Thursday, 26 February 2015

A Little Less Converstion

Aspergers, yesterday
 Like many of the things that happen to me, I guess a lot of it's my own fault. Having an Autistic Spectrum Disorder is probably the biggest cross I have to bear (to use an uncharacteristic religious metaphor), not least because of the fact I don't look outwardly abnormal.  Apart from the shirts, of course, but that's another story.

Just something for you to bear in mind if you think my actions in the following post to be unusual, wrong, or just plain incomprehensible.


I'll admit it. I get bored easily.  If I'm left to my own devices for a couple of days, I start to go downhill rapidly.  I can criticise my job for being irritating, but there's always something that needs doing. (I've been behind for a year, and will probably never catch up - I believe this is called "efficiency").  You're never bored, put it that way.

So if I have little else to do, I go down the pub.  If nothing else, it provides both mild intoxication and mild stimulation.  I don't like it when it's too crowded, so I'm thankful my days off are Sunday and Monday.  I've found that if you go to the same places often enough. the staff and customers start to recognise and remember you.  Presumably, this even happens to those people whose appearance is less outre than mine.

I generally sit at the bar.  As I'm typically at a pub on my own, I don't see the point of cluttering up a table for two or four that's surplus to my requirements.  Eventually, especially at quiet times, you may find yourself having to make conversation with the bar staff.

This can be a bit awkward at times.  Bar staff these days are, if not students (and they usually are) , quite young and into the usual young people stuff.  As anyone who's met me will tell you, my conversational skills are not the best, and I've discovered the major skill you need to get by is the ability to feign knowledge and interest in subjects that, quite frankly, you don't give a shit about.  Usually gaming or TV, I've found.

The long term staff in craft beer bars, however, usually take the job because of enthusiasm and knowledge (though sadly, that enthusiasm only lasts as long as it takes to get to their first Friday night shift, when everyone orders Peroni and Rekorderlig).  Which is fine.  I can talk about that.  But mostly they talk about their own issues with relationships, Uni work, and "going out".  And, of course, their increasingly futile efforts to balance all three.

Now, the problem with talking about personal issues with other people is you start to imagine you're "close" to them.  This is a dangerous path.  I'm naturally reticent in public, myself.  I see no reason to keep secrets, but I keep them anyway.  The less people know about me, the better.  Other people don't abide by this, I've found.  They will pretty much tell you anything with the right questions and the right mood.  They don't mean anything by this.  In fact, you will often learn more details about someone by being a random pub customer than being their best friend.  Say anything.  They don't know who you are.  And you'll be gone soon, anyway.

In the old days, this wasn't a problem.  What happens in the pub, stays in the pub.  But in the last few years, Social Media has raised its disruptive head.  Unfortunately, it's not been around long enough for people to figure out the exact etiquette that you need for it to be really useful and, most importantly, appropriate.

The problem is,  Social Media can be used in many ways.  What's appropriate for one person may not be appropriate for another.  But that's the thing.  In Social Media, they will come into contact with one another.


Imagine the situation.  You're a regular in a pub, and a new member of staff starts.  And there's one of those aforementioned boring days when you're the only other person there for a couple of hours.  You can only order so many drinks in this time, so naturally you have to talk.

This new member of staff is 21.  People this age have never known life without Social Media.  They add people to their Facebook friends lists on the flimsiest of pretexts.   And today, you're the one.

And because you're socially inept (if you weren't, would you have been in the pub on your own?), you assume they like you, rather than simply obeying the socially-conditioned reflexes as far as the internet in 2014 goes.  They're a member of the the bar staff at a pub you probably spend at least 10 hours a week in.  Of course you'll come into contact regularly.

The mistake you make here is you think they're actually your friend.  They're not.  They only talk to you because they're bored and want to sell more drinks to you.
Another average day on Social Media
Now, imagine this member of staff is female and has a fiance.  You know this, and don't flirt with them, even if you knew how (which you don't).  You restrict your communication online to Facebook PMs (which she starts because, as I said, she's bored at work), and the odd photo tag.  You're safe with this, right?  After all, she's the person who takes the piss out of you because she thinks you fancy another member of the staff.

Who can possibly misconstrue?  Well, you soon learn people can.  Even on the most minimal of evidence.  One day, this member of staff tells you in the pub, in possibly the most offhand manner she can muster, that her fiance thinks you're interested in her sexually because you've tagged her in a few Facebook posts over the last four months.

To say you're shocked is an understatement.  You thought you were being careful, but it turns out you weren't being careful enough.  You have enough experience of distressing situations to be able to keep your shit together long enough for you to drink up and leave.  The really upsetting thing is not the fact that you've been falsely accused of something on no evidence whatsoever, but the fact that she doesn't seem bothered.  She just wants you to "tone it down a little".  From what, you don't know.  As you haven't done anything.

After that, you know you can never go back to that pub again.

If you do, there will always be suspicion.  Is this barmaid's fiance suspecting you of stalking, or of being some kind of pervert who isn't put off by obvious signals?  Could these suspicions be disseminated from the internet, the poisoned well from which they emerged?  Who knows?  All that you know is that you have to protect yourself, because nobody else will do it for you.

You ask the manager of the pub in question about this.  He says that while you've not done anything wrong, this barmaid wants to keep her relationship with her fiance, and her job at that.  So, he implies, you don't need to come here for a while do you?  After all, you've often said that the beer at a place closer to you is better and cheaper?

And so, through no fault of your own, you find yourself thrown under a bus because it makes other people's lives easier.  Do they care?  No, because it's easier for them not to.  Do you care?  Yes, but your opinion and feelings aren't important.

In one go, you've pretty much lost three-quarters of your acquaintances and social life.  You'll survive this, as you know you've survived many worse things before.  But you'd rather not have had to.

You carry on.  What else could you do?  You convince yourself it was always going to end badly because you exceeded your capabilities.  You doubt anyone down the pub misses you.  Neither you nor the place was as important to them as it was to you.

Beer is cheaper at the shop anyway.


Social Media is a minefield.  It's so new that the brains of those who were adults during the times of its invention have not been able to evolve fast enough to deal with its possibilities.  Imagine everything you ever said always being heard by everyone you know?  That's what Social Media is.  If you're not careful,  you can pretty much destroy your entire life with a few careless key-presses.  That's doesn't happen with a few rash words down the pub.

Life's lessons come harsh.  At times, very harsh.  If I'd worked all this out at an earlier age, it would have been much easier.  Though I often ask myself what possible difference it could have made.  The weird, probably autistic guy is easier to destroy than anyone else.  Who cares if his life is ruined?  He probably never had one anyway.

I've learned my lesson.  I hope other people don't have to learn it the same way I did.

With thanks to Karl Wiseman, Yvan Seth, and Joanne Mills.


  1. Sorry to be picky, but you seem to have got your fonts all mixed up there.

  2. Something went wrong in the numerous copy/pastes I did. Typed it all out again physically into Blogger, so should work now.

  3. I think this is a brave post. I'm sorry you had that experience.

    My own automatic response had I been you would have been to immediately, loudly and publicly told this woman that you were defriending her on FB/all social media because you're not interested in her bullshit drama. I would never have even considered mentioning it to her boss, because it's not even near that level of significance. Had this woman not been content with that response, I'd have followed it up with an assurance that we'd only ever have professional (staff/customer) interactions henceforth. If she still wasn't happy with that, I'd be getting her boss involved because now she is the one creating the problem. In fact, this could be a great learning experience for the not yet grown up 21 year old.

    I was born in 1977 so I remember the time before mobile phones and the internet. I've been active in online communitIes since the late 1990's. What I find is that people whose first online interaction is on social media don't always know where to draw the line-up in many ways. The most trusting people, the most oversharing people, the most horribly abusive people, they are almost always the ones who've not done their time in moderated forums where there are rules about how to behave and what you can and can't post. So they often go too far. Sad, but I don't know what the solution to that is in all honesty.


  4. I completely understand - it's always difficult having any kind of social relationship with people of the opposite sex when their partners are eager to seize any evidence of flirting. The only female friends I have are other men's partners.