Monday Morning Musings (7/22)

Stop Signs

Thank you to everyone who shared their stop sign photos over the past week. We have a couple dozen so far. I’m going to post them next week so there’s still time to share yours! Don’t be shy.

From the Unfiltered Aspie File

Last Friday The Scientist and I went to buy dog food. We couldn’t find the usual brand so we were walking around the store browsing when I spotted an employee standing in a doorway near the back. I asked him about the brand I was looking for. He said it had been recalled and we talked about alternative brands. He seemed a little skittish as he said he would show me the brands he’d mentioned but I dismissed it as the usual sort of effect I have on strangers.

When we got out in the parking lot, The Scientist said, “Did you realize that the guy you asked about the dog food was standing in the doorway to the employee bathroom?”

“Uh . . . no?”

“He was drying his hands.”


All I saw was a doorway and a few cartons stacked against the wall, which led me to assume it was a storeroom. No wonder the guy looked so nervous.



For the past few months I’ve been living across from a train station. It’s a small historic depot that still has freight and light rail commuter trains coming through all day and night. When we looked at the apartment, the salesperson cautioned us that the trains are required to blow their whistles as they come through the intersection at the corner. She warned they’d be louder in the front of the building.

We ended up at the back of the complex–for reasons that have nothing to do with the trains–but I still hear the whistles plenty loud. I can’t say I mind much. They give a rhythm to the day. And if it’s a freight train and it’s moving fast enough, I can hear the rumble of the engines–two or three usually–and the long line of cars they’re pulling.

Predictably, stereotypically, I’ve always been drawn to trains. The model train set I had as a kid. The big empty echoy boxcars that used to park behind my dad’s workplace. Trains I spied from the backseat,  passing in front of our parked car and alongside highways. My first real train ride, through the countryside of a place as foreign and unreal as the new life I’d suddenly stepped into. Then, years later, living in the Southwest, where you can see an entire train at once, a hundred or more cars long, racing beside you on the highway, stretched out across a mesa, end-to-end, small against the infinite sky.

But it wasn’t until recently, standing beside the tracks, that I figured out the attraction for me: patterns and sounds. The resonance of the freight trains. Standing next to the tracks, feeling the rumble resonating in my chest is one of my new favorite sensory treats. That and watching the cars pass. Tankers. Box cars. Flatbeds. Grain cars. If you just stare at one point, you get car-space-car-space-car-space, over and over and over, at regular intervals,six of this kind, ten of that, almost never just one of anything.

21 thoughts on “Monday Morning Musings (7/22)”

  1. Ahaha.

    I’ve done stuff like that in the store. Once on a work trip, I had words come out my mouth in a way that made no sense, so then I reflexively apologized for my “blonde moment,” (I don’t know why I used that expression; I might’ve been scripting my sister – it’s not part of my normal vernacular, but my sister uses it a lot when she’s being scatterbrained from her ADHD), only to have my coworker chastise me for being rude. I asked why later, and she rolled her eyes at me. “The clerk was blonde, silly!” “… Oh. *lightbulb moment* OH! Oops!”

    I’ve joked with other people that if there’s 100 ways to say something, and I blurt it out without thinking, I’ll pick exactly the worst way to say it.

    I was never big on trains. I liked model rockets instead. My parents could never get why I liked having catastrophic failures more than my successes – but I learned the most from my failures. I’d experiment with wing alignment and presence/absence of stabilizer fins and suchlike. It was pretty fun.

    The other thing I liked as a kid was an electronics kit – I had fun building my own radio and other minor electronic projects. Once I built an RC helicopter, another time an RC car (that I promptly crashed and broke thanks to my poor hand-eye coordination and the fact that perhaps I used too powerful a motor… I repaired it, used a less powerful motor, and it worked pretty well after that).

    1. Yep, I’ll pretty much say the wrong thing 9 times out of 10 if I’m off script. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so quiet around people in general. As Mark Twain said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

      I don’t trains are actually a special interest so much as a constant in my life. They aren’t something I spend time researching or have a lot of interest in knowing more details about. But they always seem to have been a source of fascination from a sensory standpoint.

      You were lucky your parents let you play with an electronics kit and model rockets! I always wanted one of those electronics or chemistry sets but my parents didn’t want the mess and were probably afraid I’d hurt myself on top of making a mess. 🙂

      1. My father is about as geeky as me (I suspect he might be BAP or something – he has no sensory issues, but def hates interruptions, likes routines, and has special interests). I inherited the model rocket interest from him (he was always about getting them just right so it looks just like the package, I was more about playing around to see if I could get it to work with modifications), and when I got into electronics, he encouraged me even though it’s not his thing.

        Mom… not so much. She disliked that I wasn’t a girly-girl social butterfly like my sister, so was always trying to get me to wear dresses at least once a week, not letting me cut my hair short like I wanted it (finally, at 13, I got PO’d and shaved it bald and she got the message – I hate having long hair), etc. I’ve had both the “Let’s work within your special interest and to expand your knowledge!” approach and the “Be more typical!” approach, which is why I know from experience that the first works a lot better to get the kid interested in other stuff than the second.

        1. That’s cool that you and your dad shared an interest in model rockets. He does sound kind of BAPy, especially his love of getting the rockets to look just like the package. (My lego projects always looked exactly like the picture on the box.)

          I bet shaving your head went over well. 🙂

          1. My father thought it was hilarious. My mother… not so much. 😛

            I can relate to trying to get stuff to look exactly like the reference: I used to like drawing fanart and trying to get my fanart to look exactly like the reference drawing. I applied that to drawing bacterial and eukaryotic cells in my first year bio lab and was told by the instructor that my drawings could be in a biology text. I… might’ve hyperfocused on it so much that I had 20minutes to finish the rest of the lab, which was supposed to take two hours. I got it done, though, and even got extra credit for my super-detailed cell drawing. I’ve never been very good at making original art, though; just at copying what I’m currently seeing. My high school art club supervisor was quite perplexed by how I could copy something I was interested in and have it be almost photographically detailed, yet an original artwork would look like it was done by a rank beginner. I guess I just don’t have much visual imagination.

            1. This comment got eaten so trying again…

              I relate very strongly to the art thing. I’m able to produce photorealistic art when I have a reference image but can’t produce quality artwork when I’m going from imagination alone. When I was a teen I was told I’d get an A if I took art as an elective subject but ended up being predicted a D once we moved from still life to more creative projects. I worked incredibly hard to get a C in the end, but it put me off art for a decade and destroyed my confidence.

              In adulthood, I got back into drawing through digital art and now I work around my limitations by combining reference images to make something original. I was extremely pleased to find out that one of my favourite artists, Alison Bechdel uses reference photos for just about every frame in her graphic novels, made me feel like less of an impostor.

            2. Yeah, I get you.

              For me it’s weird. I can imagine exactly how an reaction apparatus or instrument I’m designing in my work will go together and can have a functional design sketched out in about thirty minutes of spitballing ideas on sketch paper, yet I somehow can’t apply that photorealistic imagination to people/animals/other stuff (I imagine myself a molecule flowing through the pipes to see if there’s flaws in the design).

              I’m more into writing now as an adult, and to write descriptions of people I use Google Images to look up people who look like I want the characters to look and then I describe those people. Otherwise my descriptions are very generic. “So and so had brown hair, was of middling height and had olive skin.” and that’s about all the detail I’ll give…. Mainly because that’s all I tend to notice about other people 😛

      2. If I’m relaxed, like at RP game, I’ll sometimes do stuff like this exchange, which is considered by others more odd than rude.

        Me: *preparing a cup* Coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee. Coffee coffee. Coffee! Coffeeeeeee.
        New guy: *stare*
        Me: Coffee coffee. *sip* Mmmmmm, coffee.
        New guy: I take it you like coffee.
        Me: *nodnod* Coffee! Coffee is awesome!
        Group: *laughter*

        1. Oh, I do that too. Once I was in Target reading all the signs and had this conversation:

          Passerby: “Chips? They’re in the next aisle.”
          Me: “Actually I’m looking for grits.”
          Passerby: “I thought you said chips.”
          Me: “I did. I was reading the aisle signs.”
          Passerby: . . . .

          1. I do that.

            Also if I’m looking for something I’ll repeat it under my breath a lot. Helps me to keep from getting distracted from what I’m looking for.

            On that note: Hate it when grocery stores rearrange everything for no reason. Recently, one store that I was so irritated with, I switched to a different store over it. They put all beverages together, which makes a lot of sense, except for the coffee, which they put in an aisle with baking supplies, and taco shells. Whyyyyy?! It makes no sense.

            If they’d put it with the breakfast foods, okay. I can get that. Not many people have pop with breakfast, but a lot have coffee with it. Makes sense. Coffee with baking supplies and taco shells, though? Argh!

            I won’t go back until they move the coffee somewhere sensible, it irks me that much. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a store be organized with some semblance of sense.

            Fortunately, the other grocery stores in the city have their selections grouped in a sensible manner.

  2. I have the same thing with trains! I grew up in between a busy railroad track and a busy street, and even though my bedroom window faced the street, I could always hear the trains passing by. Especially the freight trains at night, with their low rumble-y vibrations. When I bought the house I now live in, it took me a while to realise why I felt so much at home. Until one night I heard the rhythm of the freight trains passing by at the end of my street. 😀

    Cars are not soothing though, despite my childhood. They’re noisy and nasty! Maybe because the sound is always so unexpected, whereas trains have a schedule.

    1. I agree about the sound of cars vs. trains. You can hear a train coming a long way off and it takes quite a while to pass by and fade away, whereas a car just sneaks up on you and is gone just as quickly. Plus, trains are big and rumbley. 🙂

  3. I walked right in to the front part of a men’s bathroom/changing room at a big hot springs in Idaho once. I thought it was a hallway from where you paid your fees towards the pools. I already had forgotten that the lady at the front desk told me that I had to go to the women’s room, change, shower, and go to the pool, and my son had to go to the men’s room, change, shower and go to the pool. It was a lot of information and it involved directions as to which stairs to take and which direction to turn. And I had just paid, and had to be social and smiley at the front desk, so I was a bit overwhelmed; I did not know (as usual) that my brain was to capacity and I forgot almost everything she said. Especially the part that each gender had its own changing room & its own door out to the pools. So I just followed my son, until this large, muscly guy standing in a doorway where my son had just passed put his hand out towards me and stopped me; I tried to veer around him. He said, quite firmly but politely, “you CAN”T go that way, you have to go through the women’s changing room.”
    One of the most embarrassing things about being me is stuff like that happening.

    1. Oops! That’s embarrassing. I can totally see myself doing something like this, right down to trying to walk around the guy blocking my way. New places can be so confusing.

      Also, why do bathrooms sometimes have a joint entrance for the men’s and women’s portions? More than once I’ve nearly gone the wrong way because the signs were put in a strange place (including a bathroom at school that I’d used dozens of times and somehow suddenly no longer understood the layout of one morning).

      1. I hate that, especially when they don’t sign it in an obvious way. I mean, if you have to do the same entryway, put signs on the shielding wall and so that if you look left and right, you know which one you’re going into. The worst place for it I saw had two teeny little signs in the entryway to the bathrooms and no other signs of which was men’s and which was women’s. I only found out which was which when I saw urinals.

        1. Yep, urinals are a good clue that you might be in the wrong place!

          Oh, and even worse than going into the wrong bathroom was the time I was going into a lady’s changing room at a beach in the Virgin Islands and the security guard stopped me and pointed me to the men’s room, mistakenly thinking I was male because of my short hair, baseball cap and “boyish” clothes. Awkward. When I came out in my bikini, I just smiled at him and he shook his head and laughed.

  4. I find trains to be kind of annoying, but perhaps that comes from living in a highly industrial town that has only two ways to get out of it without driving over train tracks, that is, if you can even get across the tracks at a time a slow train isn’t going across them.

    I can’t tell you how much time I have spent out of my life waiting for a train to pass, especially at two crossings near a steel plant where they will slowly move forward, stop for up to 2 minutes, then back up, and move slowly forward again.

    1. I can see how this would sour you on trains. I’ve learned a half dozen different ways to get to my apartment trying to circumnavigate the train tracks when a slow moving freight train is passing. Between the train and the back-ups created around the intersection, I’ve spent more than 10 minutes stuck at the light, staring across the street at my apartment building. I can’t imagine having only two ways to avoid the trains in a town. Gah.

  5. Guess I’m on the “really likes trains” end of the spectrum. I don’t have a problem with that and like the role both real and model trains have played in my life for most of my life.

    What I am curious about is the “why” driving this interest. When I meet other people who have an interest in trains they can often relate it back to the role railroads played in their daily lives. Often when people build model railroads they are trying to recreate a moment to remind them of a feeling of something that really means something to them. Sometimes they build them to help them to intepret something they’ve never been exposed to; maybe it’s things like railroads from another country or time before they were born. My Dad is also interested in railways and perhaps for me, that’s it.t. My earliest memories of trains aren’t of real ones but they are of his model railroad so I’ve always thought that in many ways I was trying to connect with early memories of being trackside, albeit against his model layout, where others were remembering being trackside at some “real” train. Different origins, but same ends and I’m content.

    Since we’re all chatting in a land of interests not as broad as “trains” it’s only fair that I share what kinds are really special to me: I like suburban passenger trains. They can be light rail commuter trains, trolleys, subways or heavier commuter trains. METRA, NJ Transit, MBTA and GO Transit any day. Those are the subjects that automatically trigger an infodump. I opened up this paragraph to attempt to stage a question about these interests. For example, I see rockets mentioned above. I know enough about rockets to know that they are all different. Do people with an interest in rockets like any kind of rocket or do they tend to favour models of Russian ones or maybe just the models themselves like those great Estes brand kits we’ve all seen?

    I’ll confess that when I was easing into accepting my identity and becoming comfortable with this label it was my interest in trains that seemed to trigger the most resistence in me to accepting things. That trains just seem like such a cliche for the autistic folks and I didn’t want to like trains just because I was autistic. I wanted to like them because I genuinely did. When you are as interested in them as I was you get teased alot. You spend a lot of your life defending something you care so much about that you develop a relationship with the act of liking something, that act itself becomes a thing. I had spent so much of my life defending that part of me, that special thing that made me different that I was cross at the idea that it wasn’t special to me at all, perhaps it was symptomatic like when you have a cold and have a runny nose as a symptom of that cold. I just didn’t want to be that cliche. I was afraid of it.

    1. It does feel like a cliche, doesn’t it? I’m curious about the why too. I’ve heard people say that they like the reliability of train schedules (these people have obviously never ridden the Metro in DC) , the idea of going long distances or of traveling without having to drive, the mechanical aspects of trains. For me it’s very sensory and perhaps a bit of romantic nostalgia for childhood or even for an earlier simpler time (which is odd, since I’m talking a century ago).

      I think that many people with special interests have very specific interests. For example, I started out with a fascination for Korean court history, which narrowed down to the royal family in the late Chosun period and then narrowed even further to women of that period. I’ll watch historical K-dramas about various royalty (a popular theme, in general) but I’m specifically drawn to one particular queen’s story and would rather watch stories about her than other historical figures, even from the period I’m interested in. I’ve gone to great lengths to get my hands on documents from the time and have things like proofs and unpublished manuscripts written by or about women who lived during the period. But I’ve also had more general interests, like autism (although I’m starting to have splinter interests that are very narrow there too).

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