damp, cold, the haptic, peptic and cryptic

I covered for a colleague (at the same gallery where I held my exhibition last week) yesterday from 11am-3.30pm. She asked me the day before, and I told her I would do it for her if she couldn’t find anyone else for the job. She offered $10 an hour, so I figured it would be no problem finding an undergraduate to sit there for 5 hours, for $50. Not bad at all, since one could bring their work along too. I told her to let me know by the end of the day. The evening passed and I didn’t hear from her, so I planned my day thinking she’d found someone to sit at reception. I went to my studio in the morning with Lucy, and started work on revising my Haptic HugShrug for the Haptic InterFace 2013 exhibition which is now in Sydney as part of the Vivid Sydney event.

At 10.40am, I received a text from my colleague that she didn’t have anyone to cover for her and needed my help. Since I was already there at school, I consented to do it. I packed up my work and Lucy’s bedding and lugged it to the other block. I wasn’t prepared for lunch, though, and didn’t even have a drink with me. So, at lunchtime, I beetled off to the nearest cafe for a takeaway and a hot chocolate. Lucy was good as gold, as usual, and settled down willingly into her makeshift bed, but it was cold and so I placed my own sweater over her. Later, it became too cold for me to forgo the sweater, so I wrapped her in her own red fleece blankie. The lunch was bland, the bread too hard and I ended up giving Lucy the crust (I know, I shouldn’t but she was so persuasive!) and the hot chocolate became very quickly tepid. My feet, of course, suffered the most from the draft and damp, they were aching and protesting quite vehemently throughout. I reminded myself that this is an agreement, and I always honour my agreements. I used the time to finish up the Haptic HugShrug version 2. Then I tried to work on a piece of writing about mobile technology and the Aspie chick, for a friend of mine who is doing a study on this subject. But I couldn’t concentrate, the feet were protesting louder and louder. By 3.30pm, when another colleague turned up saying she will relieve me, although there was only half an hour to go, I was most happy to scuttle off. I shall have to finish that piece of writing this morning then.

Now for the amusing comedy of errors a la Aspie chick style:

The reception, as I mentioned before, is a cold, clammy and damp place, next to a smelly toilet. No, not a dirty smelly smell, but a horrible smelly detergent smell. I won’t frown at the $50, though, so that was fair enough. However, when I arrived at the venue, my colleague just didn’t mention it at all.

I agonised over this all day. Did she think I should be doing it for free? She did say it was a paid job, didn’t she? She’d have had to pay whoever it was, if it wasn’t me, anyway, wouldn’t she? Why didn’t she have the money on hand? If I were anyone else, say, an undergraduate, wouldn’t she have to pay upfront? And the looping wriggling wormy thoughts went on and on.

Yes, this Aspie chick is totally flummoxed where it comes to social niceties and how such issues as money and payments should be handled. If I were the paying party, I would make sure I have the money with me and pay upfront, and never allow space for doubt or suspicion, or I would make it clear exactly how and when I intend to make payment, and do so exactly as I said I would. But nope, most neurotypicals I have dealt with in this context have been vague about the when and how of payments, even the really nice ones, and I am never sure what’s what. I hate that feeling of uncertainty. I do not grasp implicit nuances, and money to me isn’t something to be fooling around with implicits over. Or is it?

Anyhow, I know I have a part to play too, I should have made it clear from the start how and when I would be paid. There should be no place for shyness in such arrangements, but I have a difficulty with this, I find it hard to ask for money, I feel intrinsically that the person paying should do the right thing first. Yes, that isn’t the real world, that is merely the polite and genteel world inside the mindscape of this Aspie chick. OK, so I decided to delicately as possible mention it obliquely by emailing her my bank account details for the transfer. No reply. I understand that she must be busy, but again, this is not how I would handle things. If money is involved, I make sure I am always careful to a) be crystal clear about terms and conditions, and b) make prompt payment. This doesn’t usually happen in the neurotypical world, unfortunately. What goes through people’s minds? Is it just something that is deemed unimportant to the one who is doing the paying, or is there lurking in their almost consciousness a reluctance to honour an agreement? I have no idea, so I am making wild guesses, and some incidents in my past experience have served to create even more uncertainty and paranoia than would otherwise already exist.

I must’ve come across as an anxious nutcase. Looking back it has potential as a setting for a libretto of a small opera buffa. I bumped into her two days later, and she did mention the money, and we agreed on a secure drop off point. The day after that,  I received a text from her saying she had placed the payment at the agreed drop off. Relief. Today, I went to collect, and found she had paid me for the full five hours. And also left me a little gift, a sweet little Indian fabric pouch, with a nice ‘thank you’ note.

Right, I know, I should be good at this by now. But I am not sure I ever will. Nevertheless, I MUST remind myself that I have to be upfront myself, whichever side of the equation I may be on – a lesson learned, yet again. It is hard but practice makes perfect, and I am still struggling.

Why the panic? Anxiety happens to anyone when inside a conundrum, or when one is unable to grasp the meanings and nuances of a situation. Add to that a slew of past experiences of betrayal, plus the mind of an autistic person, the scene is set for overreaction of sorts. To my Aspie mind, the principle matters a whole lot. If she had said to me that she cannot afford to pay me and could I please do it for free, I would have still done the job. But because she said it is a paid job, then my mind categorised it as such. I don’t like blurry, goopy mental divides. I like things neatly classified. And a principle is a principle. For example, I still feel extremely upset about that so-called ‘friend’ Kelina Kwan in Vancouver who did a runner after all her flowery effusions about how much our friendship mattered to her, and she was someone I thought I could trust. If Kelina could have told me honestly that she had no intention of paying, or that she could not afford to repay me, instead of all that fluffy neurotypical lying about how valuable our friendship is to her and how she has every intention of paying (she even asked me for my bank account details!), I would have re-categorised it in my mind and been at peace. As it were, Kelina just disappeared into cyberspace as soon as I sent her my bank account details and explained that I really needed that money back now, after three years, because I was in a difficult financial situation. All of a sudden, I no longer existed. As far as I know, she is still happily engaged in her roles as Miss Charity at her various family oriented organisations. Neurotypical or neurotypical sociopath? That is another issue altogether.

A good conclusion.

Anyhow, here I am now, and in this instance, how was I to be certain whether this person, my colleague, who I did not even know at all, wouldn’t do the same? Yes, most neurotypicals would tell me I am too uptight about such things, and I agree, when viewed from their perceptive angles, but I stand by certain principles and I will not waver on this one. I pay promptly whoever I engage to help me. I want terms and conditions to be clear as possible. I don’t like murky uncertainties in any dimension of my life. HOWEVER, that is my methodology and I should not expect the same from others. The one thing I should have done, that I failed to do, to prevent misunderstanding on both sides, was to ask for an upfront payment there and then, before I sat down to the job.

Lesson learned. It’s a shared responsibility. I do not blame my colleague. Nor do I blame myself. My colleague, as it turned out, is a good person. A neurotypical who has a different way of operating. I too am a good person. An autistic with a certain rigidity in mental logical perceptions. I am merely making observations, because my mind is interested in observing life and lifeforms. 🙂


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