Asperger's: for the Empathetic

Few of us need to suffer from Asperger's. There are plenty of neurologically typical folks out there. Let them suffer. All you gotta do is survive long enough to get bigger than most of them, so you won't get picked on. It also helps if you happen to be pretty, clever, or enjoy some other redeeming quality, but those are not easily administrated options.

I only bring this up because my wife of forty eight years has taken to reading books about Asperger's lately. She says it is because someone she cares about suffers from it. I cannot imagine who that might be. However, just for the record, if I did have it, I would just ignore it. Like I said, let everyone else suffer.

Her latest attempt at understanding the issue is in the form of a book titled: "Asperger's from the Inside Out" by M. J. Carly. On page twenty five he discusses the listing in DSM-IV for this "disease." Here's the deal. The DSM collects diseases by symptom. As humans, we have a limited number of possible responses to any given set of circumstances. Bodily responses and symptoms are the same thing. Therefore, a given set of symptoms does not necessarily isolate a particular problem, or what they choose to call a disease. So I do not think I have Asperger's, and even if I do, its not my problem. Did I already say that?

Maybe that's why my wife keeps reading those Asperger's books. Anyway, Carly says that each of us needs to sell ourselves to those around us, especially in the workplace. Maybe. I wouldn't know. This got me thinking back to the accomplishments of my life. Did I have anything to sell? There was the ISAM to VSAM migration for the City of Tucson Water Department. I led a sometimes five, and sometimes four person teams on this project.

(System) analysis work had been done at least twice before, yet the job remained unaccomplished. Luckily, I did not realize previous plans existed until I had completed my own. I don't think they were realistic, and my way was completely unique. Another team was doing the same job for the Payroll system, with that team being led by an extremely competitive Systems Analyst. I was doing the Water Department files, they were doing the payroll files. They kept shortening their time estimates, so I kept having to go back to our team to see how they would react. They willingly kept shortening our projected time frame in answer to the challenge of the other team.

Our biggest mistake was that we got our project done on time, and without any serious problems. The other team did neither. They subsequently ended up getting raises, while we got passed over. What I learned from this was that if you make something look easy, it will be assumed that it is easy. Make it look hard, and well, it must have been that much more difficult. They took twice as long to do the same job, with more qualified personnel. I have long since retired, yet have little education past a high school diploma.

Two of the members on our team were barely out of school, newly hired, then even got passed over for what usually amounts to an automatic status from temporary to permanent, and an almost automatic raise after six months employment. This was a bit much, so I did get that changed by complaining to the Department Director. A year later we learned that the leader of the payroll team got an out of phase merit increase without a change of anniversary date. So she got the highest reward possible for what barely escaped being a total failure.

The secret of their sucess was to use failure to make what what they were doing look as difficult as possible. Not that hard if you don't have any particular attraction to the truth, and don't mind making a lot of noise and excuses. Incidentally, I was a just an application Programmer doing Systems Analyst work during the whole time. I never did actually become a Systems Analyst. She had been one for a long time.

Later there was the install of a new mainframe operating system to enable the migration from 3350 hard drives to 3390 hard drives. The City of Tucson saved around $200,000 on that one mainly because I was too lazy to do it the way they first planned it out. Three or four subsequent upgrades were also required for things like bringing in, and exploiting the new processors.

All of this was done without any training. Well, I did get some training. The City of Tucson is really big on training. You gotta be trained to do your job. Problem was, I always got trained after I had already completed the task at least once on my own. Why I needed training for a task I had already completed at least once never made logical sense, but the city was really big on training. At least I had a good time traveling around the country, and actually, a lot more can be learned by someone with experience, than someone unfamiliar with the concepts.

I didn't really have a problem with all this. I certainly got more out of the training than newbies who were preparing for their first run. I got to be the guy who kept interrupting to ask questions about issues no one else could understand; And since I represented a paying customer, they couldn't just tell me to shutup.

OK. So a lot of people made more money than I did. They also fit in a lot better than I did. But to tell the truth, I have no regrets. They lost as much as I did from both their own, and my mistakes. Far as I can tell, I am a lot better off than any of them. Hey, most of them are dead. The only one left is a man with a wooden leg named Fred. (A true story, except his name was not Fred).

The purpose of this bragging session, is to demonstrate that I may have had a few things to make myself marketable. I just didn't bother. What I did instead was surround myself with honest people. It is not easy, and it takes a long time, but I think it is important because they suffer more gracefully. And they make better friends.

My personal opinion is that every one of us is a genius in some way. It is just a matter of finding the path that best reveals that gift. Different and broken are not the same thing, and finally, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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