Talking to strangers is very stressful for me. I avoid it wherever possible, and thanks to living in this electronic age, it’s seldom necessary to interact directly with people I don’t know. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. On one hand, there’s less stress for me in day-to-day life, but I can’t help wondering if I’d be more comfortable with human interaction if I were forced to do it more often.
I like keeping fish. Actually, I like animals in general, but since I live in an apartment , fish are pretty much the only pets I can have. The problem with fish is that I can’t purchase the things I need for them online. I can’t even just go to the local fish shop and easily buy what I need without talking to people. For some reason, fish shops like to put everything behind the counters, or to display them without price tags; basically, they require you to speak to the staff if you want anything. My filter broke down over the weekend, so I had to buy a new one. For most peole, the most stressful part of this (apart from concern regarding the health of the fish) would be the financial aspect (filters are fairly expensive). I, on the other hand, had to deal with the worry of talking to strangers.
After psyching myself up to it for a few hours, I finally worked up the nerve to go to the shop. I went to hop in my car, only to discover that someone had parked in front of my space and completely blocked my exit. I was so mad, but there wasn’t much I could do about it beyond leaving an angry note and telling them not to park there. Some people would have buzzed each apartment in my building until they found the culprit, but there is absolutely no way I was going to do that. Just the thought of dealing with 1 friendly shop assistant had me terrified. There’s no way I would deal with every single apartment, besides which, it seems quite rude to me to bother so many people when only 1 person was at fault. Anyway, I was effectively locked in that day. The abrupt change to my plans upset me so much that for the rest of that night and the following day I could not bring myself to talk to anyone or leave my home at all. (More on dealing with unexpected things in a future post, I think.) Finally, I managed to get up the nerve to try again…
I went to my first shop, hoping against hope that they would conveniently have the filters on display and price-tagged for me. Of course, they didn’t. They were safely hidden behind the shop counter, where I couldn’t even peruse them. I was too nervous to talk to the assistant, so I casually picked up some fish food to purchase. In retrospect, it’s kind of funny, like teenagers buying a whole bunch of things they don’t need, trying to work up the nerve to ask for a packet of condoms 🙂 I went to pay for the food I didn’t need, and gave up trying to ask about the filters, but just as I was paying, I managed to squeeze out a query. It was so simple… but the filters they had were not suitable for me, so I didn’t get one. On to the next shop… After the nice experience at the first shop, the following shop was a lot easier. I managed to talk to the owner and get what I needed. Success!
I know most people won’t understand this story, or will think I’m neurotic or something, but seriously, everyday simple activities like this can be paralyzing for aspies. For me, this was a huge achievement. My fish are happy, and I am happy.