Call me autistic, but it’s kind of weird to consider that not only may your own friends think about things in ways wildly differently to how you think about them, but that they may not realise just how different your viewpoints are.
Some years ago a good friend of mine breathlessly informed me that a woman we both knew was apparently extremely keen to sleep with me. I did not find the woman in question particularly attractive – not least because of her cigarette habit – so replied that I might consider said activity if she quit smoking.
My friend reacted as if I’d suddenly sprouted two extra heads and started singing the Whiffenpoof Song in Spanish. He was genuinely, mouth-hanging-open stunned. It was as if the concept of someone voluntarily turning down an opportunity for sex was completely alien to his thinking and understanding of the world. He shook his head back and forth uttering a confused series of ‘no’s and ‘but’s, and once he gained control of himself kept glancing at me as if I was some kind of Lovecraftian horror in the form of a human being.
So yeah. The way you think about the world is not the way everyone things about the world.
I had a really rough week mental health wise – feeling anxious, not sleeping well, all tired and stressed from not sleeping well, the works. I decided to have an early night on Thursday and was prepping the pills I take before bed (yes, I have reached that age) when I noticed that the paracetamol tablets I’d been taking weren’t just paracetamol…
I am having the kind of weekend that would make Saint Francis of Assisi strangler a badger. I’ve got a long list of things I need or want to get done, but every time I start on one I’m immediately blocked by either disruptions to public transport or unexpected consequences of past decisions. It’s unutterably frustrating, so much so that if anyone had even glanced at me sideways during my last attempt to get something done I would have been hard pressed not to scream and physically attack them.
So it’s no wonder that my mind has turned to weapons.
Many years ago I read an essay by the great writer Isaac Asimov in which he discussed how his famous Three Laws of Robotics were actually a specific implementation of a more general Three Laws of Tools. For those unfamiliar with the Laws of Robotics they are…
1: A robot shall not harm a human, or through inaction allow a human to come to harm. 2: A robot shall obey the instructions given to it by a human, except where this would conflict with the first law. 3: A robot shall preserve its own existence, except where this would conflict with the first or second laws.
(There’s also a ‘zeroth’ law that Asimov introduced later, but we’re not worrying about that for this discussion.)
In his essay Asimov reformulated these into his Three Laws of Tools:
1: A tool shall not harm a human, or through malfunction allow a human to come to harm. 2: A tool shall do what the user intends, except where this would conflict with the first law. 3: A tool shall not break, except where this would conflict with the first or second laws.
In deriving these Laws he mentioned that they do not apply to weapons, and even speculated as to whether weapons should be considered a specialised subset of tools, or not even count as tools altogether.
It was the non-applicability of Asimov’s laws to weapons that I found myself thinking about the other day. Could a similar set of Laws could be created to cover the very deliberate harm-causing nature of weapons? After a bit of mental back and forth I realised that Asimov’s Laws – although stated as Laws – are actually carefully ranked priorities, and looking at things that way eventually allowed me to tweak them into the Three Laws of Weapons:
1: A weapon shall not harm a non-target or through malfunction or inaction allow a non-target to come to harm. 2: A weapon shall do what its operator intends, unless this would conflict with the first law. 3: A weapon shall not harm itself unless this contradicts the first or second laws.
The crucial difference is of course the division of humans into people you want to harm – targets – and people you don’t want to harm – non-targets. Once that’s done the laws work perfectly.
So, now you know the Three Laws of Weapons. Try not to need them.
The root causes of these kind of things are not well defined. They’re sometimes linked to childhood neglect and abuse, but there’s none of that in my background. Much more likely is the general trauma of growing up autistic in a non-autistic world without knowing that you’re autistic and that’s the reason everything is so confusing and difficult – rather that you being a dysfunctional, worthless freak.
In any case I’m well into middle-age now, so I only have to put up with this stupidity for another 50 years or so before the sweet release of death – and with all the work I’ve put in living like this I can manage that with my eyes closed. Bring it on, universe! You ain’t broken me yet and I have no intention of letting you, you gigantic prick!
There are a few things I need to get done this evening so I decided to go goblin mode and grab dinner from Red Rooster on the way home. I put my order in, took a seat, and was watching the staff running around trying to deal with the queue in the drive through when three people walked in.
They were a young Asian couple and an older Anglo guy carrying a wine bottle. The couple walked towards the counter but were suddenly blocked by the older guy leaping in front of them with his arms out and a big grin. They tried to step around him, and he leapt in front and blocked them again, and put his hand on the young man’s shoulder.
My initial impression was that they were friends and he was just goofing around, but when I caught a look at the young guy’s face he looked seriously distressed. I was just about to get to my feet to do something (moaning mentally about how I didn’t need this and just wanted to get my food and go home) when the older guy suddenly backed off and wandered out the door.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but rather than leaving the man stood just outside, yelling wildly into the night. He was – I realised at this point – extremely drunk. He then walked back in and proceeded to forcefully slam his bottle down on the bench right next to me several times – I was amazed it didn’t instantly shatter. The staff looked up at the noise but seemed uncertain about what to do about the situation.
He wandered across to a table, said hello to the Uber Eats guy sitting there waiting for a pickup, and slammed the bottle down again. He then staggered into the corner and took a seat, knocking another chair flying as he did so. His attempts to right it were notably loud and uncoordinated.
My order came up so I grabbed it, said thanks, and went for the door. The guy leapt up and staggered across to intercept me. I gestured for him to go out first in the hopes that he’d stagger out, get distracted and vanish into the night. However he echoed my gesture and burbled out “you first”, so I mentally shrugged and walked out.
I was barely out the door when he came up behind me and tried to snatch the food out of my hand! His state of inebriation however made this attempt – and its immediate follow up attempt – pathetically easy to resist. I snarled “I don’t think so mate!” and swung the bag out of his reach, before starting on my way homewards.
I decided to take the well-lit route around the front of the shops rather than ducking around the back like usual just to be on the safe side. I checked behind me a couple of times, but he wasn’t following me, or if he was he was moving so slowly I easily outpaced him. I wasn’t seriously worried – he was so drunk that if things had gone any further I’m confident that a single shove would have knocked him over.
For probably the last 25 years a fragment of music and a snatch of lyrics have been haunting the back of my brain.
It’s an energetic piece. The vocalist sings words along the lines of You can roo-ooo-ooo-oam in your own way with a four note descending scale on “roam”. Then there’s a rather 80s style guitar riff, and the lyrics repeat – You can roo-ooo-ooo-oam in your own way…
Now in those long ago days before YouTube and Google it was actually really hard to identify a song. If you wanted to look anything up you needed to go down to the local library and search through books, and while it was trivial to find information on, let’s say, Emperor Charles V of Spain, there were very few, if any, books cataloguing song lyrics. And if you did manage to find a book of song lyrics, how could you search it for a random snatch of words from the middle of a song? There simply wasn’t a way to do it.
So my only option was to rack my brain, hoping that some random neurons would connect in the right pattern to throw up some more details. And occasionally, over the years, they did. For instance, I was quite certain for a while that the song had to be “Roam” by the B-52s. I mean, the word ‘roam’ is right there! Careful listening to the radio and the eventual coming of digital music meaning the radio no longer had to be relied on however eventually showed that my random neurons were wrong, with the mysterious phrase appearing nowhere in the work – for all that I could hear Kate Pierson belting it out in my head.
With that possibility eliminated my brain went back to brooding and eventually suggested Transvision Vamp, who I had – frankly – completely forgotten even existed. Checking out their their discography led me to Baby, I Don’t Care.
Which was a slightly better fit – the backing vocals in the chorus actually sounded kind of right – but the bit I remembered still wasn’t there!
So I abandoned the quest. I decided that my brain had smashed together elements from the B-52s, Transvision Vamp and lord knows what else to create an entirely fictional fragment of music that never existed in the first place.
Oddly enough I’d been in this situation before with another fragment of music hiding out in the back of my brain. For years I was haunted by a small piece of violin that I was certain came at the start of a song, and spent just as many futile hours trying to figure out where it originated. I eventually concluded that it was a distorted memory of the start of David Bowie’s Sorrow and remained convinced of this until one wonderful morning when I heard it playing over the radio in the bakery opposite Bayswater railway station like some glorious beam of sunshine bursting into the greyness of the day.
I could only make out fragments of it – not enough to identify the song. But I heard enough fragments to know that there was only one band in history who could pull off such a combination of orchestra, synths, electric guitar and overlayed vocal harmonies, and later that day a search through the works of ELO revealed that the song that had been haunting me for decades was Sweet Talkin’ Woman.
So, imagine my shock and delight when on Sunday, doing my weekly grocery shopping in the Morley branch of a major supermarket chain, I heard the snatch of music that had eluded me for so long!
Yes they ri-ii-ii-ise in their own way!Yes they ri-ii-ii-ise in their own way!
It was history repeating! Another musical memory I’d decided was false unexpectedly revealed as genuine in a place of business! I found my way to one of the ceiling speakers and stood beneath it, memorising as much of the lyrics as I could make out over the hustle and bustle of the supermarket.
As soon as I got home I leapt onto the internet and started frantically typing in lyrics. In no time at all I had it pinned down and discovered that the song that had been haunting me for a quarter of a century was…
…by Daryl f’ing Braithwaite.
It’s Rise – the title track from Braithwaite’s 1990 album.
I was, and remain, not happy. And what’s even more embarrassing than being haunted for decades by the lead singer of Sherbet is that on hearing it I instantly remembered about 90% of the lyrics.
I’m honestly starting to suspect that the reason the normal people fry the memory centres of their brains with alcohol is specifically to avoid this sort of thing.
As I am sure has escaped no one’s notice I am a bit of a nerd. A lot of a nerd to be honest. And given that two of the way ways said nerdery manifests are as a love of maps and a love of history, it should surprise no one that I know a bit more about both the geography and history of my suburb than the average punter staggering out of the Bayswater station Cellarbrations of a Friday night. As such I was quite intrigued of late to stumble over a strange and tantalising local history mystery…
In the run up to Christmas developed a most lamentable and lazy habit of getting the bus home from work rather than getting some exercise in by catching the train and walking from the station. There are several buses that I can catch, the 48 and 55 for instance will drop me right outside my door. The 950 will get me to Morley where I can swap to a 48 or 998, or I could even get the 998 directly from work if I’m happy to spend an extra hour looping around the far side of Herdsmans Lake. If I was feeling particularly insane I could even get the 999 and spend three hours taking in Fremantle and the desolate land of wind and ghosts (AKA south of the river) before returning home. But the bus relevant to this particular mystery is the 41.
The 41 bus behaves like a decent, ordinary 48 or 55 for most of its route before recklessly and without warning veering off into the wild lands between Guildford Road and the river at Maylands. It wanders back and forth through the tangle of suburban streets, emerges briefly back into the light of day at Garratt Road, then plunges back into the wilderness before finally coming to rest only a few blocks from my domicile. If the weather is behaving it’s quite a pleasant walk, taking in both historic Halliday House and the day care centre constructed on top of a PCB dump (if the crazed photocopy stuck up on the IGA noticeboard a few years back is to be believed).
It was at the turn off from Garratt Road a few weeks back that the mystery began. Looking up from my novel I spotted something extremely curious in the distance. It looked for all the world like a church!
Now, I know the local churches. There’s the Catholics at the top of the hill, the Romanian Baptists at the bottom of the hill, the Anglicans halfway down the hill on the other side, the – well I don’t know what it was originally but nowdays it’s the Sikh Gurudwara just a block along from the Anglicans, the Russian Orthodox by the railway line, the Buddhists near the McDonalds, the Ukrainian Orthodox just near the Buddhists and even the Happy Clappys up at the old council offices. But an ecclesiastical building between Guildford Road and the river?! I’d never heard of such a thing!
So, it was time for research! By which I mean jumping onto Google Earth and zooming around the area looking for a suitably religious looking rooftop. It was hard going. I thought I had it briefly but it turned out my sense of scale was off and I was looking at someone’s garage. A good ten minutes of scrolling and jumping in and out of street view left me baffled. Where was this mystery church? Was it a mirage? Was it a hallucination? Was it an illusion created by Ozzy Osbourne? (He does that more than you’d think). I just could not find it!
So I went back to first principals. I dropped back into street view at the Garratt Road turn off and sighted along the line I remembered for the mysterious building. Then I jumped back into satellite view and traced the line forwards…
And it turned out I’d done goofed up.
I had assumed – as I so often do with street grids – that the street grid around Garratt Road was regular. It is not. The street I sited the punitive church down was not parallel to Guildford Road, but was angled to converge at it. To converge in fact dead on the Romanian Baptists. The mystery church that puzzled me so much was an already known church seen from an unexpected angle. Boy was my face red!
So, what is the moral of this lurid tale? I’m not sure there is one. I’m sure I could spin something together about being prepared for unexpected viewpoints and the destination being the starting point, but I’m a web developer, not a self help guru. Just take this as another pointless interlude in my pointless, carefree life.
Given that this is the 21st century and I’m not completely out of touch with the new information super highway style of doing business I handle most of my banking online, but for this particular task I needed to speak to an actual living human being in an actual physical branch of my bank. Given that my local branch no longer opens on weekends (boo!) I had to gird my loins and prepare for a trip into the wild northlands of Noranda – a place we natives of the Bayswater riverlands do not visit lightly – if at all!*
(* This is dramatic nonsense, but it reads well!)
My first order of business was to figure out exactly where the bank was and what buses I would need to get there. So I fired up a certain popular mapping service and plugged in the address. This showed me that the branch was located in a shopping center (that’s ‘mini-mall’ for Americans and other aliens) that looked oddly familiar…
Back in my high school days my mother worked as a nurse at a doctor’s clinic in a small shopping center in the northern wastes. I hadn’t been there in decades, but I rapidly realised that this was the location of the bank! What a surprising development!
Except… as I looked closer things began to nag at me. Sure, there were parkland and playing fields to the south, but I seemed to remember a road ran through them straight to the centre? And I didn’t think there was a major road running down the east side of the carpark? The more I looked the more I realised that while the shopping center was incredibly similar to the place my mother worked, it wasn’t actually it!
Racking my brain turned up the fact that the clinic was located in Eden Hill, not Noranda. Scooting around the map a bit soon found the place, five kilometres to the south east. It’s no longer a shopping center – it’s been turned into a slightly suspicious looking church – and a chunk of the carpark has been reclaimed for housing, but the list of similarities between the two places are remarkable.
* Both sites are on the south side of a major road east-west road.
* Both sites slope downhill from said major road.
* Public parks are located on the the other side of said major roads.
* The main buildings are located at the south of their large carparks.
* Another building sits (or sat in Eden Hill) at the north west corner of both sites.
* A park and playing fields are located to the south of both sites.
It’s as if both shopping centers were cloned from the same original template, then altered slightly to fit the local conditions.
This reminded me of a something similar I noticed many years ago. In two separate places in Perth for many years you could stand at a major intersection, facing an art-deco theatre. Beyond the theatre to your left was an Italian restaurant. Beyond it on the right was a Geláre ice cream store. In the same direction (a bit further on for one of them) was a branch of Grill’d burgers, and just across the road from both theatres (in different directions though) was a Dôme coffee shop.
The theatres in question of course were the Regal in Subiaco, and the Astor in Mount Lawley. Both were originally movie theatres, the Regal converting to a stage theatre in the late 70s and the Astor following suit maybe ten years ago – which would have made the similarity even more striking if the Mount Lawley Italian place hadn’t moved a few years earlier.
I don’t think any meaning can be drawn from this, apart from a general commentary on how all cities are shaped by the same needs (and perhaps that Dôme, Grill’d and Geláre branches are everywhere), but it’s still kind of weird to spot these kinds of recurring patterns – as if we’re living in a procedurally generated simulation (if you never hear from me again please assume I have been taken away by late 90’s Hugo Weaving).
Oh, and in the end it turned out I could do the banking I needed to do online anyway, so I didn’t have to journey into the wilds of Noranda – which is good because the weekend bus services up that way are appalling.