden and I found a bench and sat down. Once seated he told me, "What was with your answer? I'm doin'? That's not what you're supposed to say! Didn't you see the way he looked at you?" I told Caden that I did not. Thinking back the reason behind this was that eye contact was not made at all. In fact I didn't even look at the employee at all the entire time as I was looking down and to the left.

According to my nephew the employee gave a look of befuddlement as he didn't really know what to make of my answer. To me, my answer makes perfect sense and is the only thing I can say as, if I were to really answer this question of how I was doin', the actual answer would take too long for me to think of and then too long for me say. Still though, I felt my answer was perfectly appropriate.

I do know the script of the conversation and both my sister and nephew spent the rest of the day asking me "how are you doing," trying to get me to respond naturally. I never did, but I know how I'm supposed to respond with, "Fine, how are you doing?" Yes, I know this, but I can't turn that part of my brain off that hears the question and needs to answer it 100% accurately. I can't simply say "fine" because what if I am not fine? Also, how long of a time frame is in plat when asked this question? Is it the past 24 hours? 12? Or is it just right then and there because if this is the case saying "I'm doing" is the most logical answer.

Well, I could debate this with myself all day, but thankfully I do have a flight that is getting ready to leave so I mist leave this at that. I do find it amazing at how, when one is aware and is looking for it, just how big of an impact in such small events Asperger Syndrome can have.


  1. Couldn't you simply answer "okay"? "Okay" implies your feelings could go either way from that point in time, which seems like it would be accurate for every situation. You could always feel worse, and you could always feel better. Would that not be 100% accurate?

    Also, Caden is right about your answer. You can't "be" doing. You are doing "something." So from now on try to answer with "I'm doing okay!"

  2. This question gets me in a knot too. I usually answer with, for example: "Well, at this very minute I'm very tired, but my mood is okay... But in general, over the day, I've been feeling alright actually."
    This captures both the feelings of now and in the past. But it usually still gets people confused and thinking 'I didn't ask for your life story..."

    The weird thing is, I do sometimes use the sentence myself. But I can tell you what my definition of 'how are you?' is. It's right that very minute. If I ask it, I seriously want to know what your state of mind is in that very minute. This is because I have trouble sometimes reading somebody's feelings, so I simply ask for it. I rarely ask 'how are you doing?' just to be polite.
    I always think 'don't ask that if you're not actually interested in how I'm doing at the moment'. So yes, I do actually wonder how you are feeling at that very minute when I ask that. So even 'tired' or 'sad' or 'nervous' or even 'neutral' is a good answer to me.
    So if I ever accidentally ask you that question, at least now you know what I'm actually asking for. I'm even fine with it if the response is 'what do you mean? Right now, or...? And my health, or my mood?' and then I'll explain (I usually mean your mood at this very minute).

    I've been brought up with the sentence 'don't do to others what you don't want done to you' and that's how I always live. So it's fine if someone needs to ask for what I mean, since I need that myself sometimes too. It's only fair.

  3. Aaron, that was so good - you made me smile. It must be frustrating for somone who says what he means and means exactly what he says to live in a planet where we definitely DON'T mean exactly wat we say, and we don't necessarily want to know the REAL answer to the questions we ask. Just relax - there are only a few significant persons that need to know how you doing, the rest you can fob off with the expected "I'm doin' great, how about you?" - You don't really need to know how they doing either, but convention says you should ask!

  4. Aaron, it seems your nephew is entering the age of the typical teenage know-it-all. You can expect to hear him provide all the answers to how everything should be done until he has children of his own. Then he may start appreciating all the adults who have put up with him for the past couple decades. It's too bad we can't send these brilliant young minds to Congress where surely they could solve all our country's problems. In the meantime, rest assured that when someone walks into a pizza place, although a common greeting is "How ya doing" or "How's it going" and anything short response which will get you on to the business at hand which you both really care about is acceptable. As for how he looked at you, your nephew will eventually figure out that many people have perplexed looks and it often has nothing to do with who they are looking at. The thought behind the perplexed look could've been anything from, "I wonder what this guy wants on his pizza" to "I wonder who may girlfriend is hanging out with tonight." It's impossible to say, and it doesn't really matter.

    Warmest Regards,


  5. I liked your response! I myself have said exactly the same thing when asked "how you doin?". "I'm doing" is simply a contemporary response like "waz up","you chillin", "how's life?", it really was just fine to answer that way.I see my son struggle with a response as well, he has finely decided to answer with a nod of his head and a simple "good, thanks." It works for him. Whatever works for you is okay.
    I'm happy with "I'm doin." : >

  6. Had to chuckle, because my husband--nobody ever heard of autism spectrum when we were growing up--usually gives way too much information in answer to that question. A secretary once said, "Ask him what time it is, and he tells you how to build a watch." He's done better since I gave him a script to follow. I usually answer that question with an enthusiastic, "Peachy keen." Doesn't matter if it's true--it makes other people feel good.

  7. Your nephew is actually right. In some questions, you don't need 100% correct answer. If you miss a thing or two, it's no big deal. People may not know that. The only person who knows that is you.