10 Things That NTs Never Think About


First of all, pleeeeease pray that my laptop hasn’t cooped out on me so soon. Darn thing looks like she’s gone to a house call with Dr. Kevorkian. Yeek.

One really good thing that happened to me today: I had written a letter to Francisco Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World, which has absolutely become one of my favorite novels. I highly recommend it whether you may know someone with AS or not. It is simply a beautiful story with a noble but flawed protagonist, and it is an asset to the AS community. Mr. Stork said that he was saving my letter to remind himself, when he gets stuck, what he really writes for. That, ladies and gentlemen, made my day.

Anyway, while I’m on the topic of AS today, I thought I might shed some light on the job search. No one in their right mind likes this process. It’s a melange of a Miss America pageant, a shooting gallery, and a cattle trading barn. You never know what will or won’t appeal to an interviewer. As an NT (neurotypical,) surely it’s hard enough.

Leslie Nielsen voice: It is hard enough, and don’t call me Shirley.

Getting back to where I was: for an NT, this process is nerve-stretching at best, agonizing at worse. For someone “on the spectrum,” imagine if you will all the stressors of your daily existence thrown into a blender by the gods of torment, then spoon-fed with antifreeze.

Let me explain…

These are situations which might not bother an NT, but border on the insanity-provoking for an Aspie. In no order other than numerical (ie, I find these elements all equally irritating.)

10. The Un-Comfy Chair

This one is funny. I actually had a situation about a month ago interviewing for a position at a bank. It was in one of those offices without a personality in one of those buildings without a personality, conducted by an HR person without a personality. (Well, maybe she had one in there someplace). All the usual suspects in play: fluorescent lights, stressful situation, clothes I normally never wear. And what did I notice? The un-comfy chair (no doubt the Spanish Inquisition was waiting right around the corner.) That did not go well. All that time I thought I was wowing her with my amazing stims and tics.

My Solution: Papasan chairs. Everyone likes papasan chairs.

9. The Panel

This one sounds like an innocuous Seinfeld episode title. If only it were as simple as George Costanza and Kramer having some wacky non sequitur adventure. “The panel,” for the uninitiated, is not just one set, but as many as five sets of eyes upon you for the entire time you’re sitting in the interview. For an Aspie, eye contact is one of those bete noires. We don’t like it. It feels like having Liquid Plumr poured over our irises. I’m not sure why. It doesn’t mean we’re the second coming of Jeffery Dahmer.

My Solution: Get one of those confessional booths…the ones with the little screens. Those were tailor-made for Aspies.

8. The Office Swag

Aspies are a little like crows. We like shiny things. Again, don’t ask me to explain it…it’s a bit like jazz in that if you have to ask, you’ll never know. So while I *should* be pretending to be a nice NT and looking my interviewer in the eye, instead my roving eye is looking at the pictures of the golden retriever, the nifty football-shaped lamp, the souvenir photo from Disneyland. All irresistible to me, and stored in my photographic memory for future reference. Just don’t hold it against me when I can’t remember your face, but I DO remember the Salvador Dali print on your wall.

My Solution: One of those sterile interrogation rooms…perhaps with a confessional in the middle. Good Priest/Bad Priest, maybe.

7. The Eeeevil HR Director

This person should be a villain(ess) in a James Bond movie. We’ve all met one. I’m convinced their souls are sucked out through their noses like a mummy’s brain.

My Solution: Ask the nicest, calmest person in the organization to conduct interviews. This person is inevitably a janitor or gofer type.

6. The Outfit

Job interviews are a lot like Renaissance Festival. You dress in things you’d never wear under any other circumstance (well, maybe this is only true of Aspies.) The pinch of high heels, the scratchy feeling of a collar, the chafe of hose. I’m not interviewing to be the next Donald Trump. I want to lift boxes. Something tells me I won’t be lifting boxes while wearing high heels…

My Solution: Casual Fridays become Casual Interview Fridays. I do my best thinking in a t-shirt and Converse shoes.

5. The Monty Python Questions

“What is your name?” “What is your quest?” “What is the capital of Assyria?”

We’ve all had these. Ostensibly they’re designed to measure our ability to recall useless trivia at the drop of a hat, or else a method of torture originally developed by the KGB. In either case, they are pure drivel. I know you’re burning to know what I hated about my last job, but why? Are you some sort of voyeur? Will it really affect how I function in my future job?

My Solution: Make everything multiple choice. Which leads me into…

4.  The Personality Profiles

Rohrschach Test Proctor: You don’t really see a tractor, do you, Murdock?

Murdock: You’re right; I was just guessin’.

They say there are no “right” or “wrong” answers on these insidious things. They lie. They’re designed to weed out “undesirables.” Undesirables can be anything from those with a bad attitude to office supply kleptomaniacs (don’t we all know one of those?) The worst kind of undesirables are those who aren’t a “people person.” Might as well just stick a scarlet “A” on our chests and be done with it.

My Solution: How about testing for real skills, a la the Festivus Feats of Strength? I’d much rather have someone working for me who could perform the Vulcan sleeper hold than someone who likes to solve problems in groups.

3.  The Endless Applications

It becomes a mantra, like the  numbers the Dharma guy kept saying over and over in Lost. Instead of 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42, it’s “Wiesbaden High School, 1996-1997, non-smoker, know Excel.” You learn to recite these things backwards, in your sleep, in Esperanto. You can write them blindfolded. And whomever came up with the idea of teeny-tiny application blocks for gigantic amounts of information…count yourself among the ranks of Vlad the Impaler and Torquemada.

My Solution: How about some real-life skill applications? “Wrestled Vogons.” “Attended Hogwarts.” “Can hit running buffalo at 50 yards.”

2. The Group Interview

If you’ve never been to one of these charming soirees, consider yourself lucky. It’s just as awkward as the first day of school, and you’re in the same boat as all these schlubs. Look around the room, memorize their faces…and then try to find something damaging about them to put on Facebook. Otherwise, good luck.

My Solution: Put the thing in a slaughterhouse. It’s the same effect.

1. The Handshaking

You may be asking yourself why I chose to put this one on the list. Any kind of contact with someone an AS person doesn’t know can be painful. But then again, it’s rude to say anything, so what can we do?

My Solution: If only we Aspies could carry around a little card explaining a general overview of our quirks to the NTs. Almost like the people who can’t speak, or the visually impaired. It is an impairment, but it doesn’t have to be a hindrance.

Oh, and one other thing…if I start talking about one of my obsessions during the interview? I’m not crazy. I probably like you enough to open up.

~Heather (miz)

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on August 16, 2010.

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