Asperger’s and Honesty

Can people with Asperger’s lie? It would be nice to say no, but the truth is most people figure out that saying certain things get them into trouble, and once in a while everyone lies, usually to protect themselves.

It is true that people with Asperger’s lack some of the skills needed to tell a good lie – body language, either consciously or subconsciously, may give it away. Or the tone of voice, or an inability to create a plausible story. I do admit to using the “Aspies Don’t Lie” concept in Asperger Sunset as a plot device, but it is pretty idealistic.

People with Asperger’s do, however, have a strong desire to follow rules. Anxiety and emotion create a chaotic world and rules sort things out. Children with Asperger’s often play meticulous games with their toys, lining them up and grouping them, keeping everything in order. Following the rules is rewarded with a reduction in chaos.

This ties into lying. One of the rules is “Be Honest.” Honesty is a personal trait of mine that I follow with almost obsessive precision. Over the years I’ve learned honesty that can hurt someone’s feelings often should not be shared, and I can be silent about something, but if faced with a direct conflict, I cannot lie.

This past weekend I ran into an odd situation regarding honesty. My family had gone out to dinner. As the children are now teens, their appetites are adult-sized and restaurant bills have gotten higher, so dining out is a treat for us, not a regular occurrence. We went to a brew-pub style restaurant, enjoyed our time together, and then got the bill.

My spouse started tallying the tip. My eldest, who is very budget-conscious, glanced at it and said, “that’s a really good deal.” My husband agreed. Just forty dollars, he said.

Forty dollars? No. For four of us, each having a dinner plus drinks plus an appetizer in a state with seven percent sales tax, that didn’t make sense! I asked to see the receipt. I spotted the problem immediately. Our harried waitress had forgotten to add our drinks!

I felt an overwhelming need to correct the problem. The place was very busy. Our waitress, thinking she was done with us, had moved on. The hostess couldn’t help us, so she sent us to the bartender. He was surprised that we not only had noticed the error but wanted to correct it.

Was it the right thing to do? Most people pay little attention to numbers – they wouldn’t have noticed the error in the first place. Others would say, “oh, cool, free drinks,” and gone home. For some reason I had to correct the problem. I had to pay for those drinks. It was being honest. And “Be Honest” is a rule that must be followed.

What about the fallout? The waitress may have gotten in trouble for ringing up the bill wrong. Or she may have seen the total and gotten angry because she thought we stiffed her on her tip, since we only tipped on the original charge. Or do they think we were total idiots for paying for something we weren’t asked to pay for in the first place?

I know restaurants make a huge profit on drinks. I also know most small, family-owned businesses continue to struggle in this economy. I could have left things as they were, pretended I didn’t notice the mistake and moved on, but something in me could not let it go. Maybe I made a deposit with the Bank of Karma – will the universe reward me in the future? I was embarrassed to be doing something almost no one else would do, but I followed the rule. It lessened the chaos. I cannot lie.

My mystery novel, Asperger Sunset, features a pretty honest fellow caught up in a murder. It’s available in paperback or kindle or can be ordered through your favorite local bookstore!

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