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Aspie in the City 2: Chinatown and Step-gate

This is a short series of articles based on my recent trip to Manchester.Part 1 can be found here

So, off we go to Chinatown with me thinking an awful, awful lot about the cup of tea I had been craving since we passed the halfway mark to Manchester. It was an extremely hot day and as we come from Up North, it only got hotter as we moved down to Manchester. The need for any kind of drink was great but the desire for tea superseded the rest.

IT Teen said I could have some tea in Chinatown, but I said I didn't want Chinese tea, I wanted Indian tea (whine whine). He said there'd be no difference, which led to a small spat in the middle of a gaggle of young professionals.

I dropped subtle (as a pit clog) hints about stopping in a cafe on the way to Chinatown, how we could look online to make sure we found Chinatown (while in cafe drinking tea), how Chinatown was probably many miles away and if I didn't get a drink right now I was going to collapse.

Didn't IT Teen care that I was dehydrated? Didn't he appreciate that I had driven us all the way here? Did he not remember how stressful it all was for me? Did he not have any gratitude at all for me putting myself through this ordeal? Did he not think it would dampen his day if I collapsed in the middle of Manchester and showed him up?

I was actually feeling dehydrated, which is really bad because by the time you feel it you're on the way to being a heap on the pavement. At this point, I had a heady sensation as we walked along and life started to stream past, quite pleasantly. I was now feeling dizzy and out of it, but the plus side was that I shut up.

IT looked much happier after this and even smiled at me as we wandered along. I smiled back, thinking, you'll be sorry when you're dragging me out of the way of the trams because I've collapsed. So, you see, in my head I was still moaning on. I just didn't have the energy to do it out loud.

Then he dragged me into a store and we bought a cold drink. I was confused by the queuing system in the little shop but cheered up when I finally got my drink. Not tea, so I was still on moan-alert, but I didn't want to pass out anymore.

We made our way through the streets, stopping A LOT so that IT could take photographs. We had expected him to be able to indulge in street photography without danger of being thumped, but it turns out people in Manchester are as camera shy as people in Cumbria so we have quite a few shots of startled pedestrians.

We finally started to see signs for Chinatown and headed there quickly. IT said we would know we were heading in the right direction if we started to see lots of Chinese people. This didn't seem as logical to me as it did to him as I had a feeling Chinatown was more likely to be full of tourists but hardly had the words left his mouth than we rounded a corner and found ourselves surrounded by about 40 Chinese teenage girls, all heading in the opposite direction.

After this cosmic joke at our expense, we arrived in Chinatown feeling underwhelmed. I hadn't expected dancing dragons or perpetual New Year but I had expected a little more than there was. Still, we were there so we looked for somewhere to eat.

IT recognised the Wasabi Sushi Bar logo and wanted to go in there. I knew the name too but stopped short when I realised their front step was dirty. Here began what can only be described as step-gate. No, this is not a story of steps and gates who get married in later life and have a blended family of step-gates. It is the story of how a big chain of Sushi bars are far too busy to fill a bucket with soapy water and get the darn thing clean.

I looked at the dirty step and felt I was looking at their kitchens. I could see the germs. IT said I was being unreasonable and pointed to the sign that said they were refurbishing in a month. I said that I didn't expect them to refurbish, just to clean the step. He said the step was no reflection on the place itself.

At that point I turned into my grandmother and decided it was a pretty good reflection of the place itself because if you don't clean the front step then what else don't you clean? He said we should judge it by the name and how popular it was and look at all these other people who didn't care about the step.

Readers, I won't bore you with the prolonged nature of step-gate. It involved my lip sticking out and a lot of looking across the street for somewhere better, plus some geeky internet checking to see where locals liked to eat. To be honest, I almost came onto the Crazy Girl page and asked you all for help. Step-gate was such a massive thing by this time.

In the end, predictably, we went into Wasabi Sushi and were met with a gleaming paragon of cleanliness. At that very moment, three members of staff were bearing down on a place setting to clean it. I was cheered up though still grumping to myself about the step.

When we sat down, there was another moment of Country Mouse as IT and I both realised at the same time that we had no idea how to use a Sushi bar. It had the conveyor belt going round and a menu and people seemed to know what to do with both.

I had to ask the waitress how to use it, then forgot to listen to the whole of her answer so asked her to repeat herself. She became patient and kind, like you would with a lame goat and told me again how to use the sushi bar, this time speaking more slowly and enunciating her syllables.

By this time, we knew what we were doing, but I was then faced with a dreadful truth. I wanted to mess with the conveyor belt. SO badly. I really wanted to put my hand on it and have all the dishes pile up til they toppled off. I wanted to play with them, patting them as they went past like a cat with a toy. I just wanted to make a game of it and every time I looked away, I could see the conveyor belt moving past in the corner of my eye, taunting me.

Then the food arrived to distract me and I was very much distracted. I had accidentally ordered noodles and have never used chopsticks before. I didn't mind learning to use them but would have preferred to do it at home, without noodles. I had a go, making my usual three-thumbed hash of anything that needs hand-eye coordination.

After struggling for a few minutes, I called the same waitress over, figuring I had no self-respect to lose with her and asked for a fork. IT was totally shown up at this point, having already glowered and muttered that no one asked for a fork in a sushi bar, No One. I told him Someone was asking for one and that was me and that if he wanted us to be out of there within two hours, he would let me use the fork.

After that I had a happy few minutes of eating noodles, smugly, with my fork while IT suffered manfully with his chopsticks. He did manage, we both ate, no one was harmed during my prolonged use of a fork in a sushi bar and I came away feeling I had accomplished something.

If this all seems like a storm in a teacup, I must make it clear that I had got us all the way to Manchester, extricated us from being lost, dealt with a multi-storey, almost passed out on our way to Chinatown and, readers, and, been surrounded by crowds of people the whole time.

Coming out of the sushi bar into the blazing sun, I felt like I had overcome some of my inhibitions, especially my OCD reaction to the step. It wasn't that I expected everything else to be a breeze while we were there but I did feel like I had helped myself to enjoy the day more like other people would, rather than like an aspie on day release from aspie-world.

Having said all of that, at this stage I shot back into Manchester like a puppy from the vets and put TEA at the top of my to-do list. Nothing and no one was going to stand between me and that cup of tea.

Then, we got lost again.

To be continued...


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