The guy I am attending with, ostensibly to introduce Ascendigo Autism Services’ upcoming trek across the Greenland Ice Cap, picks me up, (since I don’t drive and it would have taken 3 hours on public transportation). Turns out, I should have done just that on Friday, the last day of the summit, because dealing with him and the debacle which ensues returning from the event is quite distressing — but more on that later…
Via Google Maps, I navigate us to the Ling Ka Shing Center at Stanford University in Palo Alto — in the heart of Silicon Valley, which has, arguably, the highest concentration of autistic-like geeks anywhere. After a minor snafu involving parking where I leave the guy in the parking lot and figure it out by querying the check-in desk help, leaving him to his own devices and proceed to investigate and take photos — the camera is both my shield and my raison d’etre at these functions; I feel safer behind it, and it gives me courage to navigate the throngs.
There is a pianist I get a great shot of, good coffee and real cream — which I spill immediately all over the front of the T shirt I designed with my logo and a scannable QR code linking to my website, Autistry And Me.
Then, I turn around and there is the guy we are supposed to initiate contact with; it says so on his nametag. Good thing I remember his name… I am, once again, literally speechless — but not until after I introduce myself and attempt, by shouting across the room, to summon the other guy who doesn’t budge from his coterie of friends from home. Oh, well — it’s his problem now.
This attitude of mine — “It’s his problem” — illustrates an issue with impatience I have with other autistics (HF only). See, I just don’t mesh with this guy — or with most of the other “High Functioning” autistics I have met recently. I don’t see them as high functioning at all, so helpless and clueless they act in situations I just plow my way through; I am expert at asking for help, having required it so much in the past, and even currently. I think I have more empathy with those more like myself, who rock and stim, make animal sounds and echo words and conversations. Those who hit themselves and break down crying like a toddler in the face of frustration. These who look more normal only aggravate me. I hope to become more tolerant but have not managed it yet. Note that I only met my first “High Functioners” in the past few months, so have not had much exposure to them; although, in retrospect, it appears the few friends I have had were mostly “on the spectrum” — undiagnosed. I say “were” because the not very intimate friends I have now, except for one, are not autistic at all. My appearance and genius IQ explain some of it — one “HF” guy remarked recently that I didn’t realize how many doors my beauty opens for me. Yes, I do — and my intelligence as well, I believe these attributes have allowed me to be somewhat admitted to the world at large and semi accepted there — “She’s just so bright!” I have had a very rich and active life in the world of “normal” people and activities, usually as the only autistic, though my autistic behaviors are more outwardly noticeable — the self — stimulating behaviors, poor eye contact and hyperactivity, for instance. I am, for example, the only one rocking and flapping my squishy toy — of which I have many and match to my outfit and the occasion. One example of my assimilation: I was a musical prodigy and played in the local youth symphonies, which trained me to mingle in upscale venues. I was also identified as autistic early in life so have spent my entire life navigating it. Yes, I went intermittent phases from my teens to thirties where I attempted to pretend I was normal, but they were unsuccessful. Now, I embrace my weirdness and try to educate others with humor and originality. So back to the venue…
Excusing myself, I locate the bathroom where I attack the coffee not-yet-stain, emerging with a very unsexy wet T shirt effect. While it is drying, I call Sallie of Ascendigo for an emergency conference on how to proceed from here. She assures me an introduction was sufficient, and off I go, into the melee.
The glass sculpture on the ceiling fascinates me, and I get many pictures. Nobody else seems to notice it.
I speak with a caterer who has the same cell phone as I, and I like her case. She tells me where she got it and I ask her how she likes this crowd. To this she replies, “They are nice — not as snooty as some”.
I see some placards representing companies, including Microsoft, which I have admired since the DOS days — I arrived late to DOS, when 95 was the OS — I was writing custom Config.sys and autoexec.bat files to perform such exciting tasks as telling the HP LaserJet Series 2 to print in a bold font. Later, when I worked at a used electronics store, I got to disassemble and refurbish specimens like the first computer I was given — after I destroyed the OS and found its owner didn’t have — the venerable IBM PC XT. She didn’t want it anyway, as it was ancient. I, however, was in heaven, having just discovered the joys (and agonies) of both hardware — my favorite — and software.
Getting way off track here — but this IS a tech convention!
Soon, the panel of speakers convenes and I take a seat up front.
They are authors Jon Robison Elder (whom I like best, and who later receives the dubious distinction of “liking” my Tweet of the photo I took of his and the others’ shadows), Steve Silberman, author, “Neurotribes”, and Stephen Shore .
Twiddling and rocking, I manage to listen and read from the sometimes misspelled transcript on the 3 screens, but am more interested in the electronic equipment for Livestreaming and recording the event.
Livestream is a video live streaming platform that allows customers to broadcast live video content using a camera and a computer through the Internet, and viewers to play the content via the web, iOS, Android, Roku, and the Apple TV. Livestream requires a paid subscription for content providers to use; it formerly offered a free ad-supported service but no longer does so as of 2016.
About halfway in, I leave to take photos in the lobby. I just can’t sit still. Neither can some others I observe scrutinizing their phones.
I chat with a guy who is working at Stanford to develop a device for recording sound levels for autistics called “Level the Noise” — Zach, I think his name is — and I consider participating.
Then, I get a good group photo of Niarchos Pombo and some of his associates from SAP, Latin America.
He also thanks me for the pictures I later send him.
This makes me feel appreciated and included — even if I never make it into the SAP Autism at Work program, though I just discovered I am eligible through the Department of Rehabilitation.
That’s about, it — except for the pesto canapes I enjoy.
The journey home is another story, and I decided not to relate it here, as studies have shown internet readers like shorter pieces.
Besides, it is not very positive in tone, and I would like to end this piece on the upbeat note I left the summit in.