Sunday, 19 June 2011

Support International Taking Things Literally Day!

I have diagnosed myself with Asperger's Syndrome following a work training course at which I was informed that "you are the best authority on you". After some thought, I take this to mean that I am better qualified than the scores of professionals who have scratched their heads on my account over the decades, so Asperger's Syndrome it is.

Among other things, people with Asperger's tend to take things literally and often act accordingly. To be honest I was quite confused in the training: when I read the statement quoted above I wondered who "you" was (just one of you or all of you?), but when someone read it to me it made perfect sense. I think I've got it now. By the way: for "you" please read respectively "I" and "me", because, as well as being the best authority on me, I've decided that I'm also the best authority on "you" and I challenge you to do a damned thing about it.

Anyway, at that course I saw the light (it was hanging from the ceiling); I felt free at last (of cares, not of charge; I have my price); I dropped everything and got a grip of myself in front of everyone right there in that room (so the old fearful dream had come true after all!). No longer a bundle of neuroses, I decided to become a bundle of diagnoses, with Asperger's Syndrome just one of them.

Actually, I have prior experience of Asperger's Syndrome, acquired at some personal cost a few years back while driving a 16-stone rugby player to training. I'd foolishly exclaimed "F*ck me!" after another driver had failed to signal left before turning. More recently I was myself arrested for indecent exposure after someone drove into the back of me outside a car mechanic's garage which had a sign reading "Brake and Clutch Parts". And, as you'd have read in an earlier posting on this Blog - except that I have evidence that no one has ever read it - I'm bothered by road signs outside retirement homes that read "Danger, Old People", as if Alzheimer's were catching or they'd hollowed out their walking sticks as blow pipes and lie in wait among the rhodedendrons. Finally, we all know the old joke that illustrates why we with Asperger's get away with criminal behaviour less often than the rest of you:
Angry child: "I hate Daddy's guts!"
Aspergic mother: "Leave them on the side of the plate then."

Now as it happens there's already an International Asperger's Day in February each year. But taking things literally is only one aspect of the condition, and I have a further point to make. I want society to put what it sees as my disability to good use in cleaning itself up a bit, semantically speaking. I want nothing less than to restore meaning to expression before - in a world where we are all the best authority on everything - that vital link just doesn't really matter any more.

So I thought taking things literally could do with a day of its own as a kind of awareness raising exercise. And like all awareness raising exercises, which I am told are ten a penny although I have yet to find a shop that stocks them at any price, I don't feel bound by any particularly rigorous ethical protocols in doing so. I therefore want to start an International Taking Things Literally Day. Today, if you don't mind.

What does it require? Well, International Taking Things Literally Day is really very simple: On this day, whatever we all do or say must be a response to the literal meaning of what is communicated to us, verbally or in writing.

Here I should note that, in the interests of Health and Safety as well as what it has so comprehensively superseded, common sense, people aren't necessarily required to act upon what they hear or read. For example, if someone expresses surprise at something you say during a conversation, you won't have to throw stones at them or propinquitous corvids, but you will need to respond as if they'd requested it. So you might challenge the wisdom or effects of such actions, or check whether the magpie is a protected species, or ask whether other missiles would be acceptable if no stones are to hand, or whether your interlocutor is happy to sign a disclaimer of some kind in the presence of legal counsel before you set about them in the manner they have specified.

With this in mind, how, then, would you respond to the following 8 statements on this day? (I realise that the Germans among you will find this childishly easy but, as with everything else, please indulge the rest of us while we try to catch up with you.)
  1. (while gossiping, and upon passing on an allegation regarding a pregnant goat, an egg whisk and a well-known Manchester United footballer) - "Stone the crows!"
  2. (on holiday on the Sussex coast) - "Drop the kids off at Beachy Head and I'll pick them up later."
  3. (at the street market) - "Shall we say £15 the pair, Guv?"
  4. (in your boss's office for your annual appraisal, the morning after the firm's Christmas party) - "Now look, Simpson, you're going to have to pull your finger out and really get stuck in."
  5. (over coffee and brandy at an expensive restaurant) - "Darling, I'd love to but I've got a headache tonight."
  6. (on tapping an unsuspecting itinerant on the shoulder on a dark and foggy night) - "Holy Jesus!" (Thank you to J.P. Donleavy's The Onion Eaters for this one.)
  7. (on being spotted by a policeman upon one of the towers of Clifton suspension bridge) - "Come down off there this instant!"
  8. (at a cashpoint with a friend just before closing time on a Friday night) - "Damn thing's empty and I need money quick - can I touch you for £50?"

Or was it Dyspraxia? These diagnoses can be so - elusive.

    1 comment:

    1. I never knew anyone _less_ Asperger-y, so you'll have to do better than this, Roberts. Although I admit to being very fond of the phrase "propinquitous corvids".