A Short Story for Aspies and Their Associates
By Claudia Casser
I was really nervous leading the tour group. I felt horribly unprepared to keep the students safe from the natives, or even adequately warn them about the dangers of the tour. Over and over, I told myself that each student had scored far above the minimum required on the behavioral control test, and each student and their chosen mentor had consented in writing to undertake the risk.
These students certainly were better prepared to interact with NTs than I had been when I spent a year abroad my junior year.
But my cortisol level skyrocketed when I thought how important these reciprocal college tours were to the treaty between Newmind and BlueState America. And how critical the treaty was to Newmind’s survival. Like it or not, we Aspies needed the NT skills that BlueState American citizens provided.
So, over and over under my breath, I repeated: “Exercising individual freedom is more important than maximizing individual safety.” And, “Stupider Aspies than me have returned home with their tour group intact, and no major physical, cognitive, or emotional injuries. If stupider Aspies can do it, I can do it.”
At the break of dawn, we climbed into the tour bus on our side of the United Nations border. I chose an upright, air-conditioned seat and obeyed the flashing “Secure Safety Harness” sign. Most of the sleepy students chose the heated recliners. Regardless, the questions started immediately.
I was trying to answer the always impossible one, “Why do NTs lie?” when, from the back of the bus, the red-headed girl with the “Sorry! I don’t mean to be rude!” button yelled, “Why is this bus so long?” In case they got separated from the tour (and to compensate for my poor facial recognition), each student wore a button informing the world about a personality trait that would annoy the natives.
I broke off my futile effort to explain the NT practice of intentional misrepresentation. I knew the answer to the red-headed girl’s question.
“Excellent observation,” I said, getting into the character I needed to play with the natives. Though I couldn’t stop myself from laughing aloud at the pleasantry’s Waste of words, a kind of self-referential personal joke when Red was asking why we Wasted a forty-foot bus on a tour group of ten. “We are traveling in a mostly-empty long bus because the natives will not Respect us if we arrive in a short bus. Our university administration had determined that, in this case, Respect trumps Waste.”
Even the kids in the bus who weren’t members of the Church of the Three Commandments knew “Thou Shalt Not Waste” was the Third Commandment, and “Respect Thy Neighbor” was the First. To win political autonomy as a Human Rights Member State of United North America, our founding Aspies had to pick a State religion. Since the NTs refused to agree that Science was a religion, our Founders chose the next best thing.
“Why?” yelled Red.
The “Final Warning” signs lit on the back of each seat and the bus lurched into motion. I unbuckled and stood to face the students. Everyone must be faced, but no one can be turned to. Disorder! I quickly twisted my wrist until it hurt to get myself back on track: I couldn’t start brooding over my own sophomoric epigrams while I was leading a tour. And I wouldn’t think about Brad’s enthusiastic efforts to prove me wrong.
I forced myself to meet Red’s eyes, seeking clarification for both me and my charges: “Why does Respect trump Waste?”
“No,” snorted Red, holding my gaze, proving her control. “Why won’t the NTs respect us if we arrive in a short bus?”
Well, I was going to have to talk about lots of unpleasant truths on this tour. I looked down at the rubber floor vibrating beneath my feet.
“Uh, the NT stereotype for cripples, retards and weirdos is that they are driven to and from school in buses shorter than regular school buses, because they are a minority who should not mix with the majority: those considered physically able neurotypicals. Our research shows that this stereotype is so embedded in the collective unconscious of Carnegie-Trump University, that it would taint our interactions with them.”
“How–?” yelled Red, but a deep, flat tone boomed over hers:
“Collective unconscious’s a myth
That no one with sense agrees with.
If you shout it real loud
You might fool a crowd
But don’t Waste my time with ‘what if.’”
Brian. AKA Limerick Boy, for his Special Interest. Brian was the one tour member I knew, because I was the Graduate Teaching Assistant for Newmind University’s entire, tiny, NT Studies Department. The other kids were freshmen and sophomores touring for the thrill; Brian was a junior researching a term paper.
“First of all, Brian, ‘what ifs,’ or, as scientists prefer to call them, ‘hypotheses,’ are the foundation of the scientific method. Second, I view the ‘collective unconscious’ not as an inter-observable empirical fact, but rather as a metaphor facilitating efficient communication of a constellation of observable facts. If you want rigor rather than rhetoric, Brian, I suggest we shift our discourse to mathematics.”
Not that either Brian or I knew enough math to do that. NT Studies required only enough for statistics. But I was standing in front of a short-busload of Aspies. “Any MathBrains here?”
A hand poked over the back of a seat on my left. The kid didn’t bother to adjust his recliner to upright.
Most tech kids preferred to be called by their avatars, and those were certainly easier for me to remember than names. “R2D2, this is a formal request for you to share your expertise by answering all questions regarding Mimo’s Theorem of Neuro-Connectivity, which students on this bus may ask you during this tour.” With MathBrains, it was always best to speak as precisely as feasible. “Do you agree?”
“Yes,” he said, voice suddenly delighted.
I groaned. Of course the only MathBrains that would take this tour would be those wishing to make empirical observations relating to Mimo’s Theorem. It was probably the kid’s Special Interest. Not only would he answer any student who asked him about it, he wouldn’t shut up.
But I still hadn’t completed my lecture about NT collective unconscious, the metaphor at the heart of my dissertation.
“R2D2 will provide mathematical backing for the metaphor of NT collective unconscious. My favorite analogy to explain the metaphor is to think about groups of NTs like groups of cortical neurons, bathing together in cortical fluid that carries both chemical neurotransmitters and electrical signals. Each neurotransmitter and electrical impulse emitted by one neuron influences the others, a feedback loop building a group resonance. That group resonance is the collective unconscious.
“Aspies, on the other hand, are more like intelligent chess pieces. How one piece moves affects how we contribute to our shared ends, but we don’t wallow in each other’s emotions about each move.
“Some people prefer the billiard ball analogy, but I—“
The one bearded kid on board shouted just as my timer beeped.
Smart. Beard must have synchronized his timer to mine, so he could jump in the moment my time to talk about my Special Interests ran out. Either a computer major or pre-law.
“Do we all have to attend the Q&A?”
“Yes,” I said.
“What if we’re near melt-down?”
Beard was pre-law, definitely.
“No psychological exemptions. The only excuse for avoiding attendance is unplanned physical injury requiring immediate medical care.” Nobody liked the Q&A, where we were stared at and cooed at and felt up like animals in an old-fashioned petting zoo. But it was quid pro quo for Carnegie-Trump University’s agreement to co-sponsor reciprocal tours with our university.
Each side wanted free access to those candidates from the other school most likely to try studying abroad. Almost every NT who migrated to or worked in the State of Newmind previously studied at our university.
Pre-law Beard sighed noisily.
I’d have to keep a watch on that one.
But a kid with long black hair was waving both hands for my attention. “Long Black Hair, yes?”
He, she or they put down their hands. “Will we have to eat burgers and fries?”
Now was my turn to sigh noisily. Aspies had their own stereotypes about NTs. “No. Please re-read your pamphlet. Food warnings come right after warnings about the fluidity of NT conceptions and descriptions of reality. We will be eating in the Junior-Senior Dining Hall, which is a cafeteria. There are fresh, cooked, and processed foods of many kinds. The only problems previous tours encountered are the lack of washing stations for fresh food, lack of steam-sanitizing stations for cutlery and plates, and foods touching each other.”
By the end of the half hour it took us to reach the Carnegie campus, I was exhausted from talking to the kids. And now I had to talk to NTs. I couldn’t wait to be a professor, when I could foist crap work onto my own grad students.
Our bus stopped outside a red-brick, two story, faux Georgian building with a big banner pasted over the double doors at the top of a wide staircase: “Welcome Newminders.” Three administrators stood outside waiting for us. Nobody else was in sight on the quiet, tree-lined street. I gave Carnegie points for good planning.
“Pick up your backpacks and follow me,” I announced to the bus at large. Then I donned my own book-bag and a smile I’d practiced in the mirror, and stomped down the bus ramp into crazy-land.
“So nice to see you again, Regina,” said the youngish woman in the middle of the NT gaggle. Or pod. Or murder.
I fixed my smile back in place and thought hard. Youngish, but middle positioning usually meant senior among NTs. So a star. And she knew me. Frantically searching my memory for a match, I got nothing. “Great to see you, too,” I said.
Youngish took a step toward me, but not too close. “You were a great help to me when I spent my field year at University College collecting dissertation data.”
Had to be my freshman year at Newmind College: NT Studies liked to discourage would-be majors by forcing everyone who took Intro to NT Culture to serve as research subjects for visiting NTs. The NTs couldn’t get the idea that meeting one Aspie meant you met one Aspie; they kept trying to use brain-scans and experiments on a few of us to generalize conclusions about all of us.
But which of the three NT doctoral candidates that tortured my class was Youngish? I consciously un-knit my brows, stopped twisting my wrist, and tried my new smile on her again.
“Impressive improvement!” she cooed.
I blushed and remembered how hard it used to be to avoid smacking NTs for their condescension. When I noticed it.
“But then,” continued Youngish, “you always were the most impressive Aspie I’ve met. You know, that offer to join our Anthropology Department still stands.”
“Thank you,” I said, even though, with all my “impressive improvement,” I still didn’t get why I had to thank her for what I didn’t think was a compliment.
Someone bumped into me from behind. How appropriate: Brian-the-NT Studies-Major, my personal pain in the ass. I laughed and he stepped back.
“Brian, come meet Ms.—uh, Dr.—uh, our hosts,” I said brightly. “Brian, please introduce yourself.” I waved Brian ahead of me, pretending I wanted to give him the opportunity to practice with NTs. Which I did, actually. I wasn’t having him introduce himself all because I couldn’t remember Youngish’s name.
Brian’s deep monotone was firm and steady.
“NT major Brian Magoo.
I’m notably pleased to meet you.
Interviewees I seek
No one ‘specially meek
For my term paper is almost due.”
“We’re very pleased to meet you, Brian,” said Youngish. “I’m Dr. Sally Hyde, Dean of Anthropology. This,” nodding to the tall man on her right, “is Dr. Xin Xiao, Dean of Undergraduates.”
Sally, Sally, SALLY, I muttered to myself, wishing I could whip out my Aide and take notes without embarrassing myself. I didn’t need to remember the Dean of Undergraduates’ name: both NT and Aspie courtesy allowed me just to call him Dean. Crap, but I did have to remember what he looked like. Lessee, epicanthic folds, wispy beard, taller than me. Hopefully enough to differentiate him, especially since cataloguing him was making me miss the intro of Greeter No. 3. Well, maybe SALLY would introduce her colleagues individually to my other eight chicks.
But SALLY was fixed on Brian. “A budding anthropologist!” she cooed.
Of course she’d know that. She must be targeting him like she targeted me. She said to her colleagues, “You don’t mind greeting the others, do you? I’d really appreciate stealing a moment to chat one-on-one with Brian.”
The Dean of Undergraduates and Greeter No. 3 smiled and nodded at SALLY, whatever they really thought, something you never could tell with NTs, then turned their smiles on me. “Ah,” I waved at the strung-out line of my staring chicks, “this semester’s qualifying Newmind University undergraduates. With Brian, nine total, today. We’re all eager to get on with the tour.” Then I sidled to the rear of the line.
Thankfully, the Dean and Greeter No. 3 took charge immediately, greeting each kid as if he/she/they were the most important people in their lives.
I hoped my chicks wouldn’t be fooled. It was just something NTs did. You couldn’t blame a bull moose when it fought for you, claimed you, and left you.
After much more than necessary chit-chat, Dean and Greeter 3 led us up the steps into the cool, dim reaches of the faux Georgian building. The domed lobby was deserted. We spread out around a beautiful, hardwood table in the center, currently covered in stacks of e-cards.
Greeter 3 handed out the cards with a special smile for each kid. And me. I scowled at her to show she didn’t have to Waste pleasantries on me.
The e-cards showed a map of campus, our tour route, and the time of planned stops. As everyone poked at the e-card buttons, Greeter 3 said, “If you take a side-trip or get lost, you can rejoin the group by tapping the ‘locate’ button, and following the new route map.”
“No one is taking side-trips!” I said. “And isn’t a Carnegie student assigned to each Aspie for their Special Interest tours?”
“What about bathroom stops?” said Red.
“Point taken,” I said, “but even then-“
The Dean interrupted me. “If you don’t mind, Regina,” she said, “we’ll image everyone and their buttons for security, and then you won’t have to worry about–.”
“Invasion of privacy!” snorted Pre-law Beard. “Are you tracking our movements? Identifying us as Aspie? That breaches our-”
“You signed a form consenting to reasonable invasions of privacy in the interest of security during the tour,” I interrupted Beard. “Didn’t you read everything before you signed?”
That should shut up a pre-law, and it did. Brad, my NT ex, taught me how to handle pre-laws. On this very campus. Plus it was a lot easier with Aspie pre-laws, because they didn’t make up a lot of unwritten rules when they couldn’t use the written ones to win.
But I didn’t have to worry about that now; I just had to worry about getting my Aspies home safe and sound. This was only one day, for Order’s sake. “Please do image everyone, Dean.”
Pre-law Beard muttered, but low enough for the rest of us to ignore: “Well, I demand you destroy all data at the end of the tour!”
Pictures uploaded to the security cloud, the Dean said goodbye, saying he was leaving us in the “good” hands of the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate STEM—thank Order, I could call Greeter No. 3 “Dean” too—and would see us at the Q&A ordeal, which he called “cocktail hour.”
Dean 2 then led us through the faux-Georgian building and out the back door, through a garden she said was banked and planted in a special acoustic design used for concerts. (When Dean 2 mentioned that the building we had just left was the Music Center, silent because all the rooms were soundproof, we almost lost a skinny boy with a button reading “I talk music.” I assured Skinny Music Boy I’d get someone to escort him back after lunch, when each student got to visit whatever tickled their Special Interests, so they’d be as happy and calm as possible going into the Q&A.)
Beyond the music garden was a big green common, mowed and scattered with oaks, and criss-crossed with paths leading to more campus buildings. Sitting or lying under a few of the trees (the morning was already ridiculously hot for May) were the first Carnegie-Trump students my chicks had ever seen in the wild. The natives read or chatted in groups of two or three, or, exotic for us Aspies, four or even more.
Luckily, we didn’t have to talk to any of them.
Still, my chicks stared and stumbled over their feet as Dean 2 marched us toward the towering Science Center. When we passed close to a group of five bare-armed, big-muscled boys, all wearing mustard-yellow t-shirts, they stared back. One snickered something, and the whole group burst into laughter. I pulled my Aide from my big skirt pocket and pretended to snap a picture of the boys. They stopped laughing.
I’d have to remind my chicks they weren’t un-armed. Before I let them roam them free with native guides to pursue their Special Interests, I’d remind them to hang their Aides around their neck and set them to security scan. Then the Aides would automatically upload footage to the security cloud. That was a reciprocal waiver of native privacy that Newmind College insisted Carnegie-Trump make.
All of us salivated over the Science Center, even fancier than in my undergrad days. University College couldn’t afford the toys Carnegie made available not only to STEM students, but every other department as well. For liberal arts majors, there was even dedicated staff—well, work-study seniors and grad students-to format the programming and guide the use of tech.
FREX, the imaging instruments Dean 2 showed us helped art history majors find underpaintings and pentimenti. Brad would have loved that; though his interest was mostly in finding original drafts of hoary old legal manuscripts written on parchment or papyrus or whatever.
There was even a new subway tube in the Science Center basement that whisked students to the really, really expensive instruments Carnegie shared with other east coast BlueState American universities. Even I, despite my claustrophobia, felt sudden envy. Immediately followed by thankfulness that none of my tour group had a Special Interest in trains.
Everybody in the Science Center was quiet and focused; nobody stared at or taunted my chicks, even when they asked stupid questions. Of course, Carnegie-Trump’s science programs were tops in United North America; students fought for admission to the school, individual courses, and individual labs.
Newmind University science researchers said the high stakes and all that social pressure enforced conformity and stifled creativity, but that’s why Carnegie needed Aspie transfers. We had a natural immunity to most social pressure: often we couldn’t even perceive it.
Of course, the flip side of our inability to parse unwritten social messages was horrible vulnerability to NT deception; even when they didn’t mean to deceive. After five more years studying NTs, I finally could understand Brad and I were mutually at fault.
Still, today neither I nor even Pre-law Beard could find fault in the Science Center. We emerged in just the state of covetous awe Carnegie wanted.
Now it was time for my Aspies’ first real test of behavioral control: lunch.
Dean 2 led us to the Junior-Senior dining hall, a bit fancier than the Freshman-Sophomore cafeteria. Of course, there were eateries scattered around campus, but these two halls had the biggest range of choices, and were free to anyone with student id.
As planned by tour officials on both sides of the border, the dining hall was un-crowded at this hour. Just a few students lingered at late breakfasts, while a few others gulped early lunch. While both Newmind College and Carnegie-Trump agreed tours should show “real” natives doing what they did naturally, we also agreed to limit exposure to the more stressful situations.
My chicks found the dining hall sufficiently exotic even at this early hour. As Dean 2 handed each a cafeteria pass, they scattered to scrutinize, then bend over and sniff, every offering at every cafeteria station, raw foods and cooked, cold and hot. But as I watched all eight, ready to jump in if somebody licked instead of just sniffing (which bothered NTs enough), something niggled at me.
Eight. All eight. Crap! There should be nine! Where was Limerick Boy Brian, the NT Studies major? Had he ever even joined us at the Science Center?
Trying to keep all my kids in sight at once, I yelled, “Has anyone seen Brian?”
Not just my Aspies, but everyone in the cafeteria looked at me. A nightmare from the past. But this time I didn’t care. “Brian, the NT Studies Aspie from the tour wearing big sunglasses and the button that said—,” Disorder, what did his button say?
I tried to picture it: some monster from Greek mythology; no, some monster from comic book mythology. Green. “With a green, humanoid comic book monster on it!”
Dean 2 was standing as far from me as she could and still pat my shoulder. “Regina, Regina, what is it?”
“Brian,” I said more quietly, “the NT Studies kid the Anthropology professor was talking to this morning.” I’d lost her name again. “You know, the blonde lady who greeted us where the bus stopped.”
“Sally Hyde?” said Dean 2. “She messaged she’d sent him off to meet us at the Science Center ages ago. She only kept him fifteen minutes; his file said he had ADD.”
“WELL WHERE IS HE?” I twisted my wrist so hard I felt something pop.
Dean 2 ignored me and mumbled into her wrist mic. Lights, red and yellow, started flashing on the cafeteria ceiling. Outside, sirens wailed.
Four of my kids crouched and covered their heads; Skinny Music Kid started howling. I rushed toward him first, pulling a package of Damper Hoods from my skirt pocket, ripping it open, yanking out a Hood, pulling his head back, wrestling the Hood over his spiky hair. His howling stopped and I ran to the other three crouchers, grabbing their heads, shoving Hoods onto them. Three other kids, remembering the tour rules, converged on me. Only one kept trundling round a dessert table.
Red was one of the convergers. “Red,” I said, double-checking to see her badge didn’t say anything other than “Sorry! I don’t mean to be rude.” “Red, please go fetch uh, uh, the tour Aspie sniffing the dessert pies and bring her to the cafeteria door we came through, okay? I don’t remember whether she’s okay being touched, so don’t grab at her if she doesn’t listen to you.”
“I’m not some NT moron,” said Red, and flounced off.
Pre-law Beard was the second converger. “Pre-law, you are pre-law, aren’t you?” He nodded. “Please bring ‘Music is my life,’ the skinny boy who was howling, to the cafeteria door we came through and wait for me. He’ll be okay with you taking his hand if he doesn’t roll his Hood off his eyes.” Pre-law nodded and set off.
That left a girl with a button saying, “Just say ‘Dibs’ if I’m talking too long!” “Dibs, please bring MathHead with you to—
“I know, I know,” said Dibs, rolling her eyes, “to the cafeteria door we entered through and wait for you. MathHead’s the one who’s already rolled his Hood above his ears, so I can talk to him and ask if he’s okay being touched before I take his hand.” And she turned to her task.
Her button should have said “Smartass,” but I admired her Third Commandment efficiency.
That left indeterminate-sex long black hair and a boy with wrestler muscles for me to gather up.
Dean 2 met us at the cafeteria door with a uniformed campus security guard. Uniform led our whole group to a dim, sound-proofed room with chairs along the long windowed, outer wall. The overhead lights were already off and the window shades already drawn. We sat in soothing half-light and silence. The Hooded kids rolled their hoods down onto their necks.
“Sally is on her way,” said Dean 2, “and following our conversation here through my comm. Meanwhile, Officer Nguyen would like to ask whether anyone remembers anything that might help us find Brian.”
Uniform rose. “I’ve been briefed on your cultural preferences, which is why I turned the lights off in here, but I’m no expert. Please forgive me if I offend. My only goal here is to find Brian. We’re not here to point fingers.”
My chicks looked confused.
I interpreted. “Uniform—uh, uh, the Officer here, means that Carnegie’s primary goal is to find Brian to limit damage to its relations with University College, and only secondarily to determine who was at fault.”
“But he said our ONLY goal is to FIND Brian,” said Pre-law Beard.
I took a deep breath, cradling my pulsing wrist.
“Which makes no sense,” he continued, “when—”
“That’s just how NTs talk,” I said, “don’t worry about that now. Whatever happened, it’s my fault. Whatever anyone else did, it’s my responsibility. So let’s just help find Brian.”
Uniform said, “Professor Hyde confirms she sent Brian to the Science Center, a five minute brisk walk, at approximately 8:25 a.m., less than ten minutes after the tour group left the Music Center. There is no record of Brian entering the Science Center.”
“What about his e-card?” I asked. “Didn’t he get an e-card with a locator like everyone else?”
The door we had all come through pinged, then unlocked. SALLY walked through. “Dean Naji was responsible for the e-cards. I foolishly assumed she would give Brian his when he rejoined the tour.” She sat in the chair next to Dean 2–Dean Naji?—that Uniform had vacated.
“So, the last time you saw Brian…?”
“In the back garden of the Music Center,” said SALLY, “when I set him on the path leading to the Science Center.”
“What was Brian wearing?” asked Uniform.
Disorder! They hadn’t even taken his picture today, so all they had to search with was his file picture! What was Brian wearing? Something to blend in with Carnegie-Trump students. He’d want to blend in while he studied them. “Uh, jeans?” I said.
SALLY cleared her throat. “Khaki’s actually, and a lighter, khaki-colored polo shirt. And his button said, “Please pardon me if my questions offend you.”
I was losing it. I started twisting my uninjured wrist.
No picture, no e-card, and I hadn’t even gotten the chance to tell him to set his Aide to security scan and hang it around his neck.
Wait. Those jocks. They were on Brian’s path to the Science Center. They were the reason I wanted the kids to set their Aides to scan. And I had offended them.
“Disorder!” I cried aloud. “The jocks! Brian would have had to pass right by the jocks, right after I pissed them off!”
“What jocks? What were they wearing?” asked Uniform, while Pre-law Beard said, “Why is that relevant?”
I ignored Pre-law. “There were males, no sleeves, their shirts had no sleeves, and they had big arm muscles, like wrestlers. They all wore the same color t-shirt.”
“What color?” Said Dean 2. “Was there a-”
“How did you piss them off?” interrupted Red.
“I don’t know what color!”
“Close your eyes and think back,” said Uniform.
I squeezed my eyes shut until red and black shimmered and swirled, and I tried, I really tried, to remember. But I got nothing.
In my darkness, “Wait, let me,” said a familiar voice. Too familiar, to be from so long ago.
I jerked my head out of my hands and, for a second, looked Brad full in his piercing green eyes.
“It’s okay, Reg.” Which was bullshit. As I dropped my eyes, he started murmuring more bullshit.
Everything Brad said was bullshit, however right it sounded. Everything Pre-laws said was bullshit, and lawyers. Brad had to be a practicing lawyer, now. Triple bullshit.
“Go away!” I said. “Leave me alone! What are you doing here?”
He was using that soothing voice on me, the one I stupidly trusted, the one that felt like he was rubbing my neck, loosening the screaming muscles I suffered every day of my junior year at Carnegie.
“I’m a Carnegie-Trump University Counsel,” he said. “I can’t leave.”
That made me look at him again. “Oh, I get it. They sent the Aspie expert, the one who had an Aspie girlfriend.”
“And doesn’t that follow the Third Commandment? Should we Waste my experience, Waste what I learned, Waste our pain?”
“My pain,” I said, covering my face with my hands, wrists burning.
“I won’t argue now, Reggie; we have to find Brian.”
We did. And despite everything, that voice was calming me.
I visualized the path my tour group walked to the Science Center: the grass a young, light green; the oak leaves darker green, shading the snickering, over-muscled jocks in their–. “Yellow!” I said. “They were wearing sleeve-less mustard-yellow t-shirts!”
Uniform was already sub-vocalizing into his comm.
“Crew!” said Dean 2. “The coxed-four rowing team wears mustard-yellow t-shirts.”
“Another example of effective NT-Aspie teamwork,” said SALLY to the room at large.
Red and I snorted.
Brad grinned. I refused to look at him, but I know he grinned.
We got Brian back safely. The jocks had left him standing in the lobby of the Athletic Center when they ran to make their scheduled practice in the indoor rowing tanks. He had tamed them with self-deprecating limericks:
A strapping young lassie from State
With menses a month or two late
Frenched an Aspie named Dick
Who married her quick
Vowing sperm must swim down from his pate!
After his first success diverting the jocks from himself as target of opportunity for their revenge on me, Brian peppered them with more limericks to gauge the limits of their sense of humor, even following them to the gym.
When the rowers left him alone in the Athletic Center lobby, Brian decided to make notes of his experience while it was fresh in his mind. So he was just sitting there, typing away on his Aide, when the campus cop found him.
Brian asked to be excused from the rest of the tour to finish documenting his observations and organize his term paper. Of course, we all said yes, even though he didn’t seem traumatized. So Brian’s assigned Special Interests guide sat with him in the historical paper-book stacks of the Trump Information Center until we boarded the bus for home.
Red wondered aloud whether Brian’s escapade was just an elaborate scheme to avoid the Q&A.
I was just happy we made it back in one piece. Well, mostly happy. I thought I’d cured the wound that was NT Brad, but I’d only taped it over. Now I knew Brad was working at Carnegie-Trump, I swore I’d never lead another tour.
A week later, Brian turned in his term paper:
LIMERICKS: A FIELD-TESTED TECHNIQUE FOR DEFUSING NT HOSTILITY
By Brian Butkis
When hostile male NTs you meet
Don’t fear their aggression but greet
With neat little ditties
That mock female titties
Thereby turning your NTs up sweet.