Perfect is the enemy of good enough

Like many autistic people I know, I’m prone to looking for the one right social solution.

But sometimes – many times, there is no perfect solution. Especially in tough situations, there’s often times when you can’t avoid pissing someone off – or hurting someone, for that matter. Unless you let yourself be hurt, and in some cases that’s not doable, either. Sometimes you’re stuck in a situation where you have no choice but to hurt someone and it’s up to you to find the least bad option. Good luck.

I’m in such a situation, in my meatspace life. And I can’t talk about it because it’s confidential. But, suffice to say, I’m pretty sure there is no “right solution” to this particular social problem, and that makes it difficult.

Social skills books and exercises and classes and what have you lie. They pretend as if all situations have a right answer and if you know the rules well enough, you can find it. But people aren’t like math. You cannot simply derive what you need from first principles.

You just muddle along as best you can and hope you don’t screw up anything irreparably.

And that’s where I’m at.


The toilet seat

On the topic of my earlier post today: Here’s a real-life example of a problem that’s a fuck of a lot more difficult and complicated than it seems to an outsider: My toilet seat broke last week. So I had to replace it.

It actually broke on Tuesday, but I chose to make do until Friday because I can’t deal with work and changing something at the same time. So I walked an hour after work to the hardware store and bought a replacement, then was able to catch a bus home. I didn’t know toilet seats come in more than one size (they do, FYI, so measure yours lengthwise in Imperial units if you need to replace it and live in North America), so when they had two sizes, I guessed due to being too flustered to ask to borrow a phone (mine broke at the beginning of summer, my company didn’t send me the repair box when they said they would, and I have yet to work up the energy to phone them to complain at them about it again). I, of course, guessed wrongly. I guarantee you, when faced with guesswork like this, I will guess wrong far more often than can be explained by random chance – I should really choose the opposite of whatever I think it is in such situations.

So I had to go back to the hardware store on Saturday, return the toilet seat and get one in the right size. So I did. By taxi, so it cost $10 each way. With my partner so he could handle the return desk because I didn’t fancy being all, “I kind of guessed because I didn’t know they come in different sizes and I didn’t have my phone and why do they make it in different sizes anyway? Why can’t they make them all one size so this doesn’t happen? It just seems it would make sense [monolog rant about different sizes for same part not making sense when standardized parts would be better].” And I knew as stressed as I was, my brain-to-mouth filter would not be fully operational.

So I got to the hardware store, managed to choose a replacement toilet seat, and went home to repair it.

The bolts were steel. The place is like 40 years old. From the condition of the bolts, I wouldn’t be surprised if the toilet seat was as old as the place is. The top of the bolt disintegrated when I tried to undo it.

At this point, my frustration level started to rise exponentially with each setback. Stress was getting to me, the change in routine was getting to me, and the frustration of realizing at each step of this process, it was turning out to be more complicated and difficult than really necessary was getting to me.

I looked around to the underside, figuring I could just take a wrench to the nut.

The assholes who designed the toilet made it so that the damn nuts were flush with the porcelain. I couldn’t get there with a wrench. It was too tight even for a socket wrench. I tried pliers. Didn’t work.

At this point, I was cursing a lot and near tears from the frustration. My partner reacted appropriately, keeping me grounded and helping me stay focused, and not informing me that I was over-reacting (I already know that, thanks) or that it wasn’t a big deal (I know that, too).

So I and my partner looked online for internet help, since the services of a handiperson probably would cost more than a new toilet. There were a number of methods suggested, including one with a drill.

At this point, I call the owners of the place I live in, since I stay there in exchange for maintenance & odd jobs, buuuuut this could destroy their toilet if I fuck up and I don’t want to be on the hook for cost of toilet. They said no to the drill and insisted that I try a hacksaw first.

Which mean I had to go back to the hardware store.

… I nearly exploded. I did cry a bit and curse a lot and have to clench my hands into fists so tight my hands ached to resist punching the walls or myself. My partner helped me write a list of stuff we needed for both methods because there was no way in hell I was going back to the store again, and I went to the hardware store alone – in part because I needed time away from the fucking toilet seat and in part because I was worried I was freaking him out with my over-reaction to the situation as I was literally only barely restraining myself from putting holes in the wall and I think it was probably the angriest he’s seen me. I normally do my raging in private because I recognize that it’s not helpful and is usually an over-reaction to the situation at hand, but if I could just change how I mentally approach such situations, I wouldn’t have a freaking disability. I had to take a taxi there and back, as my city is stuck in the 50s and has crappy weekend bus service.

So at the hardware store, I spoke first to a stock person who was very helpful and directed me to the tool dept guy who tried to ‘splain at me about how to use WD-40 and a wrench, and I went on a long, profanity-filled rant at him about the asinine design of the toilet that apparently convinced him either that 1, my frustration level was dangerous or 2, I know what I’m talking about. Either way, he stopped trying to ‘splain to the small woman in the store about how to use a wrench and instead helped me find the saw I was looking for and the safety gear I needed if it came to using a drill and risking damage to the toilet.

Back home I went.

Thankfully, the hacksaw did work, else my walls probably would have holes in them considering how close a thing it was to begin with. But that still meant an hour of sawing per bolt. And I haaaate tedious tasks. My partner helped me there, too, taking shifts at it when my arms got tired and making conversation to help me stay distracted from my frustration and the tedium.

Point of this story: Changing the toilet seat, for me, was a lot more difficult than it would be for a lot of people. What made fixing the toilet difficult is a five things: 1, I’m not rich, so the $40 I spent in cabs during this misadventure and the $50 or so I spent on stuff from the hardware store is actually a major setback to my budget. I will get reimbursed, but until then, I have to deal without $90 I was counting on. So that’s stress. 2, I have a low tolerance for unexpected change. My bathroom looks weird now and I won’t get used to it probably for a few weeks. More stress. 3, I have a nonexistent tolerance for frustration. I guarantee, if I’d been alone, I would’ve caused serious damage either to the walls or myself just from the frustration, or I would’ve said, “Fuck it” and left it broken until someone else dealt with it. Neither of which are really productive, I admit. 4, I have difficulty dealing with disruption to my routine, and that Saturday was about as far from my routine as it’s possible to get while still being in the same house (normally, I spend Saturday in a combination of martial arts, video games, and chores). Moar stress. And 5, I have difficulty anticipating things I might need. If I’d thought to check on the condition of the bolts and to check whether or not they make more than one type of toilet seat before I left for work Friday, the situation would’ve been a lot less stressful, as I would’ve known that A, I’m going to need to cut the bolts somehow since there’s no way they’re coming off easily, and B, what size of toilet seat to buy, so I would’ve only needed one trip rather than three.

And, yet, when I called the owners of the place where I stay to tell them that the toilet seat was broken, guess what they said before I had a chance to finish my explanation?

“Why don’t you just change it?”