The Social Exchange

You normal people take a lot of things for granted. For example: the ability to have a normal conversation with a waiter in a restaurant without feeling like a complete idiot.

My family went out to dinner last night, and we had a great time. The food was good, we had fun, and service was very nice. The only problem I had was the waiter kept going “off script.”

You see, ever since i was a kid I’ve been watching the interaction between my parents and the waiters of the restaurants we went to. During all of these visits, my Aspie brain crafted a specific “script” that I usually try to stick to when conversing with the waiter. I expect certain questions and I can have the answers ready in advance in order to make everything run smoothly through dinner. But when a question comes from off script, I don’t know what to say.

It’s usually when a waiter makes a friendly remark about something other than the meal, or when he or she asks a vague question. Last night, the waiter asked “Should I leave that, or are you finished?” My brain immediately sees the following problems with the question:

1) I’m not 100% sure who he is talking to. Is he talking to my wife, in which case if I answer I will be interrupting? Or is he talking to me, in which case if I don’t answer I look like I’m not paying attention?

2) I’m not sure which plate he’s talking about. We had salad and appetizer plates in front of us. I was done with the salad but not the appetizer. How am I supposed to answer for him to take one plate but leave the other?

3) It’s a double question. Does “Yes” mean I’m still eating, or that he should take the plate? I don’t even know how to answer this question!

So you see, my brain is stuck figuring out how to answer the question in order to get the result I want, rather than just answering the question. My wife, of course, jumps in and answers right away because she’s normal. She doesn’t have to do all of these calculations in her brain before coming to a conclusion. It’s just natural for her.

So next time you are ordering from the drive-thru and need to make a last second change to your order, or a customer assistance operator asks you for an unexpected piece of information, take a moment to enjoy the fact that you don’t have to go through the work that my brain does in order to come up with the “correct” answer.

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Posted on October 19, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. And you've thought through all 3 of those options in the same time an NT would take before responding… difference is, we've thought through those options and still don't know how to react… while the NT has likely just thought through one thing but understands the correct response and can then respond.

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