Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The accidental desk move

I was needing to move desk at my work from one building to another.  Luckily, this happened over the summer holiday, so I had plenty of time to organise it.  I thought to myself: "How wonderful if the janitors could do the actual moving when I'm on my summer holiday, as then I will come back and everything will be ready in the other building.  That will be so lovely and efficient.  I'll come back from my holiday and be able to start work straight away."

I tried really hard to give a very clear explanation of what was to move.  I made some phone calls.  I wrote an e-mail, entitled "Desk Move", which included a bullet pointed list of things to be moved.  I also stuck post-it notes on every item to be moved.  I also took an A4 sheet of paper and listed everything to be moved, and selotaped this to the desk.  The contents of my e-mail described moving a lot of stuff, but not the actual desk - I don't remember if I explicitly stated "do not move the desk" but I think I did.  On the selotaped A4 sheet of paper, along with what was actually moving, I had definitely explicitly stated that the desk itself does not move.

One of my colleagues saw my e-mail, and misunderstood that I wanted the desk to be moved.  I said no, the desk wasn't moving, just its contents, and I thought no more about it.  I then went off on my lovely holiday, feeling very pleased with myself that I'd been thorough and very clear about the desk move.

A week later, I return to work in the new building, to find the desk that I didn't want moved was up-ended in the middle of the room (taking up the entire free floor space) because it's a very small room with already two desks in it and in which there is no possible room for a third desk.  I barely recognise the office, can hardly see my actual desk and there is general chaos, as although I'd asked for these to be moved, I cannot see my phone or my computer or anything else that I'd asked to be moved - they certainly weren't on my desk.  I feel totally confused and uncertain of what's gone wrong and have a mini freakout about the weird look of this office that I was totally not expecting, before calming down and dealing with the situation.  When I calm down, I discover that my computer, phone and the rest of my stuff is there in a black bin bag, and I go back to the janitors, and say that I'm terribly sorry but there's been a misunderstanding and could they please take back this extra desk?  The desk chair that I'd asked to be moved hadn't been moved, but I realised I could use the lifts and my arm power on the stairs and I wheeled this down the street myself, so I didn't bother them with that.

I tell my colleague, in some disbelief, about what an extraordinary occurance had happened.  

She says: "Ah, yes, I did tell you about your e-mail before, Debi," and I remembered her having thought that I'd meant for the desk to be moved.  

I am feeling safe with this person, so I respond instantly with exactly what I am thinking without editing myself: "Oh yes, I do remember you thinking I meant to move the desk, but I thought I'd been perfectly clear and that you were weird for misunderstanding!"

Luckily, my colleague is very lovely and very understanding of me in particular, and does not take offence!  I then go on to ask what was wrong with my e-mail, and she explains that people don't always read the detail in e-mails, but they see the header, and I'd put "desk move" as the header.  By that, what I'd meant to do was describe the generic process - I was having a desk move - rather than literally saying that the desk should move.  I am a detail-orientated person, and don't always realise that some people will only skim-read my e-mails, which often go on a bit.  

I'm feeling astonished to find that I hadn't been as clear as I'd thought, and I do like to learn from these things.

I then ask, in total innocence: "Well, I was having a desk move - what on earth should I have said?"

She replies:  "You should have just asked them to move some boxes of stuff, because that is, in fact, what they had to do."

I gawk in some embarrassment for not having thought of that.  Oh...right.  Got it.  Next time I will know to say: "please move some stuff".

Making a lasting impression on an estate agent

Whilst in the process of selling my flat, I needed an estate agent.  I went to see quite a few, had wee chats with each of them, got quotes and then decided on the one I wanted.

I then went back to see my chosen estate agent.  Now, I'm not very good at recognising people or remembering people who I've only met once or twice, or even people who I've met a lot of times but very infrequently.  So, I don't really expect other people to be able to remember me from one brief meeting either.  However, sometimes I don't quite realise that I've accidentally been quite memorable.

When I walked back in, my estate agent remembered me instantly, and greeted me with:

"Ah yes, aren't you the girl who wants to sell your flat and buy a house so that you can get a cat and a trampoline?"

Even though I should probably be more aware by now, I keep forgetting that I sometimes stand out from the crowd!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Experiments in small talk

I walk into an office one day where I haven't been for a while.  Two staff are there, and they greet me warmly.  One of them is changing a printer cartridge.  After chattering away in my usual style for a bit, the conversation falls quiet.  I remember that part of good conversation is asking how others are, rather than always talking about myself.  I try to make small talk. 

Me:  "So, how are things going around here?"

Staff 1:  "Well, if you shake the cartridge, you can sometimes get a little more ink out."

Me (being used to misunderstandings and not really thinking anything of it):  "Oh, I meant how are things going in general, not specifically with the printer cartridge."

Loud guffaw from the other room as Staff 2 struggles to control herself and not fall off her chair!

THINK of people's sensibilities!

I've recently sold my flat and bought a house.  It was quite a palaver and I'm so glad that it's over now!  The first task was to make my flat into a position where it looked attractive enough for someone to want to buy it.  This involved a fair bit of decorating.  This also involve me learning how to tidy up, and how to present a flat in a condition that a buyer would expect to see it.

But I have never, ever lived in a condition that a buyer would expect to see!

I worked really hard on my tidying.  I also remembered a kind offer made ages ago from A, one of the staff at my local autism centre, to come and help me tidy and organise my flat.  I called her to take her up on this offer.  A came round, and I proudly presented my tidied kitchen, saying that I'd already finished this room.  She promptly got out a notepad and started making a list of all the things that still needed to be done in it!

Her list went something like this:

1.  Debi, your ironing board is not a banana table.  You need to fold this up after use, and not leave it lying around as an extra table top surface.
2.  The kitchen chairs need to be around the kitchen table, instead of all over the kitchen.
3.  The rocking chair belongs in the bedroom, not the kitchen.
4.  Stop using your window sill to collect all your dirty dishes for days on end.  Wash up after every meal.
5.  After you've washed up, put your dishes away, instead of leaving them on the draining board.
6.  You need to get a light shade for this light.
7.  Your possessions need to go into drawers and cupboards and not be strewn about on every horizontal surface and the floor.
8.  Your empty wine bottles should not be sitting on the work surface (I used them to dry plastic bags on) and should be recycled.
9.  Your tea towel and hand towel go on the hooks, not draped over the back of a chair.
10.  You need to remove all your pictures, quotes and sayings that you've blu-tacked onto all your cabinets.

And that was just the kitchen!  Another, similar, list followed for the bedroom.  After two rooms' worth of lists, I felt like I was getting the main points, and would manage to apply the principles throughout my flat.  I was very glad that I'd called for the help in this matter that I didn't think I needed!

But the funniest thing was just before A left, she used my bathroom.  She came out of there, and said:

"Debi, one last thing, your tampons need to be in a drawer and not on display - THINK of people's sensibilities!"

Ah, right...  I had not at all thought of people's sensibilities!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

An accidental combination

One day, at work, I glanced down at myself and discovered that I was wearing:

grey shoes;
cream socks;
bright blue tights;
a burgundy velvet long skirt from the charity shop;
a green top;
a blue scarf;
a purple cardigan;
a green necklace;
green glasses; and
hair, short and sticking up at all angles because I had washed it the night before and then slept on it (and I'd forgotten to use my hairbrush that morning).

A look created much more be inattention than by design!  I must look absolutely mad, and I'm sure none of it actually goes with any of the rest of it. But luckily I work at a university and could probably pass it off as art.

Dressing well is really very difficult.  I don't have a very good sense of what clothes go with other clothes, or what clothes would go well with my own shape and colouring.  A good technique I have recently discovered is to go into a shop and find a mannequin that I like the look of.  I then go and find everything that the mannequin is wearing and try it on.

Adventures in therapy

I had another CBT appointment– thankfully not many more to go. My therapist and I just cannot understand each other and get into these circular arguments. As an aspie, I am looking for clear, concrete, tangible and literal advice that I can follow. As a therapist, she is determined not to advise me in any way. A typical discussion goes something like this:

Therapist:  "So, what things help you to feel less anxious that you are not presently doing?".
Me:  "Uh, yoga, I guess.  Getting rid of the tension in my body also gets rid of some of it in my brain."
Therapist:  "Oh, that's interesting."
Me:  "So, you think I should do some more yoga then?"
Therapist:  "I'm not saying that!  I am not here to provide solutions!  All solutions must come from you!"

I am left bemused and frustrated and wondering what I am doing seeing the therapist, as clearly, if I could solve my own problems, I may as well be sitting in my house not seeing her.

Today, I’ve decided to find this funny and I giggled all the way through my appointment. The therapist told me I was clearly happy about something. I said I wasn’t happy; just amused at how we couldn’t understand each other. The therapist says there wasn’t anything particularly unusual in having communication problems between herself and her clients. Was that meant to be reassuring?!? She doesn’t know anything about autism and is relying on me, the person with the supposed communication disability, to keep her right. She is also strangely at peace with her lack of knowledge and doesn’t seem to see the need for her to learn anything about autism before seeing me. I find this quite disturbing. It was a relief to get home. These appointments are enough to make anyone anxious and sad. I think things will be better once these appointments stop.

"This is Debi, she's sociable..."

I went to use a public facility with two friends.  My friends asked for a special part of the facility to be roped off for their use, due to their being on the spectrum, and this was agreed.  However, I got introduced as: "This is Debi, she's sociable, so she'll be the other side of the line!"  I have never been introduced in that way before and I thought it was hilarious!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

To iron or not to iron, that is the question

I've never been a big fan of ironing.  I do it when I have to, but mostly, I just don't do it.  This is a topic where everyone has their own ideas and standards.  Someone once told me:

"If you iron your clothes, you might pass as a support worker and get into swimming for free!"

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Adventures with porridge

Once upon a time, I injured my leg and could not longer cycle to work.  I could go by bus instead, or walk, but both of these options take 15 minutes longer.  So I have the problem of how to save 15 minutes in the morning.  I could get up earlier.  But I quickly disregarded that solution!  I then realised that I spend 15 minutes in the morning eating my porridge, so if I could eat en-route, then I wouldn't need to get up any earlier.

Now, I'm very intelligent and a keen observer, and not too shoddy at generalising.  I'd noticed that people sometimes eat crisps and chocolate on public transport.  So, I decide to begin a new habit of taking my porridge, complete with ceramic bowl and spoon, on to the bus.

One bus driver was laughing so hard at my porridge bowl that he refused to take my money and just waved me onto the bus.  I couldn't understand why he wasn't letting me pay, but my flatmate grabbed my arm and told me it was because of the porridge and that I didn't need to pay!

Another bus driver, on a different day, refused to let me on his bus at all.  He looked at me and my bowl, exclaimed loudly "This is public transport!", closed the door and drove off.  What did he think, that I was going to smear my porridge all over his bus?  I got on the next bus.  

From these experiences, I learned that porridge on the bus was not considered normal, but I still kept doing it because I didn't want to get up any earlier.  That was much more important to me than appearing "normal".

Another day, I walked into my workplace for a tutorial, still carrying the porridge bowl.  My tutor looked at me, with some concern, and said: "Oh, you want to be careful with that in case people think you're eccentric!"  I just laughed and said that I thought the ship had already sailed on that one!

The strangeness of strangers

I'm talking to a bus driver, trying to figure out where to get off a bus on a road that I know, in a city I've lived in for many years.  I have a strong, clear, English accent, and I'm dressed in my best impression of normal.  A stranger comes up behind me as I get off the bus and asks:

"Are you Polish?" 

I reply:  

"No, I'm autistic."

The secret of younger-looking skin

Me with 7-year old.

7-year old: "How old are you?"

Me: "I'm 35".

7-year old: "Gosh, I thought you were much younger."

Me: "Yes, most people think I'm younger than I am. Do you know why that is?"

7-year old: "No."

Me: "It's because I've got autism. Most autistic people look younger than their actual age."

7-year old. "Oh. I thought it was because you wear loads of make-up."

Me, looking incredulous: "I'm not wearing any make-up!"