Saturday, May 15, 2010

On The Quirkiness Of Autism, Or, “Best.Story.Ever.”

So I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, and it’s time to get back to a more demanding schedule…but before I do, I have a story to tell you that is so hilarious that we need to put it on the front burner so we can get the weekend off to a truly great start.

To protect the innocent we’ll leave out all the names, but suffice it to say that this story takes us to the intersection of religious evangelism, childlike innocence, and the idiosyncratic nature of autism.

Some of you are going to think I made this up, but I promise, this is an actual, true, “really, honest, it really happened” story, and every word is as accurate as it could be, considering that it was a tale told second-hand.

And with all that having been said, let’s go to Spokane, where our story has been waiting for us.

“Nec dues intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus Inciderit.”

(Neither should a god intervene, unless a knot falls worthy of his interference)

--Quintus Horatius Flaccus, De Arte Poetica, as translated by Dr. E.C. Wickham

So our friend’s daughter knows a family who has an adult autistic son living at home…and he’s absolutely fascinated by those little troll dolls with which we’re all familiar.

He stays at home alone during the day while Mom goes to work, and that’s how we get to the beginning of the story.

During the work day Mom gets a call, there on the job, and it’s her son, and he’s all excited:

“I got a troll, Mom…I got a troll!” he’s telling her, and she’s taking it in, but as I understand it, she was basically thinking “well, whatever…”.

At the end of the day, she came home, and he’s really animated, jumping up and down and talking excitedly about his new troll.

Mom asks to see the troll, and he takes her to his bedroom. In front of the closet door is his dresser, and he moves it out of the way, and he opens the door…and inside…

…is a “little person”—and he is some kind of pissed.

Apparently this poor guy had come to the door as part of his efforts to spread the Word of the Lord, and the autistic son had literally, without a word of warning, snatched him off the porch and ran him upstairs; presumably hoping he would be able to talk Mom into letting him keep what he obviously perceived as his own real live troll.

(Just for the record, we could not determine if he was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or a follower of the Latter Day Saints or if he had some other religious affiliation.)

It apparently took a lot of explaining, but Mom was able to communicate to the evangelist that the son was not acting maliciously, and that it was a cognitive issue that was in play here, so all’s well that ends well, I guess.

But think about this for a second: if you came to someone’s front door, all anxious to spread the Word about your version of The Truth…and the next thing you know you’re sitting in a tiny, tiny, space, unsure exactly what happened or how you came to be there…unsure about how long all this will last…and really unsure about what’s to come when your stay in the closet is over…to whom, exactly, would you be praying?

Obviously, for some, this would be a test of faith, and they would come through with flying colors—but for a lot of other people, including me…well, I might be considering the potential of new religious options…sitting there, alone, in the dark, in that little closet.

So that’s my weekend story, folks: an amazingly strange situation, the opportunity to see if you can actually be forgiving enough to match the philosophical bent of your own deity, and, at least for one person involved, a chance to reconsider the old Texas saying: “dance with who brung ya”.

Now for next week, we have something really unusual: did you know the US Navy has been depositing nuclear-powered telephone-tapping tape recorders on the ocean floor for about three decades now…and that it may still be going on?

In between now and then: there are tax breaks that small businesses could really use that are available today, but not well known, as I discovered when I was talking to my friend who owns a small business. I’ll pass that information on to you, and with any luck, your favorite small business owner will be thanking you, too.

UPDATE - May 16th, 11PM: Over the past 24 hours there have been a number of comments on the various sites where this story is posted pointing out that this is a well-known “urban legend”, which is something I should have known about in the first place.

This story came to me from a friend of mine, and before I put pen to paper calls were made to get more details. Even this morning she maintains that what she told me is accurate

That said, I no longer have enough confidence in this story to continue to present it as accurate.

I have suspended the distribution of this story, and where it does appear, it carries this update.

So, my bad, and I should not have been taken in so easily, and, as you can imagine, I’m looking to do better in the future.

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