Yesterday morning, The Scientist and I unexpectedly had to Do A Thing that neither of us had ever done before. For some reason–probably because I’m an eternal optimist–I volunteered to go into the town hall to find out how to Do The Thing while The Scientist waited outside with our dog.
Right inside the door there was a Help Desk so I approached the woman seated behind it and said, “There’s an office where I can Do This Thing here, right?” and she said, “Yes but, here let me spend ten minutes explaining five different excuses why you can’t actually Do That Complicated Version Of The Thing here and will have to drive to a nearby town to Do The Thing.”
That sounded inconvenient but I was so focused on Doing The Thing that I took the Post-it note with the address of The Other Place To Do The Thing and figured it was an unplanned hour lost from my day, but if that was what it took, fine.
Outside, I explained about the ten minute conversation with the five different excuses to The Scientist who said, “Grumble grumble grumble” and, instead of admiring my informative yellow Post-it note, immediately went inside.
Sensing that confrontation was afoot, I walked the dog around the parking lot, still clutching the Post-it note.
Sometime later–but certainly less time later than the hour it would have taken me to follow The Lady of the Five Excuses’s directions–The Scientist emerged from the town hall and told me that The Thing was done because, in fact, it was possible to Do The Thing there.
Fine. Awesome. Great job.
I had mixed feelings about his ability to Do The Thing, especially after I’d just been told by the same person that “no, absolutely, definitely, certainly not possible to Do The Thing here.”
The Scientist was clearly having his own mixed feelings. We decided to grab a coffee and talk over our giant stew of feelings because that’s what married people do and that’s especially what we do.
Sitting in Starbucks, we proceeded to dissect our contrasting experiences. I felt a bit like Watson to The Scientist’s Holmes as he explained how he’d managed to Do The Thing.
He told me that while he’d been waiting outside for me, a town employee walked by and The Scientist said, “Hey, do you know how I can Do The Thing” and the guy said, “Sure, there’s an office in the basement. It’s not my My Thing but there will be someone in The Thing Doing Office who can help you.”
That explained a lot. I’d taken the woman at her word because she’d told me that The Thing Doing Office couldn’t help me when I’d specifically asked. Clearly, she didn’t want to be bothered interfacing between me and The Thing Doing Office when she could just send me away and go back to reading ‘Divergent’ instead.
Which is no surprise. This happens all the time, right?
But here’s what is surprising: the way The Scientist and I viewed what had happened.
To me, having to go to another office to Do The Thing was inconvenient but I was so focused on Doing The Thing that I didn’t think beyond, “This is a little annoying.” I took the information I’d been given at face value because I had no other contradicting information to weigh it against. The social nuances of the situation–especially that the other person’s objectives might be different from mine–didn’t occur to me in the moment.
To The Scientist, the woman was a bully who was taking advantage of my lack of information and trying to make less work for herself by turning us into Someone Else’s Problem. As he recounted his conversation with The Lady of the Five Excuses, I noticed that many of the details he included pertained to the subtext of the conversation.
The things that rarely occur to me on the fly. The things that I can usually pick out later, after much analysis of a situation. The things that I was only starting to realize as we compared our experiences. In other words, the pragmatic (rather than the literal) use of language.
I was so focused on getting my goal accomplished–on using language as a tool to gain factual information–that I didn’t question the motives of the person I was asking to help me.
The Scientist, with the added assurance that he’d gained from his conversation with the town employee, did.
And that, in part, was the difference between our interactions with The Lady of the Five Excuses. When I Do Something New, I usually research it first. If I’d had time to prepare to Do The Thing in advance, I would have gone online to read about Thing Policy and Procedure. I would have Made a Plan, complete with a script. When The Lady of the Five Excuses gave me her song and dance routine, I would have known she wasn’t being straight with me and called her on it, backed up by an encyclopedic knowledge of Thing Policy and Procedure.
The Scientist, on the other hand, isn’t much of a researcher when it comes to minor interactions. For him, the casual chat with the town employee plus his ability to read the social nuances of a situation–It’s 8 AM and The Lady of the Five Excuses doesn’t want to deal with your complicated problem–are enough information for him to go on. When you factor in his in-tact pragmatic language skills, he’s doing a lot more on-the-fly interpretation and adjustment during a typical interaction than I am.
Not Usually This Naive
At least I’d like to think so. But I am literal. I see Help Desk and assume help will be forthcoming. And I’m goal oriented. I want to Do The Thing. A person says “Here’s how to Do The Thing” and my brain just goes straight to “Yes! Let’s Do The Thing now!”
There’s also this: I usually make up for with facts what I lack in pragmatic language skills.
If I know that I’m going into an unfamiliar situation, I go armed with plenty of background information. Then I run a continuous comparison of the information I’m receiving against my known facts. I also rely heavily on pattern recognition–people who are lying tend to fit one of a few predictable patterns.
Maybe my bullshit detection program wasn’t running in high gear. I’m usually pretty good at detecting when someone is trying to put one over on me. And at pushing back. Hard if necessary. This was a low stakes situation, though. Spending an additional hour doing something isn’t a very high cost.
If I hadn’t had The Scientist’s experience with the exact same person to compare my own experience against, I would have been inconvenienced by Doing The Thing in the Less Convenient Place, but I wouldn’t have thought beyond that. The social implications were secondary to Getting The Thing Done on that particular day.
A year or more ago, I might have felt a need to justify my thinking to The Scientist and he might have felt the same. It was a startling reminder of how much has changed in the past year to sit there in Starbucks with him, enjoying our coffee and marveling at how differently we see the world and how, as long as we’re each happy with the way we see things, that’s just fine.
76 thoughts on “Do The Thing!”
Well apart from the fact that I’m now dying (not literally) to know what ‘the thing’ was (!), I know that I’d have accepted the ‘no can do’ speech also and not questioned it. It doesn’t occur to me until later (if at all, sometimes) that someone would deliberately lie to me. It’s illogical because I’d not do it myself and therefore I foolishly assume that no-one else would either. The forward planning idea sounds good; I may have to use it myself more.
I love the whole ‘lady of the five excuses’ thing – fab 🙂 And I love a happy ending!
Agreed, the way you told the story was quite entertaining! “Lady of the Five Excuses” elevates your story to a folk tale or fable!
Thank you! 🙂 It was fun to write.
Planning ahead is really helpful! There are times when I’ll realize people are lying and times when I won’t. I think I have to be “on the lookout” or at least in suspicion mode, though. Dealing with this woman just wasn’t one of those times because I couldn’t imagine what the point of lying would be. Well, at least not until I’d had time to think it through.
My problem with Planning Ahead is that I discover too many options. It’s impossible to plan for all of them. And one thing I am not good at is evaluating what options are more likely to occur than others. So I tend to start off with a goal in mind and “wing it” from there. I too assume that a help desk is there to help, when I should know from experience, they are there primarily to make you THINK you have been helped. The two are not the same, but I keep getting caught time and again.
Yes, definitely not the same thing and I know that too but I still have difficulty discerning the actual helpfulness sometimes.
I have the same issue, so what I tend to do is plan ahead for the most likely scenario, and two or three most likely ways in which it will go wrong. I don’t have a plan for something improbable like protesters blocking the way to the office because it’s so improbable as to be insignificant. If my plan derails, I’m in trouble, but it helps the vast majority of the time (except when dealing with bureaucracy because they seem to make itt intentionally as difficult to navigate as possible)
I’ve been giving this some thought over the last day or so, and have come to a startling realisation. While I don’t plan what I’m going to do, or what things might happen, I do prepare scripts of how an interaction will proceed – several of them in fact. It’s when The Person Doing The Thing fails to follow my script that I start to flounder.
This was brought home to me clearly just the other day. I had tried to get a Thing done, by visiting the Getting The Thing Done Office. In fact four times over the previous couple of weeks, plus at least a further 5 phone calls. The outcome was that that they were sorry but I was not eligible for Getting The Thing Done. They provided me with a document as evidence of why I did not qualify for Getting The Thing Done.
So I emailed the On-line Getting The Thing Done Office with why I believed I was eligible for Getting The Thing Done. Within half an hour I had a reply asking me to send them the document that had been produced as evidence of why I did not qualify for Getting The Thing Done. I scanned and emailed the document, and within an hour I received another email confirming that the Thing had been done.
It occurs to me that when the interaction is not immediate, I can prepare and stick to a script. However, when the interaction is immediate, I keep getting distracted by red herrings (often deliberate I’m sure) and other irrelevant snippets of information thrown into it. When I’m not required to interact immediately, I have time to filter out those distractions. I also have time to construct reasoned counter arguments if required. Some people are able to “think on their feet”. I’m most definitely not one of those people.
The concept of “online” vs. “offline” processing in those situations is a big problem for me too. I’m so much better at asynchronous communication where I can gather the information I need, think about the problem and prepare a response rather than having to respond on the fly. Actually, this week’s Take a Test Tuesday post is going to talk about this . . .
Ooh! A teaser trailer. I can hardly wait… 😉
😀 It’s going to be much more fun (and hopefully more useful!) than last week’s test.
To be fair to you, your husband had more than one advantage: the conversation in the parking lot was a *huge* advantage, but he also had your experience to work from. Not just because he may/does think differently, but also because he wasn’t the one in the situation, he was able to see what was wrong with what the employee said to you. It’s usually easier to see something from the outside. And it’s usually easier (I think) to accomplish something that involves, at least in part, standing up for someone else, rather than only standing up for oneself. If that person wasn’t in the parking lot, and/or your husband had gone to the building alone, maybe he would not have emerged victorious. Am I making sense here? Strength in numbers!
A good point about standing up for someone else being easier – that’s very true. You made perfect sense.
Those are great points. Although he probably didn’t glean much from my experience because our conversation in the parking lot was basically me saying we had to go somewhere else and him saying “like hell!” and off he went. 😀 But what you say about standing up for someone else is something that he’s very good at doing and takes really seriously, so I think that was a big motivator. Plus knowing that it was actually possible to get done what we needed to do without going somewhere else. I didn’t know he knew that until he came back out and explained why he’d been so miffed.
First off, I ❤ you for the "Thing" concept. It's perfect to explain a myriad of stuff you have to do–like a great template. Your way is how my husband would react most of the time. Maybe because both you and he know that you would give accurate, helpful instructions if you were the Doing the Thing helping person, so why wouldn't that be the default for everyone?
I guess I've known enough of the wrong kind of people in charge of Things to be suspicious of "You can't Do the Thing here." But that's not a great default because you get a rep of being difficult and argumentative like that if you do it too much. And researching the facts makes so much difference. I had to Do a Thing that I hadn't done before, this week. I googled "how/where do you Do the Thing" and "can I Do the Thing where I want to Do the Thing?" so I went armed by knowing the 3-4 steps, and knowing that the internet said "yep, they can Do the Thing…says so right here." If I hadn't researched, I would have gone to the wrong person with the wrong stuff, they would have given me several steps verbally, I would have glitched 2-3 of them, and…probably left, embarrassed, to go figure out another way/place of Doing the Thing.
Also, The Lady of the Five Excuses made me LOL 🙂
You’re right, we’re just ridiculously honest well-intentioned people who assume everyone else is too. Silly us. 😀
I purposely left out what I had to do because I think this is a pretty universal type of experience and didn’t want people to get distracted by the details of what needed to be done. Also, it was complicated. And writing it this way was more fun.
Researching and going armed with facts is essential. I’m not afraid to be argumentative if I have lots of facts but I’ll easily get stonewalled if there’s any chance the other person can say stuff that I can’t prove wrong on the spot. I think there’s something about the way I present that makes people think I’m naive or easily confused or something. And yeah, without explicit directions and some pregaming, it’s easy to Do It All Wrong to the point of embarrassment.
I find research and preparation invaluable: I’m a nervous wreck if I’ve not scripted at least the outline of the interaction, and I need to have the confidence of knowing the facts. The internet is invaluable for this; I used to have to rely on other people to do these things for me.
Yay for the internet giving us increased independence! Being able to go online and find things like policies and procedures in advance is so so helpful.
I agree with the more info bit in the comments. Also for me I assume a cynical stance with anybody in government / authority etc. or really anybody I do not know. I never accept information on face value I always ask why. My default position is I disagree until proven otherwise, and I try to have fun and experiment with different approaches to people, turn it into a game.
Then I actually enjoy face to face interaction.
I did ask why and then settled for her answer, which I shouldn’t have because she was fudging it based on what my husband ended up finding out. I think I’m also more cynical or suspicious when there is something more important at stake like money or someone’s health.
It is so true that in my life, planning ahead makes these sorts of Things much more likely – for me – to 1. successfully get accomplished, and 2. get done without anxiety. This reminds me so much of me, except you are nicer; I would have had a less polite name for the Lady of Five Excuses after finding out she did what she did. I so often have those, “HEY” moments a day or a week after something like that interaction, where I realize finally what I wish I’d been able to understand in the present moment. It’s great for you guys to have such a good marriage, and thank you for sharing – reading this story made me happy for you. Goes well with morning tea! 🙂
Yes! I find it so much easier to ‘diagnose’ a situation when I’ve had lots of time to think it over. The happy marriage thing . . . it’s gotten so much better in the past couple of years, since I got diagnosed. We’re both way more understanding now. 🙂
I so appreciate your sharing. Two perspectives contrasted to illuminate and enlighten your “first-person” experience is a rare occurrance in my life, and I thank you for giving me another window on my own experience. Often I get hindsight info that has me wondering whether I am too trusting, gullible and asking myself where to draw the line. For example, my 6 year old came home with glue on his face, and when asked told me that he was under the table and then glue dripped on his head. I had no reason not to believe him, but another adult overhearing the story was skeptical. This was certainly not a high stakes issue, but when you repeatedly discover little “possible blind-spots” in your perspective taking, based on the reaction of others, or having indeed missed key information, it can really weaken one’s sense of “reliability” and confidence. I teach university students and usually give them the benefit of the doubt when they provide info about having missed class or a late assignment, but lacking an innate “lie-detector,” coupled with periodic executive function slip-ups seems to put a bulls-eye on your back labeled “sucker.” Superficial judgments by immature people, whether at city hall or elsewhere, seem to carry a lot of weight in this world. It takes a strong sense of self to not care or to ignore it. But when you sense this type of scenario emerging where the stakes are high, like with your child’s IEP team/teachers or in applying for a job, or in negotiating to keep your job, a recurring social-blind-spot can be a real liability and stressor. Yet, it helps a lot to know that at least a few people can relate! 🙂
It’s rare for me too so I thought it would be cool to share.
When this happens to me in a high stakes situation, I get super stressed and it really dents my self-esteem. This particular time, I didn’t seem to care and felt almost oblivious to what had happened socially. But that isn’t always the case. I know exactly what you mean about doubting our sense of reliability and confidence because of other people’s duplicitousness. It’s a hard thing to have to confront again and again.
The lesson learned here is to be skeptical of all information received from government/social service employees. The Lady of the Five Excuses is not the lady whose job it is to do the Thing, nor does she work for the Office of the Thing. She is only supposed to tell you where the Office of the Thing is. The Lady of the Five Excuses acted with authority she does not have in telling you not to do the Thing at that office. The Lady of The Five Excuses likely does not face accountability for her mistakes the way an employee for a private or small business would as long as she physically shows up for work at her desk and makes the appearance that Town Government is there existing. Town Hall is not going to go out of business because the Lady of Five Excuses was mean to you, and government is going to hold you accountable for the Thing whether the Lady of The Five Excuses gave you correct information or not. As a citizen of New York City, I can tell you that government employees and service employees can run amok and power trip to their hearts content, as long as they show up to work there is virtually no accountability until someone is actually physically injured by their behavior.
You are tried and true New Yorker! And I say that with great admiration. Your assessment of the dynamics is dead on.
After giving it a lot of thought, I concluded that the woman at the help desk had probably gotten crap from the Office of Doing The Thing because she’d sent people like me (with slightly complicated needs) to them instead of sending them to the other place. So by trying to shuffle me off to another location and make me someone else’s problem (a someone else that she obviously never had to deal with), she was saving her relationship with the people in the Thing Doing Office at my expense. I can’t imagine what other motive she could have, really.
I think “motive” implies consciousness, and I don’t think people always, or even mostly, act consciously. Our bodies cop attitudes for us. Maybe the Lady of Five Excuses is simply dyspeptic!
Very true. Motive might be implying an intent that didn’t really exist.
Yes, my usual come back when I’ve been sent away in these sorts of circumstances is to ask the way to the office / department to ask them myself, or to ask to talk to a manager. But I don’t usually remember to do this in real time, it’s usually a go away, think again, come back (possibly after lining up again) and say it.
As regards your (sweet) final paragraph, I just want to be sure I understand: Are you saying that your diagnosis has improved your communication – and therefore your relationship – with your husband? I ask because all along I’ve thought you simply blessed and lucky to have found early on the person with whom you work well and who accepts and understands you – that’s the impression I’ve gotten from things you’ve written about your marriage. But I think I would find it comforting if, in addition to all that being true, having a diagnosis that makes sense to you has helped things even more. This is personal territory, I realize, so if you’d rather not comment, I’ll understand.
Oh absolutely! He is a very understanding and accepting person, but he’s not a saint. We’ve had some very rough times and I haven’t gone into a lot detail beyond hinting at that because, like you say, it’s personal. Getting diagnosed and learning more about why I am the way I am is the best thing that’s ever happened to our relationship. We’re both so much more understanding of each other.
Thank you for this. It means a lot to me.
I do this constantly. It’s enormously frustrating, feeling like some naive waif who anyone can walk over because it doesn’t occur to me in the moment that they are walking on me or that I have the option to circumvent the situation to get what I want. And then I get distressed in the moment because I know I’m failing to navigate it to my advantage.
It’s so hard to have to come up against those feelings repeatedly. In the moment, I thought I was doing pretty good, asking more than once if it really wasn’t possible to do what I needed but I obviously wasn’t asking in the right way or something. IDK.
LOL I loved this and so well written! Thanks a great way to start my day 🙂 Yes! to goal focus and just getting thing done, and also yes to usually doing research on web first and “The social implications were secondary to Getting The Thing Done on that particular day.”!
One technique I use is to keep asking questions very politely, apologising for needing so much clarification (the “sorry, I’m a bit confused…”) then the helpful people become very helpful and the not-so-helpful often can’t resist acting the expert. It sometimes helps difficult encounters remain pleasant, as often it is just a misunderstanding.
And yay for you and the scientist just accepting and being interested in each other’s perspectives.
Great post, thanks.
I did ask questions but she kept giving me replies that sounded plausible. 😀 I probably should have been more persistent and not just walked away so soon. I definitely didn’t exhaust all of my options, looking back.
This has happened to me so many times… things are making so much more sense now.
Same here! 😀
I was researching developmental disabilities out of frustration one day about a month back and typed ‘neurotypical’ into the Google bar (for some reason that still isn’t clear to me) and I landed on your blog. I have had obvious impairments for most of my life. Obvious to my parents, my teachers and the kids at school, but despite several psycho-educational assessments done in the eighties and nineties, I have gone without any kind of formal diagnosis. When I had my husband read some of the articles on your blog he agreed with me that everything makes much more sense if I’m autistic.
I have met The Lady of the Five Excuses many times and have always wondered why she doesn’t make excuses to my husband. I script my phone calls and constantly research everything I do so that I will not be surprised. I do not like air on my skin when I shower, I do not like having bare feet, and with the exception of about six individuals, I avoid people. I cannot drive, I often don’t finish my sentences and I don’t look people when I’m concentrating on what I’m saying. I leave long pauses between words and people are always telling me, “It’s okay. I was being facetious”. I have been reading through the Tony Attwood book you recommended, did all of the tests on your ‘test page’ and I am pretty sure that I am autistic. Everything makes so much more sense now. Everything. It makes everything more clear. My husband doesn’t make assumptions about the things I do anymore. Theory of mind impairment makes so much sense. When I don’t answer him now he tells me that he wants an answer with out being snarky. the whole pattern of my life just makes sense now including the ,constantly being hoodwinked by The Lady of the Five Excuses, thing.
Anyways … Thank you for the wonderful, resource laden, insightful, and extremely entertaining blog.
I very much appreciate it.
And I forgot to capitalize the ‘T’ at the beginning of my third to last sentence.
It’s such a “wow” moment isn’t it? I’m so thrilled to hear that your experiences are making sense now. I still remember that feeling when I discovered the blogs of autistic adults, and especially women. Wishing you all the best with your new insights!
Yes! Definitely Wow! And, for the record, I really enjoy your blog as well. It’s like having deep conversations with friends over tea, late at night, in a safe and very pretty place. A rare and beautiful feeling.
Beth, that’s such a good way of putting it and sums up how I feel about this blog too.
That is such a lovely way of putting it!
I’m so grateful for this community. And it’s been through Musingsofanaspie that I’ve found my place. Thank you so much Cynthia. ❤
❤ This is very much a community effort. I'm so grateful for all the time that people put into commenting and sharing here, especially these days when I'm barely limping along with communicating.
Thus far, every time you’ve said you’d be writing less, you’ve seemed to write more. So by all means, keep saying it! : )
That was more of a “sorry for never commenting on other people’s blogs anymore” comment . . .
Bizarrely ‘neurotypical’ is one of the top search terms for my blog. 🙂 I’m glad you stumbled upon it and can relate and are finding it useful. There is a terrific bunch of people who hang out here and I’m so grateful to them for making this a welcoming place, especially for people who are newly diagnosed or still searching for answers.
I have met The Lady of the Five Excuses many times and have always wondered why she doesn’t make excuses to my husband
Yes! My sentiments exactly! It has to be something about how we come across to people? I swear this is why I generally try to seem much ‘harder’ than I am when dealing with strangers.
I’m with you on wanting to do thing advanced research and planning. (My sister doesn’t sell ice to an Eskimo, she convinces him to take custody of the ice and give her all his coffee.) I also love that you aren’t telling us what this Thing is– I’d get so tangled up in trying to help you in your Thing-Doing. Awesome!
Your sister sounds like my husband. 🙂
I intentionally left out what the thing was because my first instinct would be exactly like yours and I didn’t want everyone get all distracted by helping me with specifics.
I would have reacted *exactly* the same way. Maybe with added bonus points for doing some research beforehand, knowing I could Do The Thing there, and even then still going to the other place because receiving Conflicting Information about Doing the Thing would have made my head hurt and it would have been easier to go to the other place instead of trying to sort out which source of data was correct, the Lady’s or the website/brochure/wherever I got my prior information. It would never have occurred to me that the Lady of the Five Excuses gave me wrong information on purpose.
Yeah, sometimes I end up giving in even when I know I’m right (geez, that sounds arrogant) because it’s just too hard to sort out where the conflicting information is happening and why. That pisses me off big time though. Instead of laughing about it over coffee I would have spent days in ranty perseveration mode.
I was thinking exactly this.
Even when I’m prepared I may not challenge them if they tell me I should Do The Thing a different way, I might try to challenge them once with information I’m certain of, but if someone challenges me and I’m not certain or if they challenge me back after I have tried once to correct them from what I know, I tend to back down, even if I think they are probably incorrect I want to reevaluate my information. Acting uncertain seems to make people want to pounce…
I don’t know why, but I seem to meet a lot of lazy people with stronger wills than work ethic. Maybe they just hate paperwork?
Of course, my husband seems to be able to coax more work out of them, with the exact same level of factual information, than I ever can. The compromise we have is that I do the research so he can Do The Thing.
People skillz, damn them. Why can’t being nice be enough?
Side note, I feel a lot like Beth. I’m so glad to meet people who have similar problems to me. ^_^
“Why can’t being nice be enough?”
Amen to that.Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place if people did what was morally and ethically right, and were just nice to others because it was the right thing to do…
I agree. Nice should count for more.
I probably would’ve had a meltdown at the conflicting information, especially if it was something out of the ordinary to me. This is why I get my partner to come with me when I go pay bills – people seem to take him as someone not to give the runaround to, and things go a lot smoother even if I’m the one doing the talking just with his presence.
This is absolutely fabulous! Thank you!
I absolutely love this. Thank you for writing it, I can definitely relate.
In fact I relate to it so much I had to read this to my husband, because I think we’ve actually had almost this exact situation. We also love to compare our experiences, and very frequently I seem to have exactly this issue.
There’s an added thing for me which you didn’t mention (I don’t know if you experience it) and that’s not wanting to “shift gears” When I’m feeling goal oriented it’s about just getting what I need to done, and so I’m not in my ‘people observing mode’, meaning it’s more of an inconvenience to have shift gears and figure out that someone is actually fooling me, than it is to just chugging on forward trying to Do The Thing in whatever convoluted way they suggest.
The major issue comes when one place says I can’t Do The Thing, so I go to another place and they try to send me back to the first place saying I have to Do The Thing there, and then I’m not sure who is telling the truth, so I have to retreat and do more research instead of getting The Thing done. XP
Yes! I’ve been sent back and forth for Things so many times! And it’s really confusing and frustrating because of the conflicting information and knowing that *someone* is giving out wrong info, or doesn’t know, or is even lying to me, but being unable to ascertain who is telling the truth. That’s why I love online forms so much. No need to figure out if you need to visit this place or that place, and no need to talk to humans trying to get them to give you the information you need.
Very much so, I totally agree. I feel driven up a tree when I’m in that position, or at least it gives me a desire to visit the woods and get away from civilization.
It’s a bit ablist in it’s phrasing but I try to make sure to use a variation of Hanlon’s razor first when trying to determine if I’m being lied to. More specific, I never attribute to intentional misleading what can be explained by ignorance on the part of the speaker.
However, I personally see very little reason to lie about anything, which probably contributes to my bafflement at times when the person can’t possibly be ignorant, (usually due to later admitting of something). Especially when if they are the only place where I could get/accomplish something. Meaning if I don’t just give up they’ll encounter me later. Why lie the first time? O.o
Ohh yes! Online forums are wonderful, especially those where you can see annon reviews, because you get some of the most candid responses. Some people are just confused, but it’s not so hard to wade through and find relevant information, especially when I have the power of ctrl+F on my side. 😀
(hot damn do I love the find function, I want one in non-virtual life.)
Forums are also so much more reliable than in person people, for one thing “Sources please!”
I have a lot of trouble shifting gears too. Sometimes I get so entrenched in doing something or doing it a certain way that I can’t make the mental shift necessary to actually accomplish it in a more reasonable way. And lately I’ve realized that even when I can recognize that I’m not shifting gears when I should, I still keep plodding forward, I guess out of sheer stubbornness!
Oh man I can seriously relate to not stopping even when you’ve noticed it. It’s like having a retrospective at the same time as acting, you know it’s not gonna work, but you can’t seem to convince yourself you shouldn’t at least try just “a little bit” longer or more.
My dad used to call me a “one way street”, I thought he was being mean, but as an adult I realize it’s because of how stubborn I was once I got going on something.
It’s a step in the right direction though at least, when you can notice it, then perhaps you can try and steer yourself in a more productive direction. Or at least that’s what I keep hoping is true. XD heh
This? Exactly why I hate dealing with bureaucracy. Because the following usually takes place:
Me: I need to do a thing. *Googles how to do thing* Google says I need to call Office. Crap. Is there a way to do this in person or online? No, huh? Double crap. Guess I gotta call.
*spend some time working up the nerve*
Office person 1: Hi, how can I help you?
Me: Hi, I need to do a thing. A website said I should call you.
OP1: Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t handle that here anymore because [reasons] blah blah blah blah, I can transfer you to Office 2 and see if they will help, though.
Me: Okay, that sounds good.
OP2: Hello, this is Office 2 and I’m Office Person 2 speaking, how may I help you?
Me: Erm, I er, need to do a thing, and website said to call Office 1 but apparently they don’t do that thing anymore so Office Person 1 transferred me to you.
OP2: I don’t know why OP1 would transfer you to me, because we don’t deal with that. I thought it was OP1’s job, but I guess there’s been some changes. I can transfer you to Office 3, the manager’s office, and see if they know where to transfer you.
Me: Uh, okay.
OP3: Hi, I’m Office Person 3 at Office 3. How can I help you?
Me: *flustered because things are Not Going According To Plan* Uh, um. Um. It’s a bit of a, um. Long story. Um. I need to do a thing. Um. And I called Office 1 and they said they couldn’t do it because I didn’t catch why andsotheytransferredmetoOffice2. Um. And OP2 at Office 2 said they don’t handle it either so they transferred me here because they didn’t know what else to do with me? I think?
OP3: *speaks slowly and condescendingly* So, you are saying that you need to do a thing?
Me: *picks up on condescension and gets annoyed* Yes.
OP3: And that OP1 wouldn’t do it for you?
OP3: So they would do it for you? Why are you here then?
Me: That’s not what I’m saying! OP1 said they couldn’t do it.
OP3: Right, so they said they wouldn’t –
OP3: Whatever. Said no to doing the thing.
OP3: Well, I can’t help with that, so I’m going to transfer you to our help desk, at Office 4.
Me: but you’re a manager! Can’t you just – *realize I’m talking to a ring tone and shut up*
OP4: Hi, this is Office Person 4 at the help desk. How can I help you this morning?
Me: *teary with frustration and anxiety* I, uh, need to do a thing and, um, I’ve been transferred from office to office and, um, I, um, I – I just need to do the thing and, um, um, plea-, um, please tell me how to do the thing. Uh. Please. Sorry, I’m really stressed out today.
OP4: Did you call [Office 1].
Me: Yes. Um. They um. Said they couldn’t do it. Transferred me to Office 2, who transferred me to Office 3 who transferred me to you. Please tell me how to do the thing.
OP4: So you were transferred to the wrong departments, is that the problem?
Me: Um. I think so? I don’t know. I just want to do the thing.
OP4: Okay. I can transfer you to the right department, and they’ll get you sorted out, okay?
Me: Okay. Thank you.
OP1: Hi, this is Office Person 1 at Office 1, how can I help you this morning?
Me: *hangs up* *has meltdown*
^ why I really, really hate dealing with corporations and bureaucracy and will usually cancel a plan for a thing rather than trying to make changes to it. You can cancel a plan online but you usually can’t make changes.
Just reading this made me break into a cold sweat because it’s so familiar.
One of the lovely features of the ‘offbeat empire’ is that they have a “THIS!” button. I really want to press the “THIS!” button for your post.
I don’t know why it is, but it often seems to me that the combination of downsizing and rearranging in governments and corporations always results in absolutely necessary functions no longer being preformed by anyone. And for some reason no body notices until someone like us comes along, and then they can’t understand the problem and don’t want to fix it.
Calling places seems way more problematic than going in, because at least in person you can’t be hung up on. And even when they give you the run around you can come back in with a physical print out form their website and show them where it says they Do-The-Thing.
Ugh. I can SO relate to this, and the feeling of frustration that accompanies this kind of meltdown. I think the only thing worse is when one of the OPs would go down the path of “Well, Office Person 7 is the only one who might be able to help you with the thing, and s/he is not available right now… can I (a) put you into OP7’s voicemail, or (b) get a number at which OP7 can call you back?” Then I’m left to quickly choose between two bad outcomes… (1) trying to leave an intelligible voice message while I’m incredibly frustrated within the limited time that will likely be available for recording, or (2) providing a phone number and then waiting in agony for the return call, trying to keep my information straight, and growing increasingly anxious that the return call, if it is ever even made, will occur at the worst possible moment for me.
I have become so frustrated with the centralized scheduling system for our local health system, that I now routinely drive the 10 miles to my doctor’s office to schedule my appointment IN PERSON rather than enduring the pain of dealing with incompetent and/or uncaring people on the phone.
This is incredibly familiar, I’ve recently been dealing with the DVLA (UK driving licence people) who it turns out require everyone with an Asperger’s diagnosis to disclose it but have no clear way to disclose it. It’s been an extremely annoying and frustrating experience and I’m going to make a complaint at the end of all of this (and probably write a blog post). I’ve also had similar experiences trying to get organisations to not keep a gender title on my records.
My strategy with calls is to immediately say, ‘Sorry, could I have that name again for my records?’ Then ask how to spell it, generally make it clear that I’m recording everything, asking lots of clarifying questions as I make notes throughout the call. This slows things down so I have time to think about it and generally makes them take me more seriously because they know it’s going to come back to them if they do something wrong. I also have notes to read out when I’m transferred on to the next person, which is good because unexpected questions fluster me.
Ultimately the people you’re calling should be working *for* you and should be accountable, so making it clear that you’re going to keep inconveniencing them until this is sorted out can be a useful strategy, and also results in you having good notes for your records and generally being more coherent.
Yes……this has happened to me before. Sometimes people don’t know how to do the thing, but they don’t want to tell you that, so they give you a response and send you on your way. Help Desk is never helpful lol. Someone I know worked around this by asking multiple people how to do the thing and pick the answer that fits. XD That, however, does take time as well.
Oh, this is another great reason behind getting a run around! You’d think the help desk people would be the most knowledgeable people in a place about how to do things, but maybe not. 🙂
What amused me while reading this was that I’d have done exactly what you AND the Scientist did in this situation.
As in, I very often go into a bureaucratic social situation, take what I’m told at face value and leave, and then once I’m outside of the situation I think some more and go back inside to try again having worked out the social context or subtext, or remembered something I forgot to explain, or made the connection with something I’d researched.
I do this enough that I have a name for it, ‘Columboing’, coming back and saying “Sorry, just one more thing…”. This even often happens when everything went great and the other person was really helpful, because if there are multiple things I’m meant to be remembering, I’ll lose context and forget them in a social situation. I even sometimes come back and queue up again just to say thank you, because I might forget to do that.
Sometimes this might actually be a useful strategy – putting the person at ease that you’re a ‘pushover’ and then coming back more prepared having had a break while they’ve let their guard down. Kind of like being your own ‘good cop / bad cop’. It certainly seemed to work well for Columbo anyway 🙂
Your first sentence made me laugh because my husband and I often joke that between the two of us we make one reasonably well functioning human being. 😀
Columboing is a great name for your technique. I’m often too frustrated or embarassed by my first poor attempt at something to go back. Sometimes I’ll go back or call back if I’m fairly sure that I’ll get a fresh start with a different person. But confronting the same person after I’ve been shot down is hard for me. I need to work on it and I like how you approach it as “just one more thing” rather than a more confrontational approach.
I long ago accepted that I’m always going to be ‘faintly ridiculous’ and so go through life being cheerfully apologetic for being confusing and odd. No matter how much I try to prepare, I’m still going to forget to say something and stumble something I’ve prepared and confuse the other person as much as I’ve confused myself. I don’t let this upset me any more and so going back and talking to the person I only just finished talking to is an incredibly common occurrence for me.
Even when I think the other person might be being intentionally unhelpful, I’d probably still behave cheerfully and apologetically while remaining annoyingly persistent. I’d also make lots of notes and ask clarifying questions and make it clear that I’m not going away until I understand everything.
I think in the Do The Thing case I’d queue up again then cheerfully say “Sorry! Me again! I think I might have explained myself badly last time, but I’m pretty sure I can do The Thing here because it says so here and here …and could you direct me to the Thing Doing Department so I can check with them myself?” etc.
If it keeps going wrong or there are other factors causing my stress and anxiety then I might eventually burst into tears and be unable to talk, but that’s usually as much of a surprise to me as the other person. I’ll keep being cheerfully persistent until I’m satisfied that I understand everything and have done everything I can.
(With the caveat that I do sometimes get social anxiety and can’t deal with talking to an official at all, but this doesn’t usually happen when I’ve been and talked the them already and established a professional relationship – ie, it’s their job to talk to me and be helpful and my job to ask them questions. I also find it difficult to deal with people who are outright hostile and nasty to me, but I’m generally oblivious to the type of indirect / non-verbal hostility that one would experience in a professional context. If there’s plausible deniability that they’ve maintained a perfectly professional and helpful tone, then I can deal with that and keep asking them questions indefinitely).
It happens to me all the time! I guess this is the reason why I suck in bitocratic stuff, and I need someone (my partner or a family member) to stand near me doing them – that helps people to avoid lying me.
Doesn’t this bring back memories… Two long weeks of playing phone tag to Do The Thing. Two long weeks of lazy employees refusing to take responsibility or do the job they were paid for and giving me a new number to call each time that lead to one more lazy employee. End of the second week, a woman ruder than all the others called ME to chew me out for “doing it all wrong”. So I told her what all had been happening. (This was pre-self-diagnosis and I already had a healthy dislike of the phone in the first place.) I assume she called up all those other numbers to fuss at them instead, but likely she just complained to coworkers and let the other bums do whatever they want some more. But the extra frustrating thing is, I knew they were all lazy and full of it. Due to the nature of their job, I knew they could abuse their position all they want and I’d just have to deal with it or they could and would do something very nasty in return that would result in lots of legal complications for me. In fact, nearly did a few months later when having to deal with them further because employees of Do The Thing are as corrupt and wicked as any politician I’ve ever seen. So that’s my problem. Not knowing when I can bluff and get away with making them get off their lazy, entitled ass and do their job. My husband, like yours, knows how to play the game and make them do their job. So that’s his job. Being The Overseer. While I begrudgingly am The Tattle Tale who fetches The Overseer. I guess I should be grateful because in every other Do The Thing in our lives I have to be The Overseer and he’s The Tattle Tale.
But if I ever get the chance to leave feedback in one of those infuriatingly annoying “tell us how awesome we are” surveys, ooooo, do I leave some feedback… Almost makes the whole thing worthwhile. Almost.