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A chance encounter October 22, 2008

Posted by speakingaut in interaction, social.
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I think I met another autistic person on the way home from work.

I had just pressed the button to cross the street when I saw him. He was about halfway across the smaller cross street when I noticed something funny: this man was walking like I do. He was paying attention to each step he took, as if he’d lose his legs and feet if he lost awareness of them. For a moment I thought he might be drunk — I’ve been accosted before by security types who think I’m drunk because of the way I walk — but discounted that fairly quickly. He was too centered, too aware. Most people, when drunk, try to act sober, and I never felt that from him.

I might leave it at that — “Oh, he could have been autistic, but he’d probably just had a bit much to drink” — if not for what happened next.

He made it to my corner. Neither of us tried to make eye contact, but we both acknowledged the other in our own ways. (I smiled. He nodded.)

He stopped. It wasn’t a very fluid motion — more along the lines of “oh crap, I almost forgot my keys” than a premeditated stop — and spoke.

What exactly did he say?

Not “H’lo there.”

Not “Cold out tonight, isn’t it?”.

Not any of the small talk one might expect from a stranger on the street at 10:30 PM.

What did he say to me?

“Nice red coat.”

And then he started walking again. Didn’t even give me a chance to say “thank you.” (That would have been — was, since I said it anyway — the correct response, right?)

That’s what made it for me. The first ping on my aut-dar I’ve had in a long time.

Of course, we didn’t do the secret handshake, so I’ll never know for sure if he’s truly on the spectrum or if I’m just making stuff up.

(There really ought to be a secret handshake. That would make life so much easier.)

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Comments»

1. Osh - October 22, 2008

Evan has what you call “au-dar” as well. Once at the dentist he asked another mom if her son was autistic…that he could tell “because he was too”

The mom started to cry and said most people just look away and ignore her son. So we hung out in the waiting room and they played with blocks for a bit.

2. speakingaut - October 23, 2008

Osh: Have I mentioned how awesome (and how adorable) Evan is? Because he is.

3. frogger11758 - November 16, 2008

I walk that walk as well, and often use it to identify other potential auties.
One idea for a secret code Jim Sinclair proposed was gently rocking back and forth while flapping the hands at waist level just slightly. These are two obvious signs of autism, but most NTs wouldn’t notice or pick them up. I’ve used the tactic before to start a conversation, particularly with young aspies.


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