Tuesday, January 8, 2008

News of the Flutie Bowl

Last night, Martha and I went to Boston for the fifth annual Flutie Bowl for Autism. I can recommend this event very highly to any of you sports fans with a connection to autism. Actually, you didn’t really need a connection to autism. You just needed $150 and Doug Flutie would make the connection to autism for you.

I met Doug, and he’s a very nice guy with a real mission.

Before going to the Bowl, we went to dinner at the Legal Seafoods in the Prudential Center. It’s one of my favorite places to eat in Boston. I was joined by Tom Murphy, a prominent attorney and one of the board members of Elms College (I work with their autism program,) our event person Jan, and her friend Bob, who works for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Boston.

Tom deserves special mention, because is a real gentlemen. He’s the exact opposite of a manner-less Aspergian like me. He even held the chair for Martha. He’s very polished, and was quite impressive to watch. There are times I wish I had 10% of those skills. He is a bit older than me, though, and it’s possible I will have 10% of his skills when I am his age. Luckily, he sees redeeming value in me thanks to my book. Otherwise, I would have been dismissed as an ill-mannered boor and booted out the side exit.

I ate an order of shrimp wontons before the others arrived. Martha insisted I eat the seaweed, too, which I did.

After dinner, it was off to the bowl. The event was held at Lucky Strike Lanes by Fenway Park. It’s an upscale bowling alley, the kind of place Western Mass hicks like us just gaze at in wonderment. I was glad we arrived by car, and not by mule. The event was sold out with almost 500 people

I learned a few things . . .

I was very uncomfortable when I arrived, because the place was full of people milling around and making noise, and it was all seemingly random. The place was packed with glittering people, sports figures, and people with cameras. It was kind of a sensory overload thing.

I cast my eye about for something to thing of as a distraction.

It sure looked like there was an over-abundance of females at the event. I pondered how I might determine if that was actually true, or if they simply stood out as a result of their attire. So here’s what I did: I looked out at the room, and began counting every head I saw from left to right. I kept two counts. One I incremented for each person. The other I incremented by one for each girl, and decreased by one for each guy. I counted a total of 100 people as a sample. At the end, my up/down counter stood at 14, meaning the female/male ratio was 36:64. There were almost two girls for every guy. Of course, I only looked out over the bar area. It’s possible other areas, like the bowling lanes, were biased in favor of males, but it didn’t look that way.

Clearly, if one was looking for a female, Lucky Strike Lanes was a good place to be. However, I was just an observer, having brought my own female to the event. Since there were two of us, one male and one female, we did not shift the balance either way.

There were many sports figures in attendance. I would have thought the football players would have stood out by their size, but many were no larger than me. I was surprised at that. There were Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics in evidence, according to comments I overheard. I felt a bit foolish, not knowing anything about professional sports, and being unable to appreciate all that.

The Elms College sent a contingent of people and they actually sponsored a lane, which meant that they engaged in the bowling competition. I found myself drawn in, and to my surprise, they said I had a knack for throwing a large heavy plastic ball. If you knock down all the pins with one ball, they refer to that as a strike. I did that three times in six or seven turns, and someone said “three strikes and you’re out,” so I retreated to the main floor.

I try and watch what goes on in social settings like this, to better figure out how to act. One thing I’d always heard was, “Let the important people win.” Well, we had the President of The Elms there, and no one gave him any special treatment at all. In the lane to my right, there were some real Patriots, and some aspiring football players. And the aspiring players whupped the Patriots. Of course, they woke up this morning and the Patriots are still Patriots and the others aren’t and maybe that’s why.

I later discovered the comment about the strikes was untrue, and returned to the floor, where I got one more strike and then proceeded to largely miss several rolls, after which I wandered off again. I became much more comfortable when Doug’s band started playing. I could follow the music, and even though it got louder, I actually felt a lot better with something to follow.

Everything was donated for this event, including the bar. As best I could tell, the drinks were free. And yet, I did not see a single fight break out. There was a fellow with whipped cream cake in his face, but he was not violent at all. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for other saloon keepers. . . when things get edgy, give them free drinks, and they calm down.

Speaking of the bar . . . they had the most remarkable array of flat screen televisions arrayed for fifty feet down the bar. Betting professionals would love a place like that, because they can show all the games, all the time. I saw some money on the bar last night, but I believe it was tips, not wagers.

It’s amazing how small the world can seem at times. As I was tossing balls, the fellows in the next lane introduced themselves. One played for the Patriots, and the other turned out to be the son of my neighbor here at work in Springfield. Who’d have thought I’d see the neighbor’s kid in a bowling alley, 90 miles from home? And he lived out there.

They also had an auction, where sweat stained articles of clothing fetched thousands of dollars from frenzied bidders. That was a remarkable sight to see. I wondered if the prices went higher because the actual sports figures were there to establish a provenance. Could two entrepreneurial kids in a garage in the Ukraine make a career selling signed sports jerseys? It sure looked like they could.

When we left near 11, things were still going strong. As we passed westbound on the Turnpike, the lights still glittered.

21 comments:

Hardy students said...

John, it was great to meet you last night, very happy to have made the connection to you. I continue to be amazed at how small the world is, running into my fathers old neighbor many years later in another city. I am very much looking forward to reading your book, you truly are an inspiration.

Kim Stagliano said...

Sounds like a blast, John. And perhaps you'd have been more comfortable around the corner at the first bar I ever snuck into - the down and dirty "Cask and Flagon." I, and others here who have dined with you, can vouch that you are indeed polite and not boorish at all. Tallish? Yes. Were you mistaken for one of the Celtics?

Your counting technique was most interesting. I'd have fallen over in frustration before I got to 10 minue 2 plus the androgynous person I couldn't discern as male or female. Fortunately I like crowds.

I'll let Muse assk the obvious question.

The Muse said...

I already asked! He did NOT bring me any photos. I'm not surprised that there were far more women in attendance than men. I would have loved to have gone just to ogle over these guys. Next year, Kimmy, girls night out!

inherwritemind1 said...

This is very cool. I love your distraction technique. Think I'll try it at the next big party I'm required to attend.

The Anti-Wife said...

John,
Sounds live you behaved quite nicely. In another few years you'll have more than just 10% of Tom's polish.

Chumplet said...

Sounds like you survived a really great evening, John. You even got a strike, and not the baseball kind.

Michelle O'Neil said...

John, I'm so glad you had a positive experience.

Sure sounds like it beat Shakespeare!

Woof!

John Elder Robison said...

Yes, Michelle, it beat Shakespeare for sure.

And Tina, if you like my counting technique it works counting guys too.

It's harder to use on cattle or sheep though because they sort of look similar and you lose your place, and it's not so easy to tell boy from girl sheep at a distance

MomofAspie said...

HI John!
I just finished reading your book in one sitting with teary eyes. It was amazing. I have a 10 year old son with Aspergers with so many of the characteristics you describe with such humor and insight. My only wish is that he turns out as happy and successful as you have. I hope we are providing him with the support that will enable him to get along in a nonAspie world, but the lack of understanding and empathy on the part of others makes that a challenging prospect. Any words of support or advice would be greatly appreciated! By the way, he is a Lego king. He has millions of pieces and like you, loves to turn them into all kinds of unexpected objects and machines! He designs new machines, objects, costumes, games every day by taking something apart and putting it together in unintended and unexpected ways. He can build anything out of anything and I would love for him to meet you one day!

Cheers!
MomofAspie

bonbon momma said...

I find myself completely overwhelmed at places like that. Bowling alleys in themselves are somewhat bizzarre but when you add the 'sports bar' element it just pushes it completely over the edge. I remember walking by a crowded sports type bar late one night. It had a huge window you could see in, but it was soundproof. There were a ton of people dancing but I couldn't hear any music. It was one of the strangest things I have ever seen.
At any rate, it sounded like an interesting evening for a great cause!

Polly Kahl said...

"At the end, my up/down counter stood at 14, meaning the female/male ratio was 36:64. "

Okay now John, that's just plain scary.

But it's no surprise you're a bowling savant. You probably did a statistical analysis of the slope of the lanes and the weight plus width plus hole depth of the ball without even realizing it.

Sounds like you witnessed one of life's strange but truisms: Where you have hot rich sports stars, you have hot babes. It's a given.

Glad you had fun.

J said...

I first heard of Doug Flutie years ago when his cereal Flutie Flakes were covered on the news. Alas, I'm not a fan of professional football as my husband is. Anyway, I'm glad to see he's still doing fundraisers for autism.

Church Lady said...

I get dizzy in those kinds of events. I think sensory overload is common to many people. But counting female/male ratios is, uh... not as much Aspergian as horny? just guessing!
:-)

kyra said...

i haven't been here in a while and i've been missing your 'voice'! so funny! so many things here cracked me up and appeared vividly detailed in my mind thanks to your way with words.

The Muse said...

Church Lady,

"Horny?" You are too funny. Don't you know by now that Aspergians are led by their intellects? John was just rationalizing his quota. He figured there were 2 girls for every guy there...

John Elder Robison said...

I had not noticed Church Lady's comment but since others did I will offer these thoughts.

First, I never said counting to determine the male/female ratio was Aspergian. I only said I did it. You should not assume anything I do is Aspergian because there may be no such thing as a standard Aspergian behaviour in this context.

Second, to suggest it's more horny than Aspergian . . . perhaps it's neither. Remember that I was out of place and uncomfortable and looking at all the partying people around me.

There seemed a vast gulf between me and them. As I looked at them I noted there seemed to be a disproportionate number of females and so I did a count to see if I was right.

I did not say this in the original post, but it's also true that the females at the event were dressed to be noticed, much more so than the males. It's not surprising they caught my attention.

I was actually quite uncomfortable at the time I did the count, and it was a welcome distraction. The news media was prowling the VIP area, and I told the reporter for Channel 5 that I was uncomfortable and it wasn't much fun for an Aspergian like me, but I felt it was important to be there and support Doug's autism foundation.

Shortly after conducting the count I was distracted by some of the Patriots and the Elms folks who dragged me into the bowling, where I turned out to have previously undiscovered talent.

The Muse said...

John,

We were just trying to make a joke and tease you! We're actually proud of you for staying at this event because we know that it is not your nature to schmooze at these kinds of social functions.

Woof!

Church Lady said...

Heh heh!
Church Lady wasn't teasing. Church Lady was flirting.
Did you notice my nice purple suit?

mwah!
:-)

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I recently went to the MLS Soccer All Star game and after-party, due to a good friend who is an ex pro player and evidently a pretty famous guy. Anyway, at one point during the evening I said to him, "Have all the soccer players gone home?"

He grinned at me and said, "They're all around you and they just heard you say that."

Classy, me.

The Muse said...

Church Lady,

PURPLE is your color, darlin', the color of royalty! You flirt...

Kathy said...

Just finished reading your book. As the older sister of two Aspergian brothers I enjoyed it very much. In fact last night I read a few passages to my husband and we started laughing until we cried. Like you, my brothers grew up undiagnosed. They are also both successful engineers although socially different than most. I'm so thankful that kids who have Asperger's now can be understood in a framework that the rest of us identify. Hopefully today's Asperger kids can avoid some of the pain my brothers grew up with.