Aspies have a reputation as encyclopedias of useless information. We’re the geeks, the braniacs, the little professors. I’ve done more than my share to keep this stereotype alive. I’m a treasure trove of seemingly useless facts and I have superhuman memory for random bits of information.
I know that tigers are solitary animals while lions prefer to live in groups. The last half dollar to be made of mostly silver was the 1964 Kennedy half dollar. The normal human body temperature is not actually 98.6 degrees. The minivan was invented to take advantage of a loophole in CAFE standards.
Why do I accumulate and catalog so much random information?
I think aspies are innately curious by nature. I know that I am. But I think a bigger factor, at least for me, is the tendency to see the world in patterns.
I can’t help noticing patterns and, when a pattern is broken, I need to know why. For example, have you ever noticed that the tops of school buses are painted white? I have.
A few months ago I moved from a rural place where I rarely saw a school bus to a busy metropolitan area. Suddenly there were school buses everywhere and, unlike the school buses of my youth which were uniformly yellow, the school buses here are painted white on top.
Most people will see this and go “huh” and carry on with their day.
But I see the white top on a bus and need to know why it’s there. It’s not arbitrary, right? Someone, somewhere, at some point decided that painting the tops of school buses white is better than painting them yellow. A policy was created, money was budgeted.
At least that’s what I find myself hoping when my daughter finally decides to Google “white tops of school buses” so I’ll finally shut up about it.
That’s how I came to know that painting the tops of school buses white makes the buses cooler (by reflecting sunlight) and safer (by making them easier to see). Also the flashing white light on top makes school buses visible from a greater distance in fog or rain.
In case you were wondering.
The thing about this kind of useless knowledge is that it doesn’t feel useless to me. I like thinking about the simple elegant solution that a change in paint color presents and I like knowing why a familiar pattern has been broken.
Now if only I knew why bacon in a box doesn’t have to be refrigerated . . .