neurotypicals display impaired nonverbal communication at skateparks

Two interesting ideas are new to me:  my whole family might be on the autistic spectrum, and there might be something uniquely autistic about skateboarding culture.

After spending most of the holiday weekend inside thinking about autism by myself, I went to the skatepark yesterday.  The whole outing turned out to be stressful.  Why?  Sensory overload and social anxiety.  From what?  Normal parents brought an army of children on scooters, and the parents happily watched them zipping around, monopolizing the mini-ramp and funbox, scooting around the park single-file in a big chain.  The adults skating the ledge had to structure their session around not running into the children.  The Hare Krishnas thought to come out and chant in a procession around the park, then somebody a stereo.  I left and went to a walking trail through a wetland area.  I was too agitated for the freeway noise not to bother me, and I passed by half a dozen people.  One of them was friendly and asked for directions.  I got some Indian food and came home, feeling like I’d gone through battle.

Before the diagnosis, I would’ve seen all that in terms of the narcissism of American parenting and various bad things about capitalism.  I would’ve been right.  I guess I just notice/care more because I’m autistic.

I don’t like when the normal people come and mess up my happy place, so I can’t just flow and move when and where my body wants to move.  I have to wait on oblivious normal people to get out of the way.  Oblivious normal people.

In the 1990s, we distinguished between “posers” and Real Skaters.  Real Skaters did it for the love.  Posers did it for the perceived social benefits.  Actually, they kind of sucked at doing it.  They did come to the skatepark a lot and sit on the ledges and spit on the ground while talking to their friends.  I think those are the people I meet who’ll tell me about how they “used to skate.”  They generally got driver’s licenses and girlfriends to distract them from our true First Love.

First of all, normal families bringing their scooter children are failing to pick up on the fact that the norms are different from the playground in the other part of the larger city park we’re in.  Beer, cigarettes, and weed do in fact belong there.  Kids who skate are used to it at home, so you don’t have to be especially discreet.  Skate videos show our role models puking at parties in between landing the hardest tricks ever.  We’re addicts and crazy people.  This is our stuff.  So it’s already confusing that normal families are there.  They probably don’t know that the rules on the sign aren’t enforced.  The city just needs to say it told us to wear a helmet.  Why do they take everything so literally?

My mom was cool enough to take me to the world skateboarding championships in Muenster in 1993.  It’s amazing everything is on the internet now.  The sound is muted for copyright reasons, because we live in the future.

There were little pyramids and stuff outside the venue.  At one point I think I was trying a trick a few times, coming at it from a different direction than the group that was already skating it.  My probably autistic mother pulled me aside and talked to me about being in the way.  I’m shocked at how infrequently I see parents do that nowadays.

So how do you know how to stay out of the way?  Well, skateparks are all about invisible lines.  You need room to accelerate, approach, decelerate, stop, change direction, fly through the air, etc.  A trick is spread across space and time, and it’s sometimes aesthetically pleasing to do several tricks in a row, flowing through the park.  That’s when you’re really having a moment.  Normal people don’t understand that they’re making something unskateable when they’re standing where you’d need to land and roll away.  Or you’d have to be really in control to swerve around them after landing.

It’s not entirely antisocial.  Groups will spontaneously start to session a certain ledge, bank, etc.  There’s something like a queue, but people are getting out of breath at their own rates, figuring out what to do next at their own rates, getting distracted at their own rates, so people roughly take turns.  We’re still kinda weird about turn taking, due to being in our own worlds.  Gross cutting in line is unacceptable, though (“snaking”).

Trying certain lines becomes rude as a function of crowding.  If you feel like carving all around everything on your longboard without doing tricks, you’re making lots of things unskateable at the same time.  I’ve seen parents let their group of children go around and around an area in circles.  At times, I’ve realized that most of the park is functionally closed because of social retardation.  It’s not true that only “posers” or “normal people” are responsible, either.

That said, the only people I’ve ever seen sit on top of the ledge next to the 4-stair were a guy who sucks and his girlfriend he brought there.  They were busy with their phones.

Often, these people fail to take a hint.  They don’t pick up on the dirty looks people are giving them.  They don’t see the irritation when someone has to abort their trick to dodge them.  They don’t get it when someone starts doing tricks near them unnecessarily fast.  They don’t see me standing there looking right at them until they step aside so I can finally go.  I could start a confrontation and directly ask them to move, but are they socially retarded or something?  That would be an especially aggressive, unwelcoming way for me to get the point across.  I’m not trying to say, “Leave the skatepark.”  I’m trying to preserve safety-promoting etiquette.

Angry dorks setting a bad example for the children, obviously.  Unsuitable as parents.

The scooter parents aren’t allowing their children to have what I had before I ever went to a skatepark:  unsupervised mentoring from older kids in the neighborhood.  Sessions skating a curb with my friends.  Homemade ramps and rails in the driveway.  They have no concept that their kids should be able to steer before they push them down a ramp the BMXers are also using.  There aren’t, like, skill levels for playground equipment.  It’s like the parents can’t look at the obstacles and have a sense of the necessary physics.  Hm…maybe people need to go really fast to jump across the top of the pyramid your kid is standing on.  Especially when it’s crowded, skaters will start their approach while the person in front of them is around the point of executing their trick.  If they don’t land it, they have time to jump out of the way for the person behind them.  It’s generally assumed that people have this instinct.  Kids behave unpredictably, so they can cause accidents when people fall trying to dodge them unexpectedly.

To me, belaboring this stuff seems silly.  And yet…I don’t understand normal people.  On a regular basis, I see child-endangering mindblindness.  It’s not hyperbole.  A grown man at full speed on a skateboard could really injure 5th grader.  It’s really a burden going out in public and having to make all these accomodations to protect retards from themselves.  Maybe they shouldn’t breed.  Maybe we should eliminate them.  Similar logic is applied to us when normals feel safe from the prying eyes of “political correctness.”  Also not hyperbole.

On that note, here’s Michel Foucault talking about subjugated knowledges:

On the other hand, I believe that by subjugated knowledges one should understand something else, something which in a sense is altogether different, namely, a whole set of knowledges that have been disqualified as inadequate to their task or insufficiently elaborated:  naive knowledges, located low down on the hierarchy, beneath the required level of cognition or scientificity.  I also believe that it is through the re-emergence of these low-ranking knowledges, these unqualified, even directly disqualified knowledges (such as that of the psychiatric patient, of the ill person, of the nurse, of the doctor–parallel and marginal as they are to the knowledge of medicine–that of the delinquent etc.), and which involve what I would call a popular knowledge (le savoir des gens) though it is far from being a general commonsense knowledge, but is on the contrary a particular, local, regional knowledge, a differential knowledge incapable of unanimity and which owes its force only to the harshness with which it is opposed by everything surrounding it–that it is through the re-appearance of this knowledge, of these local popular knowledges, these disqualified knowledges, that criticism performs its work.

It’s impossible to have an honest discussion about anything without talking about power.