Sunday, November 21, 2004

I went to Seattle this weekend. However, if you're expecting jokes about Starbucks and flannel, then you will be sorely disappointed. I won't stoop to that level. There's nothing but self-flagellation and dick jokes here (generally not in the same sentence (and, suprisingly, not at all in this post)). I aim high.

A good friend of mine moved to Seattle a few years ago and his wife was throwing him a surprise 40th birthday party on Saturday night. Having planned and thrown one of those myself this year, I was inclined to support this endeavor. Plus, good friends are hard to come by these days. When I was a kid, making friends was easy. My daughter is the same way. I can plop her down next to almost any other five year-old, and they'll quickly find something in common:

Other Kid Whose Is Not Yet A Friend: I have to pee.
My Kid: Me too!!
New Friend: (squeals of delight)

Boom, insta-friend. These days friends are harder to make for me.

Other Guy: ....
Me: ....

If you read between the lines, you'll note subtle differences between the two cases above. So, it's not surprising that I've probably only made one new friend in the last half-dozen years. I've probably lost a few due to lapses in communication. Anyway, boohoo for me, but the point is that I'll happily travel to Seattle to celebrate a 40th birthday.

The party was pretty fun. I saw some friends I hadn't seen in years and I met some folks that I had heard about many times, but never seen before. I did an ok job of socializing, but mingling at parties is not my forte. I'll happily chat up anyone that comes my way, but the art of approaching a group of people and inserting myself into the conversation eludes me.

I read this book recently, which was written primarily from the point of view of an autistic man. I was struck by how much I had in common with this man. We both have similar issues with understanding common social signals, relying instead on very literal interpretations of what people say.

I raised this topic with a coworker, commenting on how the book made me feel slightly autistic. I explained how the main character and I both had an issue with correctly interpreting people's intentions. For example, someone asked me a while ago if I'd "like to give them a ride home." Stupidly, I took the question literally, thinking they were curious to know if I WANTED to drive them home. I said, "Nope," completely misunderstanding that this was their polite way of asking for a ride home.

My coworker listened to my explanation and said, "It's not that you can't see past the literal interpretations, it's that you just don't bother to take context into account."

"Oh," I said, "So, it's not that I'm autistic, it's that I'm an asshole."

"Yes!" he replied, a little too quickly.

But I digress. The party went fine and I managed to mingle a little bit. The best part of the party was watching two little kids, one three year-old and one four year-old, flopping around in a little bounce-house with an overly affectionate cocker spaniel puppy. You mix kids, puppies, and bouncing, and you've got the recipe for Norman Rockwell freakin' cuteness. Just add paint.


Tasty said...

I'm now a LARGE fan of the phrase "Norman Rockwell freakin' cuteness."

Being really literal isn't entirely bad: it probably makes you an excellent programmer. It is, however, difficult to make friends based on the need to urinate if you don't back up just a tiny bit to see more of the context. :-)

Tasty said...

I forgot to mention my jealousy of your trek to Seattle. My verybestfriend lives there, and I miss him mucho!

Mike said...

Hey, if my friends are peeing, I definitely do NOT need to back up and get more context. They're on their own.