Aspie-dar doesn't just work when you meet someone: hearing about a person second-hand can also send a ping on the radar. It seems that even at a distance, Aspergers is recognisable.
IT's girlfriend, IT Girl, is on a new course at college (go on, guess what she's studying). She's the only girl and seems to be surrounded by, well, what looked like a group of mild-mannered students with a penchant for check shirts, faded jeans and bags large enough to fit a laptop. She gets on well with her group, she's made friends with almost all of them but she keeps coming home with talk of Tony.
Tony is loud, you know. IT Girl and her posse will be having a nice conversation about the elemental nature of gaming tech and in barges Tony with a joke about chickens. He hangs about on the outskirts of groups and makes comments at inappropriate moments.
He's just plain rude. He walks through doorways and holds the door open long enough to let himself through safely then leaves it to close without a backward glance. And he's incredibly immature.
I suggested he might be an aspie but IT Girl said he'd been on a test (I expect it wasn't a driving test or a test for colour-blindness) and he was just fiiine. He's obnoxious, that's all, and he thinks he's the most important person in the world!
Also, he invades personal space all the time and has no idea he's not wanted so he is just plain old rude.
I don't know Tony and I haven't seen him in action and I don't know the exact details of his chicken jokes. I haven't witnessed his personal space invasion or his badly-timed tricks with doors. I haven't even heard his loud voice which breaks through the whole room and makes everyone's nerves shiver.
I just have a feeling that a lot of the above will be familiar to aspies and their families. That if we haven't been guilty of space invasions (keep away, thank you very much) we will have seen aspies for whom personal space is that little point of fresh air right between your eye and theirs.
I know I've been the door-flapper (I really, really feel bad about some of those old ladies). I've done the voice and I've so very definitely done the jokes. I've also had a lot of experience hanging about on the outskirts of groups, waiting for the right moment to become part of things and wondering how everyone else got in there so quickly.
Tony might be rude. He might be a space-invading, door-flapping, voice-raising tick of a person whose sole reason for being in college is to annoy everyone around him.
Or he might go home each day confident that he has made progress: no noses whallopped with doors today and only one inappropriate comment over dinner.
Tomorrow might be the day he makes it into the group. And sooner or later they'll all understand his chicken jokes.
And once they do, he's free to spread his brilliance throughout the small universe of college life, no matter what people do to try and stop him.
Within every aspie there's a Tony waiting to break out and take over the world, quietly or with banging doors. It remains to be seen if, within this Tony, there is an aspie waiting to be heard.