Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beets Me!

People with AS seem to have a great deal of difficulty with small talk and casual conversation. It seems we either don't know what to say at all or whatever comes out of our mouth is deemed weird, strange or unusual. Mind you, it seems perfectly logical to us, but this logic seems to be lost on almost everyone else!

On my birthday in October, I purchased a vegetable juicer. I used to have one years ago, but, in time, it finally wore out and since my wife & I are poor, we just never seemed to have the extra money to buy another. My wife spotted the one we purchased on the clearance shelf of one of our two local grocery stores. They obviously wanted to unload it because they sold us a $70 juicer for a mere $25.

The very next day I went to the other grocery store -- it's only about 5 blocks from my house -- to purchase organic carrots and beets, so I could make my favorite juice. Alas, while they had oodles of carrots, not a beet could be found in the entire establishment! One of the checkers, Marie, informed me that she was sure more beets would arrive in the next day or two. Crestfallen, I returned home with the carrots and enjoyed a tall glass of carrot juice.

Two days later, I returned to the store. As I entered, Marie and Kim (another checker) were standing next to their registers talking. I nodded in their direction and asked, "Do you have beets?" I thought this was a proper question as a) this WAS a grocery store, b) Marie had previously indicated that beets should arrive about now and c) I had acknowledged their presence with a nod.

Both of them looked at me oddly. "That's a really strange question, Trey" said Marie. I obviously must have looked completely befuddled because Marie added, "Most people would say hello first or ask how we are. They wouldn't simply walk in off the street to ask 'Do you have any beets?'."

I asked Kim if she too thought my question was odd. She said that it was. I still don't consider it an odd question, but after discussing the oddness of my approach, I was able to ascertain that they did, in fact, have beets.

I made a mental note of this situation. A few days later I was having a bit of trouble remembering which aisle the olives are on. Seeing a different checker, Teresa, I made sure not to repeat my previous guffaw. I said hello and asked her how she was doing. With what sounded to me like irritation in her voice, she asked, "Do you need some help?" I told her I was looking for olives and she directed me to the proper aisle.

Maybe she wasn't irritated and I just thought she was or maybe she was annoyed. I'm not sure, but she didn't seem interested in telling me how she was doing.

So now, I'm completely befuddled. I ask a direct question and I'm faulted for not being generally friendly, yet when I try to play the role of the friendly shopper, it now seems that's being too friendly. All these two situations cause in me is to not want to talk to people at all since I seem incapable of figuring out what they might want from a conversation.


  1. I don't blame you for being befuddled. I'm befuddled just by reading this story and I don't even have AS. In the first case, I would say that those employees need to stop getting their shorts all up in a wad over things and not take what somebody does or doesn't say personally. In the second case...I dunno, maybe she was having a bad day, who knows.

    Sometimes there just ain't no splainin people....

  2. One is not the center of the universe. The actions of others are not always the result of one's own actions.

    Be yourself. Others will be others.

  3. It's good to know that not every social guffaw is due to my inability to read people. That said, this example is but one of thousands. There have been more times than I can count when my wife or a friend has pulled me aside to let me know that I what I just said in conversation was odd or I didn't react appropriately to what someone else said.

    It makes social interactions difficult when social interactions don't come naturally. I try to catalog these situations so as not to repeat them, but it seems I often pull out the wrong volume from my mental library at the wrong time!

  4. I, too, do not "read" people as well as my wife. She can nearly always tell more about a social situation than I, and she is almost always correct in her reading.

    It never gives me pause, however. I sail into the situation and react as I see it, expecting others to react to me as they see me. If I seem odd to others, I leave that perception to them. I am as I am and that's all I can be.

  5. Sorry to be commenting on an older post but I know what you are saying here. I had a cousin who was very well versed in social rules and I had none, she always corrected me and it kind of annoyed me. These people are saying we can't be who we are, we have to assimilate.

    I have noticed a habit of mine that I haven't really tried to correct. People will say ‘hi’, and I like ‘hi’, just ‘hi’ is good, it shows I’m friendly. But then they ask 'how are you?' and I don't like that question. They don't really want an answer, it's just an extension of ‘hi’, it is part of the ritual.

    Now my bad habit is that I say ‘fine’. And that is all I say, just ‘fine’. I totally don't think to answer in the proper ritualistic fashion and say ‘fine, how are you?’ I think it's because, as much as I love people and believe in fairness and love thy neighbor... I don't really care to hear they are ‘fine’. If I ask the question, it's because I actually want to know, and I guess I usually don't because I tend to never ask. Although I will sometimes tell them ‘I'm terrible actually, thanks for asking’. ;)

    It’s all about social ritual and conforming to the norm, and I just don’t do ‘norm’ all that well, I think you might have a similar affliction. You’re real and to the point. You’re in a grocery store, looking for beets and so it seems logical to me to not waste the time of an employee with some ritual that no one really cares about and so you ask “do you have beets?”

    The only correction I would suggest personally is to say “hi, do you have beets?” and you only have to add two letters ;)

    (I'll try not to comment on everyone of your older posts, but I'm enjoying reading them)

  6. Ya know, thinking about it, I rarely say hi. I usually launch into a question or a statement. Maybe I could try saying hi more often.


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