Even if his remark earlier this year about encouraging white people to stay the hell away from Black people was taken out of context and not racist at all, it's pretty well-established that cartoonist Scott Adams is a massive dick. And that's a shame because his comic strip is one of the greatest ever produced. My dad, a mechanical engineer, had three Dilbert collections - Bring Me the Head of Willy the Mailboy!, Still Pumped from Using the Mouse, and Fugitive from the Cubicle Police - and even as a kid who lacked the breadth and depth of knowledge to understand several of the strips, I found enough hilarity in them to read them several times. Here I share a sampling of the ones I didn't understand. Specifically, I share the edgiest and most shocking ones that I was too innocent to understand because they're the funniest. I can't believe some of these were allowed to run in newspapers.
After getting canceled, Scott Adams removed the searchable archive from dilbert.com, so in order to make this post I downloaded all the strips and read them from the beginning. I'm almost finished with the nineties and I've covered the timeframe of my dad's books. As an adult, I find that I appreciate all the more how funny and clever this strip was, especially in the early years before it focused exclusively on workplace humor and showcased Dilbert and Dogbert in all kinds of wacky situations. It covers the spectrum from scathing satire to unapologetically cheap puns, and there were so many off-topic specimens that I wanted to share simply for being brilliant. I also found that, despite very much not being an engineer, I relate a lot to the protagonist. I relate to the way he painstakingly analyzes social situations and fails at them anyway, the way he geeks out over his interests while nobody else gives a shit, the way women treat him, and so on. Not that he isn't also a dick sometimes, but aren't we all?
As a kid, I didn't understand why anyone would have a low opinion of law enforcement officers. The kids at Uvalde Elementary School, however, learned very early on that cops are wusses. They're trained to protect their own asses over all else, and the Supreme Court has ruled that it isn't their job to prevent crimes. The myth (or should I say lie) that they're selfless heroes who keep us safe needs to die.
Now that the disaster at my substitute teaching job, alluded to last week, has been "resolved," I'm going to rant about it. I got an "URGENT!" email on the 16th from Kelly Education's incident manager Ana Gradillas saying that Mountain Crest High School of Hyrum, Utah, where I worked on the 15th, had reported an "incident." Of course for perfectly obvious reasons this email mentioned nothing whatsoever about what the alleged incident actually was. Instead, I had to email Ana at a different email address to schedule a time to talk to her about it on the phone so she could then email me a link to write a statement about the things I already told her on the phone and she could then "resolve" the alleged incident. All of these steps are necessary for perfectly obvious reasons. I talked to her and wrote the statement the following Monday. On Tuesday, nothing happened. On Wednesday, nothing happened. Thursday afternoon, by a staggering coincidence, she finished up resolving the "URGENT!" incident right when I called her to find out what the hell was taking so long. And of course during this whole time I was locked out of the scheduling system and couldn't work. The assignments I had already scheduled were canceled. And I experienced a great deal of stress and more insomnia than normal. And also this whole thing happened while I was already dealing with a spurt of loneliness and existential dread over the possibility that there's no afterlife, so you know, I didn't need it.
One might understand, then, why I was even more upset to learn that Mountain Crest High School's allegations are pure unadulterated bullshit. Mountain Crest High School claimed that when I showed up there, multiple times, and got the sub folder from the office, I was "unresponsive" and didn't answer questions. This is a lie. On every occasion, I have communicated everything that needs to be communicated and I have not ignored any questions. From the way I heard it secondhand, this lie sounded like discrimination against me for being quiet and awkward and forgetting to make eye contact with the office staff - in other words, for being autistic. And of course I just have to sit here and take it like always because it's not big enough to justify the effort of filing a complaint, especially when I live in a Republican state that doesn't care. But it sure annoys me. Stuff like this will never let me forget that the society I live in was not built for people like me and has no desire to coexist with people like me. It increases my empathy for women and people of color and LGBTQ people who are also marginalized, and it makes me want to make the world better for them, but then my efforts in that regard are equally ineffective because nobody seems to pay the slightest attention to me.
Mountain Crest High School also claimed that I "had trouble following the lesson plan." This is a lie. I did literally everything asked of me in the lesson plan for the one actual class I had (in addition to two study halls). But for the first ten minutes of class the students were supposed to be doing an assignment in their books, and after I told them twice and the teacher's aide also told them, only three of them even opened their books. And it turns out that the ones who didn't even open their books later had the gall to complain that I hadn't explained what to do. The instructions were right there on the page of their books to which I told them to go and were also being projected on the classroom wall. The assignment explained itself. The lesson plan didn't tell me I needed to give additional explanation. Not one person indicated at any point that they needed additional explanation. I have been in countless middle and high school classes where, following the lesson plan, I told them to do something in their books or on Canvas and most students went and did it with no trouble because they knew how to read. But somehow it's my fault that these students straight-up refused to do what I told them. I also told them, following the lesson plan, that it would be graded the next day, so I had the crazy idea that they were old enough to know better and face the consequences of their choices. Silly me.
Mountain Crest High School also claimed that I didn't leave a note for the teacher. This is a lie. As I do whenever space permits, I wrote my note on the lesson plan and left the lesson plan in the middle of the desk. It was not hidden. The teacher would literally have to be blind to not find it. Ana Gradillas only alluded to this part of the allegations during our second phone call, when she suggested that in the future I leave a note for the teacher, at which point I interrupted and exploded a little.
Yeah, I made no attempt to hide my anger on that phone call. The first time I was just confused and trying to not get fired, but after a few more days to process it I moved on to resentment. Mostly toward Mountain Crest High School for the false accusations, but also toward Kelly Education for not having any systems in place to prevent its employees from false accusations or to compensate them for loss of income caused by false accusations. My refutation of the false accusations made no difference to anything at all. I'm just an employee stuck in a job available to anyone eighteen years old with a high school diploma. I have no rights. Only the schools have rights. They can say whatever they want with no consequences and I just have to deal with it. Ana was very patient with my anger and very understanding and she kept saying she understood my frustration, but of course her empathy won't pay my rent, which of course is going up significantly while wages aren't. Maybe now I'll get fired for writing this post, but whatever, my life isn't worth much if I can't be honest about things that aren't okay. At least I removed most of the swear words before publication.
Where, oh where does the time go? Friday and Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of the worst day of my life (which encompassed an entire sleepless night). I'm not going to explain it again. I wrote about it at the time in a blog post which is still there if anyone's interested, but which I don't recommend because it's somewhat incoherent. I was still reeling from shock and confusion and anger, and I jumped around chronologically several times. But it was useful for recording quotes and details while they were still fresh, which has helped me with subsequent accounts. The most definitive one, and the one which I do recommend to anyone interested, is an essay I wrote for class last year called Things That Rhyme with "Elise." Though it doesn't include every possible detail, it is much better-written overall. It left a big impact on my classmates and my professor. Actually, because it was so long, I split it into two parts and submitted them separately instead of writing two essays. And the first part had just a bit of foreshadowing of what I like to think of as the greatest plot twist since (spoiler alert) "No, I am your father." I still laugh a little to myself when I think of how my professor began her feedback letter to the second part.
I have such a sick sense of humor. I mean, I felt really bad about this plot twist, though not as bad as I did about living through it. Everyone was so invested in the story, thought it was so sweet and so cute. I felt like I was preparing to shoot a puppy as it looked up at me with eyes full of love and trust. But to continue:
Yes, there is some mention of race in the essay even though the worst day of my life had nothing to do with race, because I wanted to acknowledge that larger conversation and show my awareness that even when I am misunderstood and mistreated for being different, I maintain some degree of white privilege. There is zero doubt in my mind that my interactions with the police and hospital staff would have gone even worse if I was black. And as much as Officer Hayden Nelson of the Logan City Police Department can go fuck himself, I'm not accusing him of conscious racial prejudice. But he was very obviously prejudiced against me because of my mental illness, and it's also self-evident that white cops in the US are conditioned to perceive and treat black people as more threatening, while white healthcare workers seem to believe they have different biology altogether. We saw this, for example, with the cops who assaulted a neurodivergent black man named Elijah McClain for "looking sketchy," then claimed he had exhibited "superhuman strength" and the fictitious medical condition of "excited delirium" (both often used by police to justify brutality). We saw this with the paramedics who injected him with ketamine without attempting to talk to him and overestimated his weight by eighty pounds. Those cops and paramedics should be publicly executed just like they publicly executed him. So yeah, I wanted to recognize my privilege of not getting murdered for existing while black. It would have been very tonedeaf not to do so.
I couldn't have asked for more understanding than I got from my professor and classmates. It was kind of intimidating, in the era of #metoo and #believewomen, in a predominantly female class in the hotbed of liberalism that is a college English department, to assert that two women falsely accused me of some form of sexual misconduct. (In saying that, I don't mean to suggest that I have it worse than the women who are actual victims and still don't get taken as seriously as they need or deserve. USU is currently being sued, and its police chief Earl Morris was recently forced to resign, for that very reason.) I am grateful that everyone believed me and empathized with me. I don't take that trust lightly. There was one part of the essay that I'd been tempted to gloss over because it put me in a less positive light, but I realized that if a classmate from my undergraduate non-fiction course (with the same professor) could write an essay about abusing her husband, I could admit to being less than perfect too. And then only one person even commented on that part in their feedback.
Toward the end of my essay, I didn't have room to explore all the introspection and gossip and recovery that filled the months after the worst day of my life, and in particular the process of reconciling what I thought I knew of Calise's kindness and maturity with her very unkind and immature action, so I tried to summarize it. I tried to explain why, to the best of my knowledge, Calise and Talease did what they did. I didn't want to cast them as one-dimensional villains when in real life I know them to be complicated people, and I've forgiven them and I didn't want anybody to hate them. (Maybe someday I'll be able to say the same about Hayden Nelson.) But my professor and classmates didn't think that worked. They said Calise and Talease already came across as complicated, and that the end of the essay needed to stay focused on me and not them. So I changed that. In my first blog post about them, even though I did hate them at the time, I kept them anonymous (unlike Officer Nelson) to avoid any appearance of vindictiveness. But after a while I stopped keeping them anonymous because I hope that someday they'll notice what I've written about them and get the side of the story that they never asked for and then barred me from sharing. Is that a socially acceptable thing to do? No, and I don't care. If people are going to abuse me no matter what I do then I'm going to do what I want.
I've written a little prayer/poem that goes like so:
Father, forgive Talease, for she is delusional.
Father, forgive Calise, for she is naive.
Father, forgive Officer Nelson, for he is stupid and poorly trained.
Father, thank you for giving the emergency room staff at Logan Regional Hospital what they deserve. [Note for future historians: this is a reference to the COVID-19 pandemic that made healthcare workers' lives a living hell.]
Father, forgive me, for I am autistic.
Out of a silly concern for people's privacy, I used to give pseudonyms to everyone I wrote about on my blog. So when I wrote about my group from Shanan Ballam's Fall 2015 Poetry Writing course, I gave the members stupid pseudonyms: Bracelets, Redhead, and Glasses. And then Bracelets was the only one I wrote about consistently but I think I did mention the others once each. Anyway, I hate those nicknames now, so I'm going to come clean. Their names are Lauren, Clara, and Joe. That felt weird. I called Lauren "Bracelets" because she wore lots of bracelets on both arms, as well as hats with big, floppy brims and other generally fabulous clothing. She liked to be fabulous, but she wasn't conceited or anything. She was responsible for the formation of our group when she said those of us who happened to sit near her on the first day of class should just be a group, so she shaped my life in some ways with that thoughtless act. She also became a fan of my blog and more than once the only reason I continued writing it every week despite its very underwhelming performance. I would have given up back then, a few months after starting, but because of her I didn't, and now I've sunk too much time and energy into it to give up despite the paltry returns on my effort being nowhere near worth it. Thanks, Lauren, I say sarcastically.
On my phone, she was and remains listed as "Lady Lauren" because she had an affinity for the romanticized version of the Middle Ages that we all know never really existed. I don't even remember why, but she once told me, "You're my knight in shining armor." And I told another woman about that and the other woman said, "Dude, either she likes you, or you're really deep in the friend zone." Women are allowed to say "friend zone" unironically without getting their heads bitten off because reasons. But Lauren was just big on being a lady and being treated like a lady and stuff. In her phone, I discovered one day that I was listed as "Christopher Aspie Friend". I posted on Facebook, "Today I found out that my crush has me listed in her phone as 'Christopher Aspie Friend'. I'm not sure how I feel about that." I felt safe posting it because Lauren didn't have Facebook. A couple months later, some random lady liked the post. The random lady, upon investigation, turned out to be Lauren's mother.
I think I'm still listed as "Christopher Aspie Friend", and I'm torn between wanting to keep it that way for nostalgia's sake and wanting to change it because I now know that Hans Asperger collaborated with the Nazis by knowingly referring children with disabilities to be murdered at the Am Spiegelgrund clinic. (Nobody knew this in 2015.) I have ceased using Aspie or Asperger's as a descriptor in any other context.
I never mentioned on my blog how she broke my heart, but I did cryptically allude to it with some very melodramatic language that's still better poetry than any of the actual poetry I wrote for our poetry class. Around that time, though, I saw Disney's Inside Out and learned that it's okay to be sad sometimes, and that was powerful. She started dating the guy she'd called "basically my brother" and then that ended but I still didn't have a chance. Anyway, we remained good friends but we argued sometimes because I got frustrated with her sometimes. I won't talk about why because I don't want to criticize her, and I'm sure she had legitimate reasons to be frustrated with me too, and I didn't fully appreciate the toll that the hardship she was going through must have taken. Let's just say we weren't great at communicating. We stayed in touch after she graduated and moved on, and I got her into the Star Wars fandom and found out she was already in the Legend of Zelda fandom, but sometimes she stopped responding to texts for months at a time and I still don't know why. I have another friend who was like that for the better part of a decade, but it was because she periodically relapsed into heroin and felt embarrassed to talk to me, so I don't know what the deal was here.
Most recently, Lauren stopped responding for about twenty-six months. In late 2019 I was texting her once a week with no response, and then in early 2020 I told her to have a nice life, which, even though it sounds like a nice thing to say, is actually a rude thing to say. My frustration this time around stemmed in large part from waiting indefinitely on the feedback she had promised for the book that I'd sent her in April and she'd finished reading in July or so. I still texted her happy Easter 2020 and then in October 2020 I texted her to mention that I had a dream where she told me why she'd disappeared for a year, and I was very disappointed when I woke up. But I just accepted that she would probably not be part of my life again and I didn't know why. I didn't expect anything to happen when I texted her Merry Christmas this year. And nothing did happen for three days. But then -
So this was a really, really nice surprise. I do hope she'll stick around for a while. I haven't asked about why she disappeared or why she didn't give me feedback on my book, and I'm sure I will at some point but first and foremost I'm just grateful to have her back and I have no hard feelings whatsoever. I value her friendship very much. I don't even feel like my former romantic interest in her was a complete waste of time like most of my romantic interests have been. Her kindness, her intelligence, her thoughtfulness, and her sense of humor, besides just generally making her a good person to associate with and a positive influence on my life, have helped to shape my vision of the kind of woman I'm going to marry. The thing I like most about her sense of humor is how we can take a joke that isn't all that funny and play along with it so seriously that our seriousness about the joke becomes the joke. Anyway, maybe I can't adequately convey what I'm trying to convey in this post to those who haven't met her, but our reconnection is the greatest thing that's happened to me for a while and though it came out of the blue, I'm sure I was prompted to text her Merry Christmas, and it increases my confidence in the glorious promises God has made me if I can just be patient and stay close to Him.
Crisis struck last weekend. Prudence, which it runs out I am capable of possessing once in a while, dictates that for the time being I keep it to myself apart from a half dozen friends and all of my Fiction Writing classmates who deserved an excuse for why my second story is garbage compared to the first. For a few moments after seeing the news I never wanted to see, I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that my life and my faith were about to shatter beyond repair. Then I ran into my bedroom to pray but discovered that I couldn't speak. I tried to pray silently but discovered that I couldn't think. So my prayer was just Help me, help me, help me, help me, help me.
I reached out to this guy in the ward that I know a little bit for a priesthood blessing. I didn't want to be too much of a burden on the guys I usually ask. While waiting for him to get back to me and then waiting for him to arrive, I cooked a frozen pizza and force-fed myself half of it, despite my complete lack of appetite, because I was starving. I offered the rest to him when he arrived, and he said it would be a good idea to make himself eat, and he appeared to have an even harder time doing so than I did. He wasn't doing well. He asked if he could stick around for a while after the blessing so he didn't have to be home alone. He asked if I've ever had questions about my faith, and I outlined the most recent one in very vague terms. I didn't want to tell him about my situation because I just wanted comfort from the blessing; I didn't want to open the channels for advice that I wasn't ready to accept. And he gave me the shortest blessing I've ever gotten and I appreciated that. He cried afterward. I think it helped him more than me. So that was cool.
I invited him to accompany me to Come Follow Me with people from the ward. While there, I went through mood swings and wasn't in hell the entire time. I sat there for half an hour while two girls and four guys discussed the proper care and washing of different kinds of hair, a topic that I found altogether uninteresting but still better than being home alone, and then as I was poised to go be home alone again some others arrived very late and we played Werewolf. I threw myself into it with gusto. When I figured out that my in-game lover was a werewolf, I protected her with as much zeal as I would a real-life lover who murdered people. When others falsely accused and killed me, I was only upset that it would lead to her death as well. I can be selfless like that.
I didn't look forward to bedtime because past experience had given me some idea of what I was in for. I'd gotten the obligatory blessing, and I would pray, and I would get sufficiently calm and peaceful to fall asleep, and I would wake up an hour or two later in a cold sweat with my heart doing its best impression of the ungodly screaming over the bridge of Rammstein's creepy and inappropriate song "Mein Teil", and there would be no more calm or peace or sleeping for the remainder of the night. Well, I did wake up and fail to get back to sleep until the sun rose, but the rest didn't happen. I didn't feel good by any means, but I felt all right. I soon came to the realization that God was shielding me from the worst of the pain. And He continued to shield me throughout the week, and I thanked Him and prayed more and tried harder and got better. Wednesday morning I woke up from a nightmare that ruined most of my day, Thursday morning I woke up from a nightmare that ruined the next half hour, and Friday morning I woke up from a nightmare that I was able to put out of my mind right away.
It's not like I'd never thought to pray for comfort before. I'd just rarely noticed any of this magnitude, no matter how hard I pleaded. I don't know what's so different this time, if the nature of the situation has made me more desperate or more deserving or what. I do know that whatever suffering remains is a part of life that I shouldn't try to avoid or expect to be exempted from. Now I feel like I'm in a good place where I haven't stopped hoping for and believing in one specific outcome based on God's previous communications to me no matter how unlikely it looks at the moment, but I'm also patient and trying to be open to any outcome and the necessary understanding that will come with it. I know, I hate having to be so vague too. I'm annoying myself.
One thing I've consciously done to enhance this effect is listen to a playlist I started nearly two years ago, which has taken on ever greater significance. Sometimes, like in the mornings when I wake up feeling like a dead battery and vulnerable to all manner of negative emotions, songs like "Head Above Water" and "Echoes of Andromeda" and "Boasting" have returned to my head.
I canceled my Tuesday morning classes so I wouldn't have to get out of bed until I felt like it, which greatly disappointed my students, I bet.
My ex-neighbor and dear friend Steve drove up from Salt Lake on Monday evening. We talked a little about what happened, but mostly watched Disney+. We watched Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and then some of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons - "Bart Sells His Soul", "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace", "The Springfield Files", "Lisa the Skeptic", "Bart on the Road", and possibly another that I forget at the moment. He went home around noon on Tuesday, which I later realized was his birthday. He gave up a third of his birthday for me. And I couldn't believe it was two years to the day since we went to see Jojo Rabbit, aka one of the finest films ever made. Where does the time go?
My classmate and colleague Kylie also offered to hang out, so after our class on Tuesday I went up to ask if she was still good to hang out that evening. As soon as I started to speak, she put her hand on mine, and I thought about how USU's sexual misconduct prevention trainings told us not to touch someone without permission, even though we know full well that's not how neurotypical people live their lives. And I thought about my old friend Bracelets who used to touch me on the shoulder a lot until she saw the Temple Grandin movie and decided I didn't want to be touched. And I thought about a girl in my ward who came up to give the closing prayer after I had spoken in sacrament meeting, and touched my knee as she walked by. I think, in fairness, that this isn't just about neurotypicals vs. autistics but about women vs. men. Because women are raised to be more affectionate and nurturing, I think they can touch men's hands or shoulders or knees without these automatically coming across as romantic or sexualized gestures, whereas the reverse is not true.
I remembered when a friend in high school was crying about her grandmother dying, and I needed to comfort her but I didn't know what to do but I didn't want her to think I didn't care so I finally admitted, "I'm trying to decide if I should put my arm around you or not," and that made her laugh through her tears a little so I guess it was better than just putting my arm around her. Speaking of dead grandmothers, I was at the funeral of mine a couple months ago, seated right next to my grandfather, who howled with grief a couple of times. If ever there were appropriate contexts to touch someone without permission, these were them. And it was still hard, it still rebelled against my conditioning, to put my hand on his wrist. And then I felt awkward. Should I take it off now? What if he wants to move his arm? I'm not really letting him move his arm. I envied a little Kylie's ability to put her hand on mine all casual-like just because she knew I was having a rough time.
I couldn't think of anything more exciting to do than watch a movie, but fortunately for me, Kylie hasn't seen any Star Wars except for Rogue One and both of SNL's Undercover Bosses skits with Kylo Ren, so I picked the original Star Wars movie to guarantee that I would get invited back at least eight more times. She observed that Darth Vader is a jerk for kidnapping his own daughter, that stormtroopers don't aim very well, and that the use of computers in warfare was a pretty new idea in 1977 and that's probably why the movie was so popular. After the next movie, she reiterated that Darth Vader is a jerk for strangling his own men, and also reflected on the lack of women and racial diversity that's been somewhat fixed in the more recent movies. She said Princess Leia is an interesting character - specifically, it's interesting that she's a strong character but she still has to be sexualized. I hate myself for using that word twice in one post. Anyway, Kylie wasn't judging; she said the movies were fair for their time. I should have apologized in advance for what happens to Leia in the next one.
She made me watch the SNL skits, and I made her watch the Robot Chicken sketch that introduced the world to Gary the stormtrooper.
I also talked to my old friend Eliana on the phone a couple times, and the first conversation mostly turned into her complaining about the Church. Kylie has left the Church too, but we have nuanced and mutually respectful discussions about it, and I look forward to reading her folklore paper about how patriarchal blessings might have roots in the Smith family's fascination with folk magic. When Eliana left a couple years ago she still believed in the Book of Mormon and stuff but didn't trust the leadership because of their past mistakes and current LGBTQ policies. Now she sees nothing good, wholesome, or true in any of it. I didn't try to argue and I hoped that my listening allowed her to let off some steam. But I kind of wanted to ask, Can you live with yourself knowing that I'm still in the Church because of you? I used to tell her about all kinds of issues that bothered my testimony, and she was so chill about all of it and confident that the Church was where God wanted her to be. She was my anchor many times. You never can tell what the future holds, can you? Anyway, we don't talk much anymore but I appreciate that she's still there for me.
For Thanksgiving, I was going to visit a nearby great aunt whom I shamefully never visit because I'm always welcome but that means I have to kind of invite myself at any given time, but she got sick. So I went to my bishop's house. Although I haven't always cast him in the most flattering light, he is a great guy. I wish I could say the same about my last bishop. Some others from the ward also showed up, and someone else in the ward had a friend who wasn't in the ward but was going to come, but he went to the wrong house so we started without him. He showed up fifteen minutes in and guess what? He was one of my students. So he saw me without a mask on and sat right next to me and that's kind of funny, isn't it? I hope he didn't take it as a personal jab when I said that I like teaching college students because if they don't want to be there, they don't show up.
Today I tried really hard to pay attention in church and be open to the Spirit, and I did pretty well. I didn't even close myself off when a couple of people in Elders' Quorum said a couple of things about gender roles that made me want to stab my eyes out.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.