On Monday, June 10, 1991, I remember having a peculiar discussion with my mother. Those who've read some of my stories will have encountered the fictional Redmond Mountford and he features in this one, too. Redmond's wife, Petula, worked with my father, and Redmond and Petula's marriage was one where Petula was dominant and Redmond just went along with it, without caring. A man my father worked with would donate to the social club but never attended any workplace parties, his logic being, he had his family, his friends and his colleagues, and he didn't mix business and pleasure. My Dad is friendly by nature, and what we were to observe with Redmond and Petula was that Petula had no respect for boundaries, in that when she rang up to ask if she could come over to our place, rather than waiting to be asked if she'd like a cup of coffee, she would ring up and say, "Get the coffee on, we'll be over in fifteen minutes." The only nice thing Redmond and Petula did for me was bring Redmond's sister (who was not racist) along for a holiday with us and she and I spent a lot of time together.
Anyway, Petula and Redmond had some friends who were the jealous types who didn't understand that people could be individually friends with others, and Petula would invite them along. On this particular morning, they were heading out for a picnic and my mother said to me, "I hope they don't have it that the men ride in one car and the women in another." My mother became carsick from Petula's driving. Now, here's where the clash came. Petula could only drive an automatic and Redmond had a manual four wheel drive. The other people were coming with Redmond and Petula and they were a family of four. I said, "Well, you shouldn't have to worry about that, as surely Redmond is taking his four wheel drive." To which my mother replied, "No! You don't use your own car and pay for the fuel when you can use a company car for nothing!" My mother was talking in economic terms of using a company car for free while I was thinking in terms of laws and a different practicality. The company car was a Ford Falcon that could take five people (it was a T-bar automatic not a column shift automatic, whereas Redmond's car was a Ford Maverick (a rebadged Nissan Patrol) with a seating capacity for seven (including the extra seat in the back, and I know, as when we went somewhere, Redmond put the extra seat down for my brother and I to sit in, which, for someone of 190cms, wasn't exactly comfortable) so Redmond and Petula and the family of four could be accommodated in that, whereas it would be illegal to fit six in the Falcon thus necessitating splitting the people up.
Petula was not in the same league as the stupid doctor who claimed that men and women could never be just friends, but she was exclusionary. She believed that the men should do something, the women should sit and drink wine and the kids should be somewhere. The correct solution would have also meant, the men do this, the women do this, the kids go off and play, but Peter takes a large bean bag or inflatable seat and sits under a tree by himself and reads a book. My identity amongst them was, "Peter the bookworm," a title I was happy to wear.
I know that some autistic people find comfort in alcohol or drugs (I drank a bit when I was younger, but I don't anymore) but, by in large we can be law abiding citizens. This may clash with our social justice ideals, however, and here is where we need to differentiate between law and justice. Vengeance isn't justice. Some of us believe that refugees should be permitted to stay in Australia and it's not the circumstances by which they come but the circumstances from which they fled that determines their refugee status. The law of this country may say otherwise, but we are aware that laws are not always just. The use of drugs may help some with anxiety but others of us say, "If we were caught in possession of these drugs, we'd face harsh consequences."
I can even remember with my first real girlfriend, she couldn't understand why I wouldn't park in a no standing zone. I even remember one day, we were near the department of transport and she said, "Look, park there." She then got angry when I pointed out a "No Entry" sign (it could have caused an accident if there'd been an oncoming car) and the bay was reserved for vehicle inspections (i.e. you change the engine in your car and update your details and the like), but no, it was a spare space!
Furthermore, obeying the law should never be conflated with compliance therapy. Compliance therapy is about forcing someone to abandon themselves, whereas pointing out to an autistic person what a stop sign means is about teaching life skills.
Autistic folks receive less credit than they deserve in society. Many of us can apply a different way of thinking that can be right, as evidenced with the example above, the neuro-typical thought, "Oh, beauty, a company car means free fuel," while the autistic thought, "Err, no, the legalities of taking six people in a car that can accommodate five is a recipe for disaster if stopped by the police." (Bearing in mind, Petula had received two speeding tickets the following year, so carrying a passenger without a seatbelt would attract a serious fine.) So, accommodate our thinking and validate the logic behind it, it could just save your skin.