Three-Year-Old Mistake: A Cautionary Tale of Vehicular Repairs Gone Awry

When I started the process to replace all of the carpet in my Porsche, I hoped for an uneventful project even though, deep down, I knew that no project involving a vehicle goes smoothly. Originally all the carpet and seats were tan, but I replaced the front seats with black leather ones. Then I got a parts car with burgundy carpet and saved all of it, and finally acquired a set of black rear seats.

At first it did go well. I stripped out everything from the front seats back, and the new carpet fit almost perfectly. After a long and exhausting three hours spent hunched inside a tiny car, kneeling in gravel, and bending over for extended periods of time, the sun went down and I closed it up to be finished the next day. When I shut the driver’s door, there was an unusual snap, and a clatter. I tried the handle and it wouldn’t open. Tried the inside handle, still no luck. Of course, I knew exactly what had happened, but I was really, really hoping that I was wrong. I left it to be dealt with later.

I came back to it the next day, finished reattaching seat belts and other little things, and then sat and stared at the firmly latched door.

The stubborn door that faced me with defiance as tough as steel (i.e. a broken latch)

At this point I was stumped. I knew what was wrong, but the nature of its wrongness precluded a straightforward solution. Since sitting there staring dumbly at a door will not, in fact, cause it to open, I started by removing the interior trim panel as much as I could and poking at the latch mechanism inside the door. None of my aimless prodding or prying did any good. So I shut the passenger door so it just latched, but not tightly, and noticed I could see the latch through the gap.

The passenger door that doesn’t have stubbornness issues. I think it likes me better because I never slam it or take it apart and poke at its innards.

When I removed the weather stripping from the driver’s door jamb, I could see about the same amount of the latch. The next step was to see if there was any way to trip the latch through that crack. I opened the passenger door and found that pressing down on this little prong of metal below the latch piece will make it open.

The latch that opens.

Armed with this knowledge and a long screwdriver, I assaulted the crack in the driver’s door. Due to the angle, however, the screwdriver couldn’t reach where I needed it to go. So I raided my brother’s closet, found a hangar with a sturdy wire hook, and made this beautiful piece of failure.

A squiggly wire thing that didn’t work.

After another stretch of time that could’ve been half an hour or two hours, I resorted to whimpering and repeatedly pulling the latch release as if my pitiful desperation would make it miraculously work. I also had periodic fits of rage during which I tried kicking the door, pounded on it with my bare palm until the sheet metal dented, and accidentally caused damage to the interior panel.

I have to replace it anyway because it’s mostly tan.

Why did they make this out of cardboard? Why?

When I reached a point where I was about ready to drive my car off a cliff and perish with it, I took a break to post on Porsche forums asking for help, and eat pizza. Somewhat calmed, I went back to the demonic car and stared at the door for a little while. Then I did some more random stabbing and poking. A flood of desperation surged through my body, increasing my IQ while simultaneously granting me almost superhuman strength. I grabbed the screwdriver, shoved it into the gap, and wrenched it sideways to bend both the car and the screwdriver.

I bent my car! But don’t worry, that’s just a flange that the weather stripping goes on. I bent it back and everything’s great.

Screwdrivers are surprisingly difficult to bend.

I turned my properly curved screwdriver around, stabbed it violently into the general vicinity of the latch, and pried. And pried. Within seconds the latch came free and the rebellious door finally opened. I removed the latch and sure enough, my suspicions were correct.

How the latch is not supposed to look.

How the latch IS supposed to look.

More than three years ago, I had to replace my driver’s door entirely because I was too sleepy one icy morning and while backing up my driveway with the door open so I could see, a tree grabbed it and wrenched it to an unnatural (90 degree) angle. When I tried to remove the latch from my old door, one of the bolts was too corroded and stripped out. I ended up having to use a metal saw to cut through the bolt. In the process, that little peg, so small and yet so very important, was cut halfway through. I briefly tested its strength, and then filled the cut part with JB Weld and installed it.

My mistake held up for three years of constant use, and I stopped worrying about it until I heard that dreadful snap. Fortunately I had a perfectly good latch from my parts car so once I got the door open, it was a two-minute fix.

Let’s Hate Everything Outside Our Little Boxes!

The level of outrage over Coca-Cola’s America is Beautiful commercial sickens me. From an artistic point of view, it is fantastic. The message is fantastic. It is all around a really good piece of advertising.

Let me first say that I don’t care about Coca-Cola. I rarely consume soft drinks, and I am generally ambivalent toward large corporations. They’re after money. The most effective way to get it is to make people feel good about supporting them. Nothing wrong with that–they have to advertise in order to stay in business and keep their employees employed–but I’m not going to become blindly enamored with a company just because their ad appeals to my soul. My liking this commercial will not make me drink more Coke.

However, I will defend it, not for Coke, but for the people it represents. I have seen comments stating that English is the official language of America. Not true. We do not have an official national language, and barely more than half of our states have made English their official language. English is from England. To those who say that people who want to speak other languages should go back to their own countries, the Native American in me kind of wants to say: Go back to England if you want to speak English.

Not really, though, because English is the only language I know. And more importantly, because I welcome other nationalities and languages. Which is what the commercial is about (besides selling Coke).

Some people were upset at our “anthem” being sung in other languages. One, America the Beautiful is not our national anthem. It’s just a song about America. Two, almost 40 percent of Americans are from non-European nationalities, and there are plenty of Europeans who don’t speak English as well, so in fact most Americans come from non-English speaking backgrounds. People who are legally in this country have every right to speak whatever language they want to. It’s called freedom. Someday maybe we’ll actually practice what we preach, instead of overrunning the real Americans with our delusions of European superiority, cramming everyone into stereotyped boxes, and hating those who are different. (You know what’s funny? America is named after an Italian guy. Who probably spoke Italian.)

Some people have commented that it was sung “mostly in Spanish” and sends a message to all our illegal Mexican immigrants that they’re welcome here. For one, I may not be able to name the other languages in it but I’m pretty sure there was a whole lot more than just Spanish and English. Two, there are far more legal immigrants and first-generation Spanish speaking Americans than there are illegals, so it is ridiculous to assume it is saying “coming here illegally is great!”

I think the message is that “coming here is great”, because supposedly we appreciate diversity. Well, not according to the extreme closed-minded conservatives whose simplistic view of the world boils down to “white English Republican good, Hispanic Spanish Democrat bad.” Congratulations on pushing me even farther away from your politics. Everyone who hates that commercial because of the reasons I mentioned is every bit as intolerant as they are always accusing the liberals of being.

At risk of sounding like a hippie–or maybe I should just embrace my inner hippie–make love, not war.

No Secrets

I wrote this story in thirty minutes, following a writing prompt.

———————————————–

He walked into the sitting room, where she sat spinning wool on her wheel.

“Hello Jeffrey,” she said.

Something about that hello sounded wrong. But it was just a hello. Most of them sounded wrong.

“Hello yourself,” he said. “How is the spinning today?”

“Very well.”

Her curt answer made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

“Have you been out?” he asked.

“No, I was here all day. I made you some cookies.”

A peace offering. Something was definitely wrong.

“I think I will take a shower now,” he said.

“Have fun.”

Jeffrey pondered how he would have fun in the shower. He wasn’t a man given to having fun in general, and showers were more of a chore to him than something that could be had fun with.

“Dang it,” he said. “That conniving woman has got me preoccupied with having fun so I won’t think about what’s going on behind my back. I won’t be tricked that easily.”

As the shower warmed, he stood in front of the mirror, admiring his hairy chest and shapely pectoral muscles. The girls had always appreciated his shapes and manly hair. He never thought much of it, though. That was what girls did. The fact that they did it to him seemed of little consequence.

After a short shower he walked into his bedroom in a robe and poked through his closet for something hideous to wear. If he came out looking horrible and she didn’t say anything, then he could be pretty sure something was going on.

He picked an old amorphous green shirt from his rebellious period in the sixties and paired it with orange plaid pants. With a grin at his hideous reflection in the mirror, he left the bedroom and went in search of his conniving spouse.

She was in the kitchen, making hot chocolate.

“Is that for with the cookies?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Very nice.”

She looked at him, raised one eyebrow, and returned to stirring the pot.

“What do you feel like doing tonight?” he asked.

“Probably sleeping.”

“That sounds boring. I thought we could put on a sappy movie and cuddle on the couch.”

“I’m too tired to stay up.”

Very suspicious. He consumed the cookies and hot chocolate, wondering if they’d been poisoned. Afterward he began to feel a bit nauseous and feared he was right, and was about to call 911, when his stomach growled and the burrito he had for lunch announced its presence in his digestive system.

So he hadn’t been poisoned. Yet. She had something up her sleeve, though. Her very short, pretty sleeve.

He left her in the sitting room and went back to the bedroom. The bed, immaculately arranged, glared at him. On the side table, a fancy alarm clock shaped like an eagle counted the seconds.

“Since when do we have an eagle alarm clock, dear?”

“It came in the mail today,” she replied from the other room. “Do you like it?”

He sat on the bed and picked it up, turning it over in his hands. Must have been expensive. Why did she order it without asking him? Sure, he liked it, but she had always consulted with him before spending more than a few dollars on an unneeded purchase.

Jeffrey decided he would have to talk to her now. He had to tell her. This secret couldn’t remain hidden much longer. The frost growing on his relationship couldn’t be ignored.

He set the clock down and sighed. Better sooner than later.

Back in the sitting room, she smiled up at him as he sat on the couch opposite her. He looked closely and noted that her hands trembled, fingers tapping whenever they weren’t occupied. She blinked twice every four and a half seconds.

“Lana, we need to talk.”

“Yeah.” She continued spinning and looked away from him.

“Sometimes people keep secrets, because they’re afraid of hurting the people they care about.”

She didn’t reply.

“Do you know what I’m talking about?”

A tear rolled down her cheek and dropped from her chin. “I’m sorry, Jeffrey.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me right away and get it over with?”

“I didn’t want to upset your plans.”

“I thought we agreed to always share our plans. No secrets.”

The spinning wheel stopped. “You make your own plans and I go along with them. How exactly are we sharing them? I feel like you’re jerking me around.”

Jeffrey frowned. He thought she liked his plans. Well, the ones she knew about at least. They had a good life the past three years together. He had a good job, and recently came into an unexpectedly large sum of money.

“Are you talking about our planned tour of Europe?” he asked. “Did you not want to go?”

“Oh, I did, I really did. But I can’t anymore. And all the other plans, some of them I like, some I don’t. And now things have changed and we just can’t go through with what we planned to do, like we hoped.”

He leaned back. Maybe this would be easier than he thought. “I have a secret too,” he said. “I’ve been meaning to tell you. I suppose now that we both have these secrets, it’ll come out easier and we can finish with them and move on.”

She stared at him, and sniffled.

“I love you, Lana. Really I do. But lately I’ve been realizing some things about myself, and I’ve been lying to myself, and you, without knowing it.”

“What does that mean? What are you talking about?”

He took a deep breath. “I met a guy at work. We get along great, and the manager put us together on a team because we get so much done together. So I’ve been spending a lot of time with him, going out for beer after work and talking, and we’ve decided to leave the company and become partners.”

“Oh, really? What business are you starting?”

“A small freelance music business. I won’t bore you with the details. It’ll take long hours, lots of time invested to build up our client base. We’ll start small, with elevator music and the like, and work up from there.”

She relaxed and smiled. “Oh. That’s good. That’s really good. I mean, maybe not the long hours, but doing your own thing, doing what you love. That’s important.”

“Yes. It is. That’s why I have to leave you. Dave and I aren’t just going to be business partners. That’s where I’ve been lying to myself and to you. I like being with you, but I…well, I’m gay.”

She gasped, her smile vanished, and she bit her lip.

“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, but I have to follow what I love. I care about you but I don’t belong here. This isn’t the right life for me.”

Lana stared, her face stricken with disbelief. Her mouth opened but no sound came out.

“What’s the matter?” he asked. “I thought you didn’t want to be with me anymore. I thought you found someone else.”

“No.” Her voice came out thin and strained. “No.”

“Then what’s the matter? Did you just change your mind? What about your secret?”

“Jeffrey, I’m pregnant.”

The Desert

Tumbleweeds blew past me and I tasted the air. It carried the flavor of dirt and sand and grittiness.

“The wind is blowing,” said the man. He had the air of someone who knows what he is talking about.

“So it is,” I replied.

We walked into the wind and it blew and our eyes dried. The water was far away and we needed it. We did not need the sand and the wind, or tumbleweeds, but we had them, so we ignored them and continued on our way to the water.

The man did not need a rattlesnake bite, either, but he got one, so I continued toward the water on my own. Far ahead there was a blurry butte that jutted into the shimmering sky. The cries of vultures echoed over the land. Behind me, the cries of the man also echoed.

“I’m your guide,” he said. “You need me.”

Water is what I need. People are two-thirds water. I turned back.

“You need to suck the poison out of the wound,” the man told me when I got back. “I can’t reach it.”

I was thirsty, so I did.

“Don’t swallow,” he said.

“Is swallowing bad?”

“You will get poison in you and die.”

I spat in the sand and scrubbed my tongue with a piece of tumbleweed. “Goodbye,” I said. “I am going to the water.”

He found a stick and limped. Later he observed, “I am going to die.” And then he did. The vultures came down and I took the man’s stick and continued without him.

I saw water at the base of the butte so I walked faster. I fell down three times and then the water was gone.

“Hallucinations,” I muttered.

The man’s stick kept me from falling over and from leaning on cacti when I got too exhausted to walk. I leaned on a cactus earlier in the day and the man had to pull spines out of my hand. I was not hallucinating when that happened. When I was hallucinating, the cacti looked fuzzier and even more huggable.

“Remember, don’t hug the cactus,” I said every time I passed one.

They had such eager arms though. Not the straight ones. The straight ones didn’t look so huggable. The tall gay ones with two arms did.

There was a rushing sound and I listened. It sounded like water so I walked toward it. My feet got wet and I looked down at the river I found by accident. I was not hallucinating this time so I flung myself headlong into the water and swallowed it in great gulps.

Then I crawled out and got stung by a scorpion. It was small and either deadly or not. The only way I could tell if it was deadly is if I died. So I waited, but I did not die.

Shades of yellow and orange colored the horizon in the west. The river ran west so I walked that way with the setting sun ahead of me and the water to my right. I stopped walking that way when the river turned into a very high waterfall because if I kept walking I would die. I sat at the edge and rested. The sun went down and I fell asleep.

When I woke up it was morning and a woman with blue hair stood by me. “You look lost,” she said.

“I am.”

She sighed. “Do you have a cigarette?”

“No I don’t. Are you also lost?”

“I just want a cigarette.”

“Because you’re lost?”

She sighed again. “Yes.”

“I’ve read survival guides and they always say to follow the river downhill if you are lost.”

“I did, that’s how I found you.”

“We need to find a way down the cliff.”

“I know a way,” she said.

“Good. Let’s go.”

She jumped over the edge and fell to the rocks far below. The vultures came again and I walked south along the cliff, alone, and I wished I had a cigarette.

My feet got sore but I kept walking. I walked until I found a road. I sat by it and waited but no cars came, so I got up and walked along the road.

A car came at last and it stopped and a man got out. He stared at me and I stared at him.

“I’m lost,” I said.

He sighed. “So am I.”

“At least you have a car. Do you have water too?”

“I do but I don’t have much gas.”

“There must be a town nearby. I was in a town before I went out into the desert and got lost.”

“Yes, but I don’t know which way.”

I looked both ways. Neither of them looked any more likely.

“Have you seen a woman with blue hair?” he asked. “She’s my wife.”

“I met her. She asked me for a cigarette and jumped off a cliff.”

He sighed again. “I was afraid she might. Climb in and I’ll take you back to the town. If we can find the town.”

I got in the car and he drove, and we didn’t talk. He drove until the car sputtered and stopped. It was dark when that happened. He tried to start the car again but it didn’t work.

“Sleep well,” he said, and leaned his seat back.

I did not sleep well. The man snored and I had an ache in my back. When dawn came I got out of the car and walked a distance away to relieve myself.

I heard the truck coming and I tried to hurry. Someone needed to wave at the trucker to make him stop and rescue us. I hoped the man in the car would wake up and do it.

Before I finished there was a very loud crash and then silence. I walked back to the road where the truck had smashed into the car. The man in the car was dead and so was the truck driver. The engine of the truck was still running so I pulled the driver out and drove away. I watched the vultures in the rearview mirror until I was too far to see them.

The truck driver had cigarettes in his truck so I smoked one. I passed a sign that said there was a large city sixty miles ahead. So I drove sixty more miles. I found the airport and bought a ticket to fly home.

The hunting trip had been long and strange and unrewarding. I was glad to get home and sit at my desk and write. I thought I could make a good story out of my trip, but I was wrong. I wrote it and sent it to my editor. He wrote back and said, “Matt, you should not try to imitate Hemingway. You should write in your own style. This story is crap.”

I did not cry even though I wanted to. I drank some whiskey and told my editor he should write drunk and edit sober, not the other way around.

He quit and I found a new editor who doesn’t care what I write. I like him better but I’m not sure what I’m paying him for.

Fred’s Suicidal Pet Frog

Darkness fills my heart, and I welcome it, because I have no one to lighten my spirits. I am alone. Of course, one can expect to be alone when one is a pet frog who resides in an opaque terrarium with nothing for company but a flat rock. Flat rocks are not known for their feelings.

What is the meaning of life? The question torments me. Day after day I swim, I eat bugs, I stick to the wall of my terrarium. But my only apparent purpose is to be the plaything of Fred. To sit complacently in his chubby hand, lest I should be squeezed for making an attempt at escape.

Oh, Fred…the monster that plucked me from my slimy abode in the Green Pond, where I contributed to the future of my species by having sex. Fred is merely a child, but is ignorance any excuse for the forcible imprisonment of another creature? And the more pressing question—is he nothing but a dumb beast who I can plot to poison with a clear conscience, in order to regain my freedom? Or is he like me, a rational, thinking being with clinical depression and a need for companionship?

What is life, anyway? Maybe I am dead already, merely a puppet animated by a mystical force, to play out his great story of…pain and loneliness?

My toes are losing feeling. I fear that my body is shutting down. The isolation and my unstable mental condition must be killing me with stress, one cell at a time. Oh, but there is Fred, he has left my habitat out in the snow while he was playing. That explains the numbness and the layer of ice developing on my tiny swimming pool. He takes me inside and I warm back up. Feeling returns to my toes.

I wish he would leave me out there, if he will not release me. It would be better to freeze solid and depart this world than live to an old age in this cage.

Winter goes on, and food becomes scarce. Occasionally Fred drops into my box-shaped world a piece of putrid flesh of some massive creature that has been ground into a pulp. At first I ignore the bloody blobs, too weak to care, but then I think; what if they clog up my digestive system and kill me? That would be a mercy, so I eat one.

Sadly it goes through just fine and even gives me energy.

I think I have seasonal depression.

In the spring, life still flows through my veins, against all odds, though I have lost so much weight I began to wonder if I would waste away until I finally died. But just as I had resigned myself to the fate of starvation, Fred gave me a feast of maggots, and my animal instincts took over so that I couldn’t help but gorge myself.

The nights are warm now and Fred leaves his window open, and I can hear my brothers and sisters seducing each other and having sex. I miss the tadpoles, the clear night air, the freedom to croak as loud as I desire without being squeezed by Fred.

Time no longer has any meaning.

Winter comes again, with no warning, and this time Fred does leave me out in the snow. My swimming pool freezes solid, and so do I, bit by bit. When Fred finds me, I am stiff and lifeless, and he tosses me in the woods near my old pond.

I awaken with a gasp to the sound of raindrops, lying in a puddle of muddy water. This must be heaven.

I roll over and take a couple awkward hops. My emaciated body is the same as ever, so my soul must still be in it. But I thought I froze to death. I thought it was finally all over.

Still, here I am, in the woods, and looking around I see Fred’s house through the trees, and the tall pine that stands by my old home, the Green Pond.

A thrill energizes my skinny frog legs and I fling myself toward the pine tree. I splat awkwardly into a rock, but right myself and continue. Hop after hop takes me closer, and then at last, I come to the edge of the pond.

Ice floats in large chunks on the surface, and the air is silent save for the constant drip of rain. I watch and listen, but there are no signs of other frogs.

“Have you lost your way?”

I turn around. A winter wren stands nearby, her head bobbing up and down as she watches me.

“I don’t know,” I say. “Where are the other frogs?”

“At this time of year, sleeping in the muck at the bottom of the pond. You should be with them.”

“Sleeping?”

“Oh, you were that captive frog, weren’t you?” She sings a sad little tune. “How did you escape?”

“I think I died, but then I came back to life. Fred left me out in the snow, and I froze.”

She chirped. “You didn’t die. Fred must have thought you did, and threw you out. But you were sleeping, just like your family is now. When the cold weather comes, your bodies slow down, so you appear dead, but then the spring warmth wakens you. Not long now, and the others will wake up too.”

So I was saved by “death”. It seems so poetic, in a weird, twisted way. The wren wishes me well and goes about her business, and I find a rock to crawl under, to await the coming of spring and my new life. And sex. Won’t the other frogs be surprised to see me? I suppose I’m glad I didn’t die.

Some Ramblings About High-Functioning Autism

There are a lot of articles on the internet written to help neurotypical people understand the autistic ones, mainly those with Asperger’s or high functioning autism (terms that are pretty much synonymous.) Some of those articles are dead on, some are mostly accurate, some aren’t very helpful, and a few are just bad generalizations.

Since I am high-functioning autistic myself, and haven’t written much about it or represented it very well, I thought I would write an article consisting not of generalizations, but of real experiences from myself and people like me.

One thing that annoys me a lot is when someone says “I know this person who is autistic and they’re nothing like you.” For one, most of us on the high-functioning end of the spectrum work very hard in order to put on an act, so that we appear at least mostly normal. Two, you may be neurotypical but it’s still difficult for you to understand exactly how someone else thinks—that other person and I may be very similar in some ways that you wouldn’t notice because we’re trying so hard to act normal. And finally, saying that you don’t think someone is autistic because they don’t act like another autistic person is like me saying I don’t think you’re neurotypical because you don’t act like all the other neurotypical people I know.

Autistic people are every bit as unique and varied as you “normal people”. In fact, I believe autism is just one part of a spectrum of personality types. Many people have some autistic traits without being autistic.

It seems that a lot of people don’t realize autism is a spectrum. Just like introversion and extroversion. Not every introvert is the same. Some are much more introverted than others. And everyone deals with it differently.

Another thing I’ve heard a lot is that we’re either considered amazing geniuses, or dumb social klutzes. In some cases both are true. What is important to realize is that just like anyone else, we have strengths and weaknesses. But in our case, many times those strengths and weaknesses are both exaggerated.

One of my autistic friends said “a majority of people with Asperger’s have one intellectual/sensory skill that’s more developed than “normal” people’s. Mine is the ability to understand and interpret language, spoken or written, on a higher level than 90% of people my age.”

What this means is that we can at times seem incredibly smart, and other times unbelievably dumb, which confuses people. They seem to think that just because I have an unusually strong memory, started Calculus at age 14, and have written over 1.5 million words and self-published eight books, that I should be able to tell the difference between a condescending smile and a supportive smile.

While my logical intelligence may be very high, my emotional intelligence is extremely low. To me there are five emotions: happy, sad, angry, afraid, and blank. A smile means happy. I see no difference between different types of smiles.

In fact, I hardly see smiles at all. A common issue for autistic people is what’s referred to as face-blindness. It means that not only is it difficult for us to interpret facial expressions, we don’t even naturally notice faces, and trying to do so requires so much concentration that it is distracting and often causes more trouble than it’s worth. Which makes sense, if you think about it. Blind people don’t focus their energy on trying to see things.

This also goes for tone of voice and body language. I won’t see it unless it is very obvious.

Most of us are hypersensitive. To emotional, sensory, or mental stimulus. Contrary to popular belief, no matter how distant we might seem, we generally feel emotions very intensely. The problem is that we don’t understand them, and have trouble connecting them to anything else, so they tend to stay hidden.

Sensory hypersensitivity is not actually part of the autism diagnosis, but is very common in autistic people. The main one that bothers me a lot is sound. It’s called low latent inhibition—my mind can hardly filter out any background noise, which means I have to consciously sort through everything I hear. When there is too much noise, my brain simply freezes or starts shutting down, much as you’d expect a computer to if you run far more processes than it can do at once.

We can’t just deal with overstimulation. I’ve been told to “just figure out how to not let it bother you”, in regard to noise. What people don’t understand is that the best solution to an overstimulating environment is to leave it. But that doesn’t seem to be acceptable. Tell me, if you were getting heat stroke, is it smart to just keep working out in the sun and mentally try to not let it bother you?

It’s basically the same thing. Overstimulation causes a physical reaction to something that the brain cannot deal with. If we could just deal with it, then it wouldn’t actually be overstimulation. Isn’t it obvious that when your environment is becoming harmful to you, the smart thing to do is leave that environment? Looking down on someone or rejecting them because they can’t handle as much noise or social interaction as you can is stupid. It’s like if I belittled someone for not having written sixteen novels.

On the positive side, my unavoidable ability to hear almost everything allows me to observe and absorb far more than normal people would. I take in, understand, and retain knowledge at a much higher rate. I find ideas for stories constantly without even looking for them. I can play the piano while listening to two conversations, and even turn around and contribute to those conversations. After living my whole life with this, I’ve managed to learn how to mentally handle thinking about several things at the same time.

I cannot, however, just stop hearing things I don’t want to hear, or stop getting overwhelmed when it’s too much. So while with experience I can learn to use the hypersensitivity to my advantage, it’s still there and I’ll still get overstimulated by too much noise.

Emotional hypersensitivity is another thing entirely. Recent scientific studies have shown that in young autistic people, the amygdala is generally more active. For those not acquainted with brain science, the amygdala is involved with the fight-or-flight response, flooding your body with adrenaline when faced with danger, and storing traumatic memories. When something, either real danger or perceived, triggers this response, the cortex (used for rational thinking and decision making) is suppressed. And if this response is triggered too much, the brain can actually start to rewire itself to be triggered more and more easily.

This is how PTSD starts. A major trauma causes such an extreme fear reaction that simply seeing something associated with the trauma can trigger it again. Since autistic people are triggered more easily to begin with, it’s been theorized that everyday life for an autistic person can cause an effect on the brain that is neurologically identical to experiencing serious trauma. Which would explain why many PTSD symptoms are very similar to those of autism.

It also explains why a lot of high-functioning autistic people, after being burned in one relationship, may never pursue another. Of course this depends on the person, because we all handle things differently. But being abandoned once is traumatic enough to cause panic attacks whenever I’m faced with anything associated with that experience.

A few other pet peeves I have are:

  • Being asked “How is it going?” All I want to say is “What is “it” and where is it going?”
  • Being told “most people do it this way.” I’m not most people, I’m not even like most people…why would I want to do things the way most people do?
  • People talking to me when I’m overstimulated or trying to fight off a panic attack, and getting upset when I’m unable to respond. Of course, often they have no idea what’s going on so they just think I’m being rude, which is understandable. A little benefit of the doubt would be nice, though.
  • “Good morning.” If it really is a good morning, I’m intelligent enough to notice. Saying good morning is useless and annoying, especially since I’m trying very hard to function like a normal person in the morning and not responding to good mornings is considered rude. Why isn’t it rude to talk to someone who doesn’t want to be talked to?

Finally, here are a few generalizations that are actually helpful:

  • Don’t think of an autistic person as someone with an illness. Our minds just work differently, and that’s okay.
  • Just because an autistic person isn’t talking does not mean their mind isn’t working correctly. Nonverbal does not equal brain-damaged.
  • Be patient. We process things and go through life at a slower pace than most people.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you want me to get you some water, don’t tell me you’re thirsty—ask me to get you some water. We can be annoyingly literal sometimes.
  • If you expect me to say something in response to you, ask me a question. Statements give me information. Questions invite response. I generally don’t speak unless I have to.
  • Keep your promises. Don’t make promises you aren’t reasonably sure you can keep. Promises mean you will do it, and at least to me, no amount of logic for why you should break a promise is a reasonable explanation for breaking it.
  • Lying can destroy trust forever. If you say one thing is true, and I act on that, and then a year later you say the opposite and claim what you said at first wasn’t true or that you didn’t say it (for whatever reason), I may never be able to trust anything you say again.
  • Many of us are better at communicating with written words than speaking. Considering that we either ignore or misunderstand nonverbal communication a lot, and are often uncomfortable with eye contact (or the opposite—staring intensely), it seems that a lot of difficulties could be lessened if “normal” people were willing to communicate with written words.
  • We can be very resistant to change. Moving across the country, in fact, can be legitimately traumatic. In a chaotic world, routines and familiarity are things that help us survive. Take those away, and it can take a long time to accept the change and adjust.

There are annoying things about being autistic. There are good things about it too. It’s another way of being, and thinking, that doesn’t need to be fixed any more than introversion needs to be fixed. It’s part of me and I wouldn’t give it up for being “normal”.

Kindle Book Sale – June 5-12

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I’m participating in a big indie book sale! 39 books, including mine, are all on sale for 99¢ from June 5-12.

In addition to getting lots of great books for just 99¢ each, you can enter for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card from this giveaway on Rafflecopter. Spread the word and enjoy your summer reading!

Here are the books in the sale:

By Luke Alistar

By Kendra E. Ardnek

By Katie Lynn Daniels

By Molly Evangeline

By Ophelia – Marie Flowers

By Elisabeth Grace Foley

By Jennifer Freitag

By Jessica Greyson

By Aubrey Hansen

By Sarah Holman

By Abigail J. Hartman

By Holy Worlds

By Rebekah Jones

By Elizabeth Kaiser

By Jacob Lauser

By J. Grace Pennington

By Jordan Smith