Taking things literally

TLDR: now that I know I’m autistic I can find humour in the fact I take things literally, rather than getting annoyed about the situation.

One of the good things about being autistic, and more importantly knowing that I’m autistic is the ability to be amused by my literalness. As opposed to feeling stupid or misunderstood, and / or that the other person / people are stupid or misunderstanding me.

When in the process of deciding whether to seek an autism diagnosis, and the subsequent seeking, I realised that yes, in a typically autistic way, I take things literally a lot of the time. Sure non-autistic folks might take something literally from time to time but many of us autistics experience this multiple times a day, causing various degrees of confusion, frustration, hilarity and chaos. Such an example happened at work recently (numerous examples happened at work recently but I will focus on just the one for now).

I work for an organisation that is a bit stuck in the past in terms of its financial procedures: we still routinely pay for things by cheque. It strikes me as somewhat ironic that I, the only autistic staff member, as far as I know, in our small team is one of a duo who are most pushing for change and stepping into the 21st century: online banking, please!! Like ten years ago please, not in ten years time. Due to the structure and culture of the organisation this isn’t just a case of me being able to contact the bank and set it up – if only!

Anyway, in our very slow way it was eventually decided to transfer some money from one account to another. Apparently this decision took twenty years to make (that may be an exaggeration that I took literally but it is most definitely more than a decade!). Since we don’t have online banking, this transfer must be made by cheque. It is my job to write the cheques, and then wait patiently for two different people to get around to signing them. It had finally been agreed to transfer this money. Yes! At last! I will write the cheque, get it signed by the appropriate people and have the money transferred before the end of the financial year!!

I wrote the cheque and excitedly mentioned to the aforementioned colleague who is equally keen for change / progress that this job had finally been done and it had been 20 years coming “you couldn’t write it, could you?” she said. “Yes, I just did, I wrote the cheque” I replied, thinking that she was suggesting there might be some practical difficulty with me being able to write a cheque for a relatively large amount from a cheque book that had been sitting barely used for years. But she didn’t mean that, as she quickly clarified. Oops. She meant, “you couldn’t make it up” or more precisely “that’s ridiculous”.

Before knowing about my unusually wired brain I might have felt stupid at my error, or thought my colleague was laughing at me, or some other misunderstanding of the situation. As it was I just laughed at my misinterpretation as she explained what she meant and continued to chuckle about it to myself for an hour or so after.

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