Monday, 31 August 2009

Are you a terrorist?

The company I have got a new job with sent me a raft of instructions, documents and forms to fill in and I have to admit I've been putting off dealing with it. Not only is my natural procrastination kicking in, but flicking through it there is so much information they want me to supply that I knew it wouldn't just be ticking some boxes and signing my name. It is things like this that cause my Asperger's Syndrome (AS) to really raise my anxiety levels.

First task was to see all the documents I had to send them as proof of my identity. Ideally they wanted a passport but mine has expired, but they would also accept a copy of my birth certificate plus a signed photo. I already had some spare passport photos from when I last needed them so that wasn't a problem. So on Saturday I took my birth certificate plus a bank statement plus my phone bill somewhere I could get them photocopied.

Second task was filling in all of the various forms which I did tonight. They wanted to know all of the address I had stayed at for the last five years and my dates of residence. Do people actually know this stuff? Is this something that normal people keep track of? I suddenly felt like a very incompetent librarian. To find my old address I enlisted the help of Amazon. I've been using it forever and it keeps its own address book of places you have had items dispatched to. So from that I could find out my old addresses. But the dates? I don't even know the date I moved into my current address…however again the internet came to my aid. Whenever I move into a new place I like to take pictures of anything that is damaged or worn so they can't claim I did it. I take these pictures digitally but have them printed off and sent to me on-line, so I logged in to the site I use (PhotoBox) and viewed by past transactions and from that found a rough date that I moved in. For the rest I just made up dates :)

They also wanted to know about my past employment and references for three years but luckily I have been at my current job for three years so that was easier than it might have been.

As the company does some work for the government I needed to complete a government security questionnaire which needed details of my parents. Details that any normal son really should know…but alas I had to phone my parents to find out information such as their middle names, towns of birth, dates of birth etc. Thankfully they were in so I could get this thing done and dusted, and thankfully it was my dad who answered. He is quite pragmatic about these things and understands the importance of measuring twice but cutting once. Had my mother answered she would just lecture me on the fact that I don't know her middle name or her birthday. She would then have given me the wrong birth date so she could continue the lie about her real age and knowing my luck her name and fake date of birth would correspond to Osama bin Laden's sister.

As well as those things there were the usual questions where they wanted explicit assurance that I had never tried to overthrow a government and did not associate with saboteurs. I also lied a few times too but when it comes to job forms people with AS always have a decision to make about how honest they should be. I know…in theory everyone should be 100% honest at all times, but I feel that as my AS doesn't too adversely affect me at work that it isn't too bad that I don't admit to having it. I say "don't admit to having it" but I really mean "lie about not having a disability".

Anyway, it's all done now so I'll get it sent off tomorrow and hopefully I haven't missed anything out or messed anything up. To give you an idea how inefficient these forms are here is a summary of the number of times I had to supply each piece of information;

Name x 7
Signature x 4
Date of Birth x 5
Place of birth x 3
Current Address x 4
Old Addresses x 2

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Five, six, pick up chicks

I've been watching a series on yoof television called "The Pickup Artist" which is a show where experts from the "seduction community" (can you believe they've actually given what they do a name?) tutor life's losers in the art of picking up women. Tools of their trade include a raft of TLAs, hyperbolic terminology, pseudo-philosophy and armchair psychology.

The gist is that you lie and pretend you're someone you're not in order to get girls interested in you. Now I'm not sure if the seduction community have gotten as far as solving the mysteries of what happens when she finds out you're just a lying user, but it's fascinating television nonetheless.

Fascinating as there are elements of truth in it. Truth in as much as some of it is common sense, and some does seem to work some of the time. But also some truths I've always wondered about myself. One element of how attracted a woman is to you, and receptive to being "picked up", is a concept they call your "social value". This is a term for your value to others as a social entity. For example if a certain quality of people are seen to be your friends, and you're seen to be at the centre of the group you obviously have a high social value, so if you are of value to others there is a chance you will also be of value to the girl. This perception of social value is something that assures a woman that you are worthy of her time and company, and that your social value may even rub off onto her.

Tricks used to give you a sense of social value were to make sure you were always with a group of male friends, preferably with a "wing man" whose job it is to make you look better and give the impression that you have an elevated position in the group. Other tricks were when approaching a group of girls you say something like "I can only stay for a few minutes as I have to get back to my friends." Again this demonstrates that you are a valuable member of your group so are desirable social companion. The concept of high social value also encompasses dressing well and being well groomed.

Reflecting on my own life where I never keep up with what is trendy and go everywhere and do everything alone my social value is probably transparent. Maybe this is a reason people with Asperger's can be in a room full of people yet feel like they just don't exist. A reason why my plate is empty.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The future's bright

On the way to the pub I remembered that when I was young the streetlights were orange as it was better for cutting through the fog. This gave everything a surreal, monochrome look. The orange glow painted everything, coating all surfaces. Nowadays streetlights are a more natural white and the pub I was heading for is a long way and out of town, but it is by the coast and has a balcony that overlooks the beach. It is the only pub I know of where you can be surrounded by people, but stood on that balcony, looking out across the sea, it's like you're completely alone.

I get to the pub and ascend into the sea of people. Their combined heat making the room feel like a sauna, their lungs working together to rob it of oxygen. Grasping a beer I fight through the crowd like a diver fighting to surface…through the double doors I stand on the balcony and the cool air brushes my face, oxygen fills my lungs. Down on the beach some teenagers amass and play, the orange light from their mobile phones, a prerequisite to the flash, dances across the sand as I close my eyes and truly, truly, smile.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Moving down

All routine has gone. Every day is now different in some way. Recently I've been really good and I've been using positivity to stitch my routine together. Monday to Friday is drink free and at the gym. A few drinks at the weekend and then my usual weekend routine. Sober on Sunday ready for Monday. Cleaning, tidying up, shopping, cooking…it all fell into place.

Now I've realised that I wasn't using positivity to stitch my routine together. The positivity came from my routine. My routine harboured and fostered it, teased it to grow and flourish. Now I don't know what the days will bring. Interrogation from co-workers? From my boss about why I'm leaving? Being asked to interview my replacements at the last second? That's for starters…imagine all the new thoughts going on in my head?

Nothing is the same now and I'm yearning to get back to stability but now that routine has rent my positivity asunder I have no motivation for work, I'm not going to the gym, I'm drinking all the time. I know this is just a temporary blip, but I still don't like it.


I successfully negotiated almost two weeks off at the end of my current job with my boss. Now that he has my replacement in the bag I think he's feeling more relaxed about me leaving. Again I'm planning on what to do with my time off, and again I really would like to spend some time touring the country. Maybe spending a few days making my way back to my town of birth. See my parents along the way. Maybe catch up with some other people along the way. Maybe catch up with my "fling" that e-mailed me recently ;) Maybe hook up with all sorts of people on some whirlwind "you can only realistically deal with me for a day anyway" tour.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Moving on

I had my first job interview today, and got offered the job. The company was my second choice as my first one hadn't got back to me yet. Tonight I discovered that my first option had e-mailed me two days ago but it was in my spam folder. To be honest after speaking with the company that interviewed me today I was more interested in the job than I was before so I'm hoping that maybe God is trying to tell me something. At least I can always try the other firm if this one doesn't work out.

The interview itself was gruelling though, I felt like I'd done ten rounds with Mike Tyson by the time it was over. Before I even went for the interview I had to do an on-line test (I got in the 80th percentile). Before the interview started I had to do a written test. When the interviewers turned up I had even more questions to answer, code samples to diagnose and analyse and it was relentless. An hour and a half in total.

The people interviewing me were the lead developer and the HR manager. Now I'm not sure if this was part of the "test", but the HR manager (female) had quite a low-cut top so I had to be on my best behaviour with eyes at 12 O'Clock at all times. We were both sat at a massive desk with me at one side and her at the other. The jug of water was in the middle, some four feet from where either of us were sat. "Do you mind?" she said, gesturing toward the water. With that she leant right over toward me to reach for the jug of water while jugs of flesh fell and, for what seemed an eon, she poured a glass as I looked at the clock on the wall, the watch on my wrist, my shoes, the door, out of the window, at the pen on the desk…all the time screaming in my head "DON'T LOOK AT HER BREASTS!!!".

I think I got away with it.

It's at times like this people with Asperger's can feel their loneliest. I'm about to embark on a daunting new chapter in my life…but who do I tell? Who is there to congratulate me? To have a drink with me? No-one. I had a quiet drink by myself in my local while drunken old men played pool. Then I had another pint in another pub while pretty young things chatted around me. Then I got some takeaway food. Then I came home.

Go me.