Aspie Moments: Peeking out from behind the mask

Last week I was at a workshop. Two dozen museum professionals and volunteers gathered to learn something new. It was a fairly relaxed setup with most of us seated around a big table with the speakers at the front giving Powerpoint presentations. On the side was a double hotplate with two coffee pots, and we were encouraged to help ourselves to a mugful. This we did, and then we got started. In the middle we had a lunchbreak. Then we continued. And that’s when I noticed that the coffee pots, now empty, were still sitting on the hotplates, which were still on. Empty pots. On a hotplate. Not good. Also, there was a label attached to the apparatus :”Please turn off after use”. Which clearly nobody had done.

So I sat there, staring at this hotplate, getting antsy. It’s not supposed to be on. It can’t be on. But nobody else has noticed. It’s probably fine. But no, it’s not. What do I do? I don’t want to draw attention to myself. But neither do I want to spend the next two hours fretting about the hotplate. So eventually I decided to risk annoyance and ridicule, got up, interrupted the speaker and said: “Sorry, I just want to turn the hotplate off.”

I don’t know if autism comes into this at all, apart from possibly the “noticing something no one else has noticed” bit. But it did feel like I had to let the mask slip for the moment, let my autistic self peek out and say something. The mask would have been pretending nothing is wrong, pretending I hadn’t noticed anything, like everyone else. The autistic self is the Me who gets worried about damage to the pots, the hotplate, and the breaking of the rules, which were clearly laid out by the label. I consciously decided to let my autistic self come out and go for it.

The result? No annoyance (or not that I noticed), no ridicule. Instead an ‘oh yes, we’d better do that’ from the speaker, and help from someone else who was closer to the switch and did the actual switching. I sat down again, and the workshop went on. Just like that. Perhaps one or two people thought I was being overly pedantic. But so what?

Sometimes things are not as terrible as you think they might be.

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5 thoughts on “Aspie Moments: Peeking out from behind the mask

Add yours

  1. We always seem to imagine the world will explode if we step out of line. At least, I do. I’ve learned that I have an ability to imagine catastrophic events, and that I don’t really matter that much in the grand scheme of things 😂
    Good for you for speaking out.👏 You saved yourself tons of stress by not just waiting it out.

    Liked by 4 people

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