The other day I saw a man sitting quietly by himself on a bench in the park, so I approached and asked, “excuse me sir, but do you believe in Jesus?”
He seemed surprised by the question, but then after thinking a moment said, “well, yes I do!”
So then I said “oh”, and paused quietly a moment to think and then continued: “Well, what about psoriasis?”, which was supposed to be a joke! See, my real goal for the encounter was to talk with him about the topic of human diversity. I see this sort of grass-roots, street-level conversation between myself and individual, arbitrary strangers as being a key component of my business model for my new Diversity Acceptance Consulting business. This is how I plan to peddle my product: increased awareness, understanding, and acceptance of human diversity. And to make it concrete, I plan to use pretty much everything about me that might conceivably make me rejection-worthy — the fact that I’m autistic, the fact that I sit when I pee, etc., and as part of my strategy for this particular fellow, I had decided to focus our discussion on my unsightly, psoriatic elbow skin. I had chosen to completely ignore the fact that I’m autistic that day, just to see how things would go. I was going to be just a regular guy talking to a perfect stranger about my psoriatic elbows.
“See?” I said to him, showing him my right elbow. “I’ve got psoriasis. Do you believe in psoriasis?”
Keep in mind, please, that in my head all of this was supposed to be funny. I was trying to get this guy to crack a smile. But he didn’t, and quite stubbornly so. But instead of just apologizing profusely to the poor man and leaving him alone, for some reason I chose to double down on this train wreck and went wholly in the other direction: I thrust my elbow closer to his face and said, “here, wanna smell it?”
Big mistake. I’m lucky he didn’t punch me right there. But he did get up and I backed away and apologized and he was just shaking his head and saying “please, please, man, just leave me alone. I do not want to talk with you. Please just go away.”
And I did, of course. I felt awful about the disaster. That poor man had been just sitting there quietly, minding his own business, and it was like I abruptly swooped out of the sky like a pterodactyl, opened my sphincter, and released a bucket load of guano all over him, for no apparent reason.
I wish I could say that it ended there, but I was on a roll and couldn’t stop. I actually went back — to apologize more — and I can’t even bear to explain what happened during the next three awful minutes, other than to tell you that it never came to blows — thank goodness — and I definitely wound up playing the autism card. Also, no humans were physically injured, and my parting words to him were “I’m really sorry, man. I feel like an asshole. You win!”
I don’t think he felt much like a winner.