People often ask me "So... what's it actually like to have Asperger's? What effect does it have on how you view the world?"
Try to imagine this....
You're taking a flight to a favourite part of the country to meet up with some friends for a nice, relaxing holiday. However, because of a terrible mix up at the airport, you end up on the wrong plane and are flown instead to a foreign country that you've never been to before. This disruption to your plans is bad enough... but then it gets worse.
When you get off the plane, you try to explain to the airport officials what has happened and that you need to fly back again. They don't really understand you because they don't speak your language. But they manage to find an interpreter, who also happens to be the only person in the country at that time who does speak your language. The interpreter understands your situation, but explains to you that you will not be able to leave this country again without the correct visa, and you will have to wait several days to get this. So, you are stranded there for the time being. The interpreter gets you checked into a nearby hotel. But then, before you can find out anything more from him, he is called away urgently and you never see him again.
So, you are now on your own.
Your room is okay. But the walls are very thin, and you can hear everything from adjacent rooms. Strange music playing loudly. People shouting at one another constantly - and in a language you don't understand. On top of this, you are unable to switch off the light completely, and it remains on - though dim - throughout the night. The bed, too, is hard and uncomfortable, with coarse sheets. Naturally, you don't sleep very well.
Next day, you go out to do some shopping. The streets are very crowded and noisy, and everyone seems to be talking to one another and either ignoring you or looking at you strangely, because you obviously seem 'foreign'. You get jostled a lot, and somehow feel it is your fault for not making way to others. You find it hard to tell much from people's facial expressions because they don't change much - almost like they are wearing masks. You do see an occasional smile, though, when someone laughs, or a frown when they are angry. There isn't much in between. Apart, again, from those strange looks you get, which you interpret as people thinking you're 'odd' in some way.
You go into a food shop, and the shopkeeper looks at you and puts his middle finger up to you, without smiling. You are upset by this at first, until you notice that he is doing the same thing to the other customers who come into the shop, and they are all doing the same back to him. You realise this is a greeting, instead of the insult you know it to be. You feel uncomfortable using it, though, and impulse makes you raise your own hand and wave it, as you would at home when seeing someone you know. When the shopkeeper sees this, though, he becomes angry at you and chases you out of the shop.
You try another shop. This time you greet the shopkeeper with your middle finger gesture. But he completely ignores it and looks away. You take a basket and get all the shopping you need, then you go to the counter to pay. When your turn comes, though, someone else comes in and gets served ahead of you. Then it happens again. The shopkeeper knows you are waiting, but continues to serve these other people ahead of you. You begin to feel like you are in a Wetherspoon's at home! After a while, you notice that these other customers are greeting the shopkeeper with the middle finger gesture and he is returning it. You try doing it yourself again - but again, he doesn't return it to you. Eventually, when there is no one else in the shop, you get served. Then, just as you are about to leave, the shopkeeper comes around the counter, puts his face right up close to yours, puts his hands over your ears and shouts something at you. Then he leaves you and goes back behind the counter, as if nothing had happened.
Out in the street, you are once again jostled by the crowds. Everyone seems to be shouting. You notice there are small groups of people - perhaps eight or nine in each group - gathering at certain places as if looking at or discussing something interesting. You go over to one of the groups to see what's happening. But instantly, the other group members give you strange looks, then turn their backs to you. They start jabbering to one another in their own language and you hear laughter. You aren't sure if they're making fun of you, or just sharing a joke. A couple of them pass you fleeting glances, like they might be briefly interested in you, but otherwise you are ignored.
You walk along a bit further and a woman comes up to you and appears to be asking you a question, though you can't really make out what she wants. She pokes her tongue out at you, then laughs, then holds out her hand as if for you to shake it. At last! you think. Someone (in spite of putting their tongue out at you) is trying to be friendly. You put your own hand out to shake hers... but she snatches her own hand back, then turns and walks away again. Some other people in the crowd have seen this and they all begin to either chuckle or grumble at you.
By the time you get back to your hotel room, you are exhausted with all the noise and confusion. You are relieved to shut the door behind you and finally relax. You make yourself a drink and are just about to sit down with it when there is a knock at the door. You open it to find four people standing outside. Without asking you, they simply walk past you into your room, sit down in your chairs, and proceed to chat to one another without acknowledging you in any way. You try, in the best way you can - using gestures that you know - asking them to leave again. But they simply ignore you. They remain there for most of the rest of the morning. Then three of them leave. The remaining one takes out his phone and spends another hour talking on it in a very loud voice - and in a different language to the one you have been hearing up until now. When he has finished, he also gets up and leaves. As he does so, he doesn't look at you or speak to you. When he has gone, you lock the door behind him, draw the blinds closed on the window, then go to bed for the rest of the day.
That night, you sleep badly again. As well as all the usual distractions and disturbances, your head is also a mess of confusions. You run through the day and try to figure out all of the things that have happened...
Why did the first shopkeeper chase you away when you waved at him?
Why did the second shopkeeper not acknowledge what you had come to understand as the right way of greeting people?
Why did he acknowledge it with other people?
Why did he do what he did when you came to leave the shop?
Why did the group ignore you?
Why did the woman approach you as if to be friendly, then walk away again?
Why did those people come into your room, invading your privacy, and behave as if you weren't there?
The same word bounces around in your head all night long: Why?
Next morning, feeling even more exhausted than you did the day before, you venture out again - a little more nervously and cautiously this time, though. The streets are the same - crowded, noisy, with little groups of people here and there. People are either ignoring you or giving you that funny look again. Another person - a man this time - comes up to you smiling and makes what seems to be friendly gestures. But then, as soon as you try to reciprocate, he does what that woman did the day before, and he walks away.
You go into a café to get something for breakfast. When the waiter comes to your table, you are about to raise your middle finger, when he turns suddenly, bends over and wiggles his ass at you! Then he stands up and faces you again, as if nothing had happened, and waits for your order. You cannot make sense of the menu, but you see someone on an adjacent table tucking into a plate of eggs and bacon. You point to that plate... but the waiter ignores you. So you stand up and walk over to the adjacent table and point again at the plate of eggs and bacon. The waiter watches this... then smiles broadly, nods his head and goes off to the kitchen. When he returns, he has the chef with him. The chef takes one of your arms, the waiter takes the other, and they gently and slowly escort you back out into the street. Then they both raise their right legs, slap their right knees with their left hands, and go back in.
You work your way back through the crowds, desperately confused, and return to your hotel. When you get there, you raise your middle finger to the receptionist as you go past. He, though, ignores this. Instead, he comes out from behind the desk, turns and bends over, wiggles his ass at you, then goes back behind the desk as if nothing had happened.
You go straight to your room, lock the door, pull the blinds down, make yourself something to eat, then go to bed again. Throughout the day, people are knocking at the door. You ignore it. Once again, you lay awake that night and run the events of the day through your head. Once again, that question keeps coming up: Why?
Next morning, now totally exhausted and fraught with anxiety, you decide to stay in. But you realise that you are now low on food again, so you take a trip to the shop where you bought your things on the first day. On the way there, things are the same: crowds, people giving you odd looks or ignoring you, people jostling you, small groups of people who turn their backs on you. Loud voices. Laughter. Shouts. Language and gestures that you don't understand.
At the shop, you aren't sure whether to greet the shopkeeper with a middle finger gesture, or by turning around, bending over, and wiggling your ass at him. You are about to raise your middle finger... when he raises his hand, waves it at you, and smiles...
Imagine that happening, over and over, for the rest of your life.
Now you've got some idea of what it's like to be an Aspie!
© Kevin Marman 2018