As an Aspie, I sometimes have problems when people use figurative or symbolic language. One would think that as a former English literature major I would be used to similes and metaphors, but I always believed that Lord of the Flies was merely about a bunch of kids on a deserted island, and that usually a cigar really is just a cigar. In general, I prefer that a person tells me something in plain English (or French, but I understand English better) what they mean, rather than using symbols or metaphors.
This morning I had a conversation with my partner of 13 years. We were talking about my router. It hadn’t been working properly, and I’d asked him to fix it. I was asleep when he fixed it, so when I woke up I asked him what had been wrong with it, so that I’d be prepared if it started to malfunction again.
“You were trying to barbecue it,” he told me.
I told him that I was doing no such thing; after all, I don’t even own a barbecue.
He insisted that I was trying to barbecue my router.
Again, I told him that I don’t own a barbecue, and that even if I did, I would not put my router on it, and to please tell me what had been wrong without the figurative language. “Just tell me in plain English, please!” Nevertheless, he continued to say that I was trying to barbecue my router.
A few hours later, thanks to a suggestion from a friend of mine on LiveJournal, I rephrased my question about the router. Instead of asking what was wrong with it, I asked John how he fixed it.
John told me to look at it. I saw that where before, the router, computer modem and telephone modem had been stacked on top of each other, they were now separated from each other.He told me that had been what was causing the router to be “barbecued.” It had been overheating.
What I want to know is why he couldn’t just tell me: “The router was overheating because you had stacked it in a pile with two modems on top of it.” Why did he have to use a silly expression like, “You tried to barbecue it?”
Sometimes I think that people would get along a lot better if they stopped trying to obscure what they said in figures of speech, metaphors, symbols, jokes and sarcasm and just plain said what they mean — politely, but honestly.
And I would have loved to sit down with William Golding and ask him whether the dead airman and the conch shell and the pig in Lord of the Flies were actually meant to be anything other than a dead airman, a conch shell and a pig.