Thursday, October 9, 2008

In-Flight Refueling

We know about social fuel gauges. When we're full, we're fine and dandy; when we're running on empty, we need to run.

I'm thinking we may have ways to recycle a little fuel, like some science fiction stories of mechanisms that recycle exhaust back into gasoline. Or we can think of it as a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) - a source of temporary extra power used by computers when the power goes out, so the user can save the work, exit all applications and then shut down in an orderly manner.

A computer that's shut down in that way, rather than abruptly turned off, will take much less time to turn on next time, since it won't have to scan the hard drive and otherwise work through all the stuff which wasn't saved and wasn't exited appropriately. Similarly, if we can pick the right time and the right manner to exit a social interaction, we can do so with much better consequences and later on pick up where we left off much more happily.

If you enjoyed Dr. Strangelove (one of Emily's and my favorite movies), you probably remember the in-flight refueling scene in the beginning. The heavy bombers on patrol use a lot of fuel, and since they're on constant alert they can't go back to base to refuel. So the fuel, packed in large airborne tankers, comes to them so they can refuel while staying where they're needed.

I got to thinking about that the other evening, when Emily and I were having dinner out. (Hint: when ordering steak at a place that specializes in seafood, ask for it one level more done than you normally do - like medium when you normally want medium rare - since they tend to undercook it.)

Anyway, it occurred to me to tell Emily that my fuel gauge was between 1/4 and 1/2 full. Sure enough, the waiter picked the very next moment to come up and try to start a detailed conversation, which even normally I'm in no mood for. The way I see it, the server is doing it for my comfort, not his/her own, so s/he should understand if I just want to get back to my food, conversation or whatever.

So, Emily kindly took up most of the slack, and I limited my responses to one word, and in any case words of one syllable. I thought I controlled myself rather well. Still, she thought I was being abrupt. I begged to differ, especially since they are not friends, potential friends or business associates, but people paid to serve me and make me feel comfortable.

If I were yelling, abusing them or threatening them that would be one thing; if I sound a little cold and uninterested in conversation IMHO that's a horse of a different color. In any case, the one thing I remember doing was looking forward, not at the waiter to my side, as I answered him that yes, I would like some bread please.

Still, I know this affects Emily, so I do what I can to minimize it even when we're paying to eat out.

I do remember feeling a bit more bubbly later in the dinner. One thing Emily's observed is that the way to my heart truly lies through my stomach. The steak was very good and the baked potato and fries were fine as well. (Those of you who enjoyed the original Heartbreak Kid (the 1972 version) will understand when I say I love good honest food. By which I mean simple, one taste per food item and familiar...qualities that appeal to us Aspies.) So maybe good body fuel means good emotional fuel too.

Also, Emily and I exchanged a few jokes and I let off a little humorous steam. Maybe that helped too.

What do you think? What kind of UPS/in-flight refueling mechanisms can enable you or your Aspies and autists to stay engaged for at least a short time until they can disengage more easily?


Static Mom said...

Blogging. Hence my prolific blogging.

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello Static Mom,

I'm sure blogging does a lot for you, and that's good.

However, I'm talking about on-the-spot remedies here...things that will keep you going in a social situation acceptably for a little while longer until you can leave on your own terms. If there's anything you can think of that will help in a pinch, please let me know.


Jeff Deutsch

Mama Mara said...

I'm with you, actually, Jeffrey. I generally am uncomfortable with a server standing over me and talking while I'm trying to chew. I tend to sit quietly and hope the server will get the hint that I'm not feeling chatting and want them to go away.

But sometimes I do run into a social situation where I must engage, despite a low social-fuel tank (running into an acquaintance while I'm in a rush shopping, for example). In these situations, the main problem for me is anxiety. So I use stress-reduction techniques -- a few deep breaths and accupressure (pressing my index fingers into the tips of my thumbs).

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hi Mara,

Interesting idea.

Do you think stimming, in general, can be an on-the-spot stress reliever?

Jeff Deutsch

PS: Please call me Jeff. Jeffrey reminds me of when I was a kid and grownups would talk down to me sometimes.