This is what social script fail looks like:
Restaurant hostess: “How are you today?”
Once we were seated at our table, my husband waited a few minutes before gently pointing out that when the hostess asked me how I was, I replied, “Two.”
I explained that I was expecting her to ask “how many?” not “how are you?” Once I’ve loaded a social script into my brain, it can be hard to stop it from executing. Even though I heard the words “how are you,” by the time I processed the question, my brain had already pulled the trigger on “two!” and I couldn’t have stopped it if I tried.
That’s perseveration in action. The same tendency that makes aspies prone to repetitive actions and thoughts also causes the “persistence of the same verbal response regardless of the stimulus.”*
In my head I’d already rehearsed the answer to the anticipated question–the stimulus–a couple of times. When the “stimulus” changed and the actual question was different from the rehearsed question, I couldn’t shift my response to something appropriate.
Admittedly I was distracted by a conversation we’d been having on the way to the restaurant so my dependence on the script was greater than normal. I was on social script autopilot. Thankfully, the hostess was deep in her own script (Great!) so she glossed right over my reply and whisked us off to a table for two without even blinking.
And for the rest of the day, whenever I randomly blurted out “Two!” my husband replied “Great!” and then we both burst out laughing.
Every. Single. Time.
*from Mosby’s Medical dictionary