Work and Community

One of the things that is not so obvious to persons with aspergers is the fact that work is a place where social bonds are formed.  To someone with aspergers, work is, well, it’s work.  Most of us don’t see work as a place where we make friends.  If that happens, great, but we aren’t looking to get on the boss’ good side or anything.  C.S. Wyatt has figured this out as well and he frankly gets along better with robots than with humans:

People meet and date and form bonds at work. I don’t want that, generally. I want to work. Please! Let me work and leave me alone unless there is something I must do.

The only exception to this view was when my wife and I owned a bookstore. For some reason, I believe a bookstore should be different. A bookstore is like a shared living room. Books should bring people together and be discussed. You know its a good bookstore when employees stick around to drink tea and play games. But, we all know what has happened to bookstores.

I miss the bookstore. It is one of only two workplaces I miss.

The other workplace I miss is the computing center at my undergraduate university. I miss being surrounded by all the cool technology — especially the library robots that would retrieve archived data. (For an example, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-eWDuEo-3Q) I’d peer through the windows and watch the robots scan the rows and rows of cartridges. Beautiful. It’s hard to describe. A perfect dance, better than anything humans could do.

They were the perfect coworkers. The robots didn’t like me, but I sure enjoyed them. No socializing, no demands to understand each other. Just doing what was needed to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

In many ways, I get his desire to be left alone and not have to deal with all the social b.s.

But the fact is, I can’t get away from that.  Not in my role as the communications person with the Presbytery and definitely not as a pastor.  You have to learn to engage with humans, because if you don’t, you might not have a job very long after.  I’ve had to learn how to do things like give cards at birthdays or listen to someone at church talk about something that I don’t find very interesting because to not do so is to basically tell others that I don’t care about my job.

A lot of the working environment is social.  That can make it very hard for persons with autism, but unless they have severe problems, I think that we have to try to “play the game,” if for anything to understand those around us.  The thing is, we aren’t judged only by our performance like a robot.  Part of what can color that perception is how we get along with others.  If you are able to get along well with people, others can be more forgiving of problems than those who have never bothered making a connection.  Is that fair?  No, but it’s how the game is played.

But there is another reason to do all this.  I think I learn how to be a bit more “human” through my dealings with other people, especially in my calling as a pastor.  I get to learn how to relate to others and how to act better around others.  I am a better person because I’ve been around others and learned how to not be so much of a robot and a little bit more of a human being.

As I’ve said, none of this is easy and in my case it can be downright emotionally draining.  But I think if we aspies want to thrive in our places of work, let alone keep our jobs, we have to learn how to be more friendly in the workplace.

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