Atlanta -- The first ever Asperger Syndrome Convention began with the same promise as any other convention. There were booths with vendors catering to attendees, a full agenda with plenary sessions and breakouts on various topics.
But less than one hour into the first speaker's presentation a near-riot erupted, leaving one person's self-esteem badly bruised (a high functioning attendee called another (IQ 140) "tard") and prompting numerous others to seek refuge in Yu-Gi-Oh and pipe-cleaner twisting.
The preparations for such a first-of-its-kind event were, by most accounts, somewhat minimal and outmoded. There seemed to be a disturbing lack of forethought and appropriate planning, leading some, such as teacher Chris Bardo (a "high-funx" in the lingo, he hastened to say), to exclaim: "Did the organizers think we were children? Did you see the "Time Out" rooms? The Pac-Man section? Tetris? It was as if they consulted texts from thirty years ago. After all, it IS the new millennium, not the Age of Aquarius!"
Bardo was very distressed, his voice reaching ever higher registers: "Most of us ARE high-funx. We have careers. Not ALL of us work at the local Big Box, taking pride in being the 'best cart collector EVER.' You would think our needs could have been addressed a little better than that. Did you see the D&D section? Not even AD&D! HelLO, the 80s called and want their game back! Chahuh!"
I could not draw Bardo's attention away from the subject, he was looking over my head. He went on (and on) about the facility: "They didn't even arrange for each of us to have our own area to organize our desk totems, charms and pen collections, let alone have enough separation of the chairs to be able to draw imaginary lines between us. No 'boundaries.' We were forced to sit at long tables, cramped together such that the person next to us constantly invaded our four-foot personal bubble. Can you imagine? Do you like it when the airlines force you to sit cramped together, while they throw disorganized food at you, or..."
Here Bardo seemed to become contemplative, mumbling what sounded like, "Obey my authoriTAY," as he wandered off toward the Prosody CAN Be Learned breakout room. He shouted as he opened the door: "Hey, sputum. Magic: The Gathering."
Stopping by the buffet, I found another attendee arguing with a small crowd that had gathered. Joshua ("no last names here") was rearranging the food on the table. While the wait staff went stiff with fear, the little crowd became increasingly animated. A list of alternatives "to determine the best schema" for arranging the buffet was being written on the table cloth:
- Alphabetical by name versus food type.
- Amount per person by body surface area versus Kcal usage based on activity level.
- An index of protein content and essential fatty acids versus carbohydrates ingested at the banquet expressed as a percentage of total lifetime need using insurance actuarials.
- Total food intake indexed to IQ versus carbs, protein and fats in the typical meal on offer, expressed as a bell curve.
- Pie versus bar chart. Pie chart makes complete sense where an actual pie is on the table. A casserole, however, naturally lends itself to bar charting. AGREED.
Joshua was overly involved just then, but Renkin was willing to talk about the incident that threatened to shut down the convention: "Well, you see, Brandon said his DailyDos member number was lower than Kyle's. They spit-talked in each other's face for a while over that, did some name calling and acted as if they were going to touch each other. Then Kyle retorted that his screen name on MyMind was 'KillerApp.' Of course, in the blogosphere your screen name HAS to be cool, or you're DEAD. Then Brandon said, no, HE had it first because there was the number "1.1" attached. Then Kyle insisted he OWNED it, and if Brandon kept using it he'd diss him all over the site, spamming that he trips over the pattern in the carpet and wets his bed."
Here, Renkin abruptly wandered away without so much as a "by your leave," typing into his handheld, chuckling to himself. He spoke out loud as he thumb-typed: "Brandon should = KillerAppUber. Circumvent problems imaginatively."