It happened to me last night in fact. I was driving to the local main postal depo near Gloucester to pick up the Christmas presents my mother sent over from the USA. Great Britain loves to tax my Christmas presents so I had to pay £15 to pick them up. Awful, but that’s not my story here. I had been to this place several times before so I knew where it was, only this time, I was coming to it from a different direction and that is what confused me. Because it was unfamiliar, things got a little confusing and I went off the wrong exit at the round about. Fortunately, I was able to correct this and managed to get to the depo.
This has been the case a lot with me, especially since I have been living and driving in Britain. I can find the place I am looking for coming from one direction and it doesn’t matter if I have gone to that place 100 times, if I come in from the opposite direction, I can get confused and miss it. Even when I have an established landmark to help me identify that place, because that landmark is now on the left when it’s normally on the right, I can miss it. I think the reason this wasn’t such a problem with me in the USA was because most of the cities are planned on a nice, neat grid pattern so even if I do miss the street I am looking for, I can simply turn down the next one and go back. In Britain, this isn’t the case and if you miss your turn, you’re screwed. You may have to drive a couple of miles to get back to where you need to go. That anxiety also plays a part too.
The problem isn’t just with driving. Like many people with Asperger’s Syndrome, anything out of the ordinary can confuse me or make me forget stuff. If I go shopping and there’s a list and my wife says, “Can you get this as well?” I have to immediately write it on the list because if I don’t, when I get to the shop, I obediently follow the list and that item doesn’t get bought because it wasn’t on the list. It also happened the other evening when I read an excerpt of “He Was Weird” to a group of writers in a town fifteen miles away. I had read the same excerpt to my local group two months prior and I didn’t feel nervous at all but I was quite nervous when I read it a few nights ago. I am fairly sure that it was down to unfamiliar faces.
There is one notable experience of this for Mark in “He Was Weird.” It is early in the story when the boys are told to line up in alphabetical order of their surnames. Other boys push in front of him and he assumes because he is new, he goes at the end. After all, that’s what happened at his last school. Unfortunately for Mark, the teacher doesn’t agree and as usual, humiliates him in front of the class.
When I posted the question as to whether or not I have Asperger’s Syndrome, I got a lot of responses from friends on Facebook saying that I don’t need a label and how they like me as I am. Of course, I’m very grateful, even flattered by that. I am not looking for a label or something to blame any failures on. What I am doing is trying to dissect myself and put the findings out there for all to see. Because I am very much like Mark and I wouldn’t want what happens to him to happen to anyone else for I know what that’s like.