From the category archives:

Stories

Blissful decay

by Henk ter Heide on Monday August 20, 2012

in Stories

I love looking at those picture of decaying cars and houses. Plant life that is
slowly covering everything that ones made out the city. Buildings slowly
disappearing in a sea of green.
Movies about people living in a city after the bomb has fallen. Breaking in to
old shops to find something to eat. Fighting of monsters that have been created
by the radiation.
I’ve often wondered how it would be to live in a society in decay. But as it
turns out it’s very possible to live in one without even knowing it.

In 1979 companies demolished profit. Or rather, in a attempt to increase
profits, they demolished linked wages.
In the 70s people where paid for their work instead of for their hours. Which
meant that lazy people had almost nothing but people who where willing to work
hard and long hours could make a lot of money.
They couldn’t spend hours in front of the television but they could buy
expensive cars, vacations and houses.

Demolishing link wages changed society.
People who loved their jobs worked as hard as ever. But people with boring back
breaking jobs didn’t see the point of working hard only to increases the profit
of the company. Why would you work longer hours at busy times only to
get send home at slow times.
So nowadays profit is a trick, just like high interest rates for banks. In the last
30 years unemployment has soared and wages have fallen.

So how come I don’t see rusty cars and roads that are slowly eaten by a layer
of plants. How come the roads in my home town are cleaner then I’ve ever seen
them in my life?
It may seem strange but this is actually a result of the decay.

Fifteen years ago Dutch government tried to solve the unemployment problem by
dumping all those people at the sheltered work places. (That’s how I came to
work at one.) It didn’t solve the problem. There are now as many people
unemployed as fifteen years ago.
But still. All those people at the sheltered workplace have to do something,
don’t they. So when companies offer us a lot of work we actually do work that
pays our salary. When companies don’t have much work on offer, our efforts are
put to use to clean the city.

So at moment things must be going smoothly because the city is as clean as it
can be. If it wasn’t for the number potholes I have to navigate when I cycle
down town I would almost believe it.

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Modern window shopping

by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday April 4, 2012

in Stories

For years the music industry has been telling us that if they only
could stamp out illegal downloading, music sales would rise.
But is seems that they are wrong:
Since almost two years France has a three strikes out law to kick
people of internet after they have been caught downloading three
times.
The law is a big succes in that illegal downloads have dropped
significantly. The only problem seems to be that sales are also
down.

This had me thinking about the time, in my teens, that I loved to
go window shopping. Looking at all those games and gadgets I would
have bought if I only had the money.
Especially it reminded me of the song Star Wars Theme – Cantina
Band by Meco.

This song was a hit at the height of the Star Wars hype.
It reminds me of all those romantic dreams picturing myself the
hero of some sci-fi movie. It reminds me of a time of hope. The
feeling that everything was possible.

For years I’ve been searching for this song. Thinking I would be
willing to pay tens or maybe even hundreds of euros just to own it.
But when I finally found it on Youtube, six months ago, I didn’t
even download it.
I just listened to it for a half a dozen of times and “liked” it.

Turns out that the value of the song wasn’t in the song it self but
in the memories.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_0bNesAiPI[/youtube]

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Enough is enough already

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday December 27, 2011

in Stories

This is a comment on a story on Slate.com about the apparent racial content
of the Dutch Sinter Klaas holiday.

“Allochtoon” does mean foreigner.
The reason that we call them foreigners is because that is what they call themselves.
If you ask a 8 year old Moroccan boy where he’s from. He won’t tell you that he’s born
in Utrecht or Amsterdam, but that he is from Morocco.
Although he’ll probably only knows the country from a few holidays.

Forty years ago we used to call people from Morocco and the likes “guest workers”.
But they never returned to their own country, so clearly they weren’t.
Instead they stayed to enjoy our health plans, unemployment benefits and pensions.
Although some Dutch people complained, the majority didn’t mind.

Nor did we mind that they continued to speak their own language and adhere by their
own religion and follow their own religious holidays.
Some ten, fifteen years ago head coverings started showing up in the Dutch streets.
And although it caused some annoyance, most people didn’t mind.

But you have to draw the line somewhere.
A few years back there was talk of demolishing the Christmas holidays in favor of the
sugar feast.
It never happened. But for the first time the Dutch people got the feeling that our
culture was under attack.

Now foreigners are complaining that the Sinter Klaas holiday is racist.
It might be.
But that’s not the point.
It’s our holiday. Part of our cultural heritage.
We, the Dutch people, are getting the ever stronger feeling that if those foreigners
really hate our culture that much, they should go back to where they came from.
But of course they won’t.
Where else could they enjoy a lifestyle that is as good as what they get in the
Netherlands?

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Me me me me

by Henk ter Heide on Sunday November 27, 2011

in Stories

I’m Henk.
I’m 50 years old.
I’m gay.
I have autism.
I’m half black, half white. (My father is white, my mother was black.)
But I never did anything with black culture.

My mother was one of the first black people in the Netherlands.
When I was born black culture didn’t exist.
More black people came to the Netherlands when I was in my teens.
But they where from a different part of the world.
They didn’t even speak my language.

I’m trying to be a writer.

I’ve been telling stories most of my live.
But I told those stories to myself.
The stories where about myself.

/begin cut
………………….
/end cut

I’m editing.
While I was thinking about this story I realized something.
While I feel the need to tell some stories over and over again.
Doesn’t mean that you feel the need to read those stories over and over again.

I’m single.
Not understanding the differences between NTs and people with autism I’ve been stuck for a few years.
But I’m getting there.
I don’t think I’m ready yet to say,
I’m in a relationship.
But I would like to be able to say,
I have friends.

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Not abnormal

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday November 15, 2011

in Stories

Nobody likes to be called abnormal. Not even if it’s only implied.
So when I came out as gay, 30 years ago, I found that I had to educate people.
The opposite of gay isn’t normal but straight.

The same holds true for autism.
In autism the brain is wired differently. Of more scientifically we are neuro atypical.
The opposite of people who are autistic are people who are neuro typical. Or NT.

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Caught

by Henk ter Heide on Sunday November 13, 2011

in Stories

After discovering why I need to talk to myself I find myself talking a lot in English.
Talking to this blog. Thinking up stories I could write. Sometimes even finding
fragments without knowing to which story they belong.

It’s a little exhausting thinking about stories all day. So sometimes I order myself
to stop. But that turns out to be even more exhausting.
It took me a while to figure out why.

This afternoon cycling back home from my work I caught myself talking Dutch to myself.
I started within a few seconds after I stopped talking English.
Only the Dutch conversations are far more annoying.
I replay a discussion I had with some colleague to whom I couldn’t explain something.

In this case I replayed a discussion with a colleague who accused me of not being
social because I don’t obey Promen’s childish rules.
In this case the rule that you should stay on the department floor until you get
permission to go on break: Typically people stop working about 5 minutes before the
actual break starts and standing by the door wait until the manager gives them
permission to leave.
I don’t.
I work until it’s time to go on break. Leave my seat and walk straight to the lunchroom.

Of course this is a sheltered workplace and people have loads of problems.
The reason why they stand at the door is because they don’t dare to take
responsibility for their own lives.
Taking responsibility means solving your own problems and living by your own rules.
But if you can’t solve your own problems the safest bet is to live by the rules of the
manager and leave it to him to solve your problems.

I tried to tell this guy that not following Promen’s rules is a consequence of taking
responsibility for my own life. But he didn’t agree.
Which actually isn’t strange.
No grown man will ever admit to not being able to fix his own problems.

I know this. But still it annoys me.
For a few days. And then I find something else to be annoyed about.
But only when I think in Dutch.

It’s nice to know that I can choose either to think in Dutch and be annoyed or think
in English and create stories.

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A different path

by Henk ter Heide on Friday November 11, 2011

in Stories

I never really considered it a problem, but I have been
wondering the last couple of years. Why is it that I
always have so many problems. And why is it that almost
everybody I know has a lot of problems.

.
..

….
…..
Bored….
Bored….?
Bored….!
Bored!

It always takes me a few weeks to figure out what it is
that I’m feeling.
A month ago I realized that I was feeling bored.
I had nothing left to think about.

So my first reaction was to go out and find me some kind
of problem to solve.
But after a few days it dawned on me that this is why I
always have so many problems. I search them out.

I love solving problems. Whether they are personal
problems, work related problems, problems of other
people or just problems I’ve read about.
People who worked at boarding houses group homes
where trained in recognizing problems by the way
people behaved. So it actually happens that I know
what is wrong with people with whom I’ve never talked.

I love figuring out what is wrong and finding a
way to solve the problem.
But there is a down side.
When problems get solved people run of in search
for a more happy life and I go out and find the next
problem. Which leads to a somewhat depressing life style.

On further thought I concluded that it isn’t the finding
of the solution that I love. It’s the thinking process
that precedes it. But this thinking process isn’t exclusive
to solving problems.
So I’m done with solving (other people’s) problems.
Now I’m going to work on my own future.
Let’s see how much fun I can get out of writing
stories for this blog.

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Deceiving myself

by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday November 9, 2011

in Stories

I’m in grate shape. I’m bursting with energy.
About two months ago I started training with weights. Although
I haven’t lost any body weight it has done a lot for my condition.
I should have started with this years ago.

One of the advantages of a visual thinking process (which is a
symptom of both autism and dyslexia) is the way I count.
I can see how many objects there are just by looking at them
for a moment.

Actually until a few years back I thought everybody could.
I was very surprised when I saw the wife of Boyd (from the
Discovery show “American Hotrod”) point at three cars and say
“there are one, two, three, three cars” (of a specific type).
At first I thought see was joking or acting deliberately stupid.
It took me a while to realize that she actually couldn’t see
how many cars there where without counting them.
It took me even longer to realize that this is probably true
for most people.

It seems that I have a special ability. Not only can I see how
many objects there are by just looking at them. But I can even
do that while there’re moving. (The number of ducks swimming in
a pool.)
It works better with odd shaped objects, like ducks, then with
even shape objects, like ball bearings in a box.

There is one drawback though.
Since I hardly ever count in the regular way I don’t have much
practice with it and get easily distracted.
Especially if I have to count past ten. “1, 2, 3, 14, …15,
…16?” Or when I have to count sets of anything. “Is this the
second or the third set?”
But it isn’t really a problem because I almost never count the
regular way.
Or at least that is what I’ve been telling myself for the last
couple of years.

Of course everything changes when I start training with weights.
Sport instructors advise to do 3 sets of 15 repeats with 30 to
60 second brakes between sets. But after counting to 15 I’m
never sure whether I actually did 15 repeats. And after the
brake I’m never sure whether I’m about to start with the second
or with the third set.
So I’ve been putting training with weights off.
I was always afraid that someone would notice and accuse me of
cheating. Or, even worse, I would have to admit that I can’t
count passed ten.

Two months ago I decided that I would no longer bully myself
with thoughts about what people could do or say and just start
training using 3 sets of 10 repeats.
Nobody noticed.
Even better.
It turns out that there are more people training with a different
scheme. Not a lot but enough not to make me stand out.

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Not the way my parents raised me

by Henk ter Heide on Monday November 7, 2011

in Stories

At sheltered workplace Promen work about 500 people with disabilities and
1500 people with all kind of problems that lead to a high sick leave.
Most of those people have problems they can’t solve themselves. So, as
you can imagine, this leads to a lot of complaining and whining.
And of course most people complain to the staff.

Last year one of my colleagues called her manager with a problem. The
conversation went something like this:
“Phi…il my sewer pipe is leaki..ing. I have called the sewer servi..ice.
Could I please get the day o..off.” And Phil reacted with “No, you know
the rules. Leave days must be planned three days in advance.” “Yes, but
Phi..il, how could I have known that my sewer would start leaki..ing?”
Phil put the phone down.
She didn’t understand why see couldn’t get a day off. Which surprised me
since it is general known that Phil hates whining.

In 2006 I discovered that I’m autistic. Which made it possible to
understand the problems I had. And also made it possible to find solutions
for all those problems.
So now I’m at the point where I could leave Promen and find a real job.
But for one thing. I’m 50 yr and my only experience for the last 10 years
is doing unskilled labor.
I can only get work as a temp. Which means that I would be send to a
different company on a daily basis.
Only thinking about that gives my panic attacks.
So, except if I find a way to earn a living via the Internet, I will be
working at Promen for the next 15 years.

Which means that I had to find a way to deal with managers who consider every
politeness as a form of whining.
I have.
When I want a day off I’ll enter my manager’s office and tell him “Steve
tomorrow I will be taking a day off!” and then I turn around and leave
his office before he has the opportunity to react.
That feels like a very rude way of dealing with a manager, but it beats being
smacked down with some childish rule.

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Send me one dollar

by Henk ter Heide on Saturday November 5, 2011

in Stories

Years ago my father told me about an add he saw in the papers, somewhere in the fifties,
which read “Send me one guilder”.

I always wondered what would have happened
On the one hand this guy didn’t offer anything.
So if he didn’t send anything back he wouldn’t be in remission.
But on the other hand, it wasn’t easy to send money in the fifties.
You had to fill in a credit form
put it in an envelop
and snail mail it to your bank.
Which seems like a lot of work for something that probably was only a joke.

Nowadays it’s much easier to send money.
The only thing you have to do is click on the donation button below.
I wonder how many people would actually do…

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