“At times on Staten Island, caught up in his teaching and his writing, Henry felt disconnected from nature, a step back from it. He encountered too many people, too many houses, too much noise.” Michael Sims, The Adventures of Henry Thoreau
20 March 2017
I missed my cat but I wasn’t looking forward to be back in Hong Kong. Too many people, too many buildings, too much noise. It is an overloaded and overpacked city (an extrovert’s heaven, I guess). On my way back home, I stopped by to get some light bulbs. There was another customer in the store, I carefully maintained a distance away from him (I’m very protective of my personal space although some autistic individuals may have difficulties understanding personal space and stand too close, it is an autistic trait I have difficulty identifying with). While I was being served, another customer came in and stood just right next to me, she spoke across my face, in an enthusiastic voice that sounded too loud for me, explaining to the shopkeeper eagerly what it was she came looking for. This is a typical scenario, we are living in such constrained spaces, the concept of personal space seems redundant. Too many people, standing too close.
When the lift to my floor opened, I was immediately overcome with a heavy smell of smoke and dust. My next door neighbour has been renovating and the corridor was dusty. There was no escape from the dust as my neighbour’s door was literally less than a footstep next to mine. I was further dismayed when I saw the dust on my door handle and the pair of slippers I’ve left outside. I finally reached home and saw my cat, she clearly missed me. I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see in the kitchen. My kitchen floor was stained with what appeared to be dried up cement. It seemed that wet cement had flowed into my kitchen through the drainage pipe. What on earth happen? Did the renovation next door cause this? I recalled another time when my upstairs’ neighbours renovated, it caused a power outage at my flat. Having just got off from a flight and thinking about the experience at the shop earlier, I was tired and exasperated. This is exactly why I dreaded coming back to the densely populated city. This is why I am sick of the human race. And I’m tired of having to suck it up. I was merely minding my own business but what is it with people who always meddle and display a lack of consideration towards others, why do I always get caught up with things? If living in a civilisation means being dragged into affairs I didn’t submit to voluntarily, I’d like to give up. Too many people, too many houses, living too close.
At the airport, I bought a noise-cancelling headphone which I’ve been tempted to buy since last year. I’ve been using it at home this week and while it does help to block out a lot of background noises (I can’t hear my loud dehumidifier or noise on the streets), they are reactive solutions as I put them on when or after I hear noise. Sometimes, noises seep through and I could hear or feel the vibrations of my neighbours’ foot-steps above or hammering sounds next door or even the faint yelling of kids outside. Also, I will soon learn that the noise-cancelling headphone doesn’t block drilling noises from next door (I know it’s noise-cancelling, not noise-removing but with such a price tag, I was hoping it’d perform miracles, how I wish someone could invent a no-hearing aid). My head and ears are also starting to ache. Is it worth the price? It is still early for a verdict. Too many people, too many houses, too much noise.
23 March 2017
I have been hiking at night recently to avoid the day time crowd (something I plan to write about later). Yes, I wasn’t exaggerating or imagining people that don’t exist when I say that this city is populated with people everywhere, hiking is becoming a popular activity in Hong Kong. I was looking forward to a moment of solitude at the top of the peak, which I have enjoyed in my last 2 night hikes, but to my disappointment, I wasn’t alone. Is my secret out? On my way back home, I was debating if I should stop by the electrical store to get something since I was already out but the thought of walking past people in the narrow streets was putting me off and especially after the disappointment at the top of the peak, I felt I haven’t re-charge myself enough to mingle in the crowd (although I did eventually make it to the store but didn’t find what I was looking for). Too many people, too much noise.
24 March 2017
This morning, I received an email from my boss saying she will pass my email address to a lecturer who is visiting next week should the lecturer needs my assistance. I can’t tell from her email whether she has already given the lecturer my email, whether she was asking for my permission or whether she was just notifying me. I replied saying it isn’t a problem but I’d prefer she sends him my office email address (as opposed to my personal email). Since I first started working for this employer towards the end of last year, we have been communicating to each other via my personal email address, which is the one I have on my resume. This was partly because I starting doing research work for her before my office account was officially set up. In addition, since my job is mainly research based and I’m only meant to be taking instructions from her, I’m didn’t mind using my personal email account (as I have used with my other research-based job employers). In other words, I’m okay using my personal email for work purpose if the communication is restricted only to me and my boss. Other than that, I prefer to keep my personal account as it is, i.e. personal. I was deeply upset and annoyed when my boss passes on my personal email to others without first notifying. I felt my privacy has been invaded (it doesn’t matter that she didn’t do it intentionally or it didn’t occur to her that that was my personal email). She has already done that previously and I didn’t think another occasion like this would arise. Should I make it clear to her that in the future, I’d prefer to use my work email address for future correspondences? What would she think? My reaction may seem out of proportion and you may say I’m making a big deal out of nothing but being a private person, I’m not merely protective of my personal space, it extends to my personal life. Beyond privacy, I was also upset because it blurred the line between personal and work as well as the stress that comes with the thought of having to deal with people I wasn’t prepared to deal with, at a time when I’m actually trying to reduce the amount of interaction with people. Passing on my personal email address to people at work is like having unannounced, uninvited and unwelcome visitors at home, the only difference is these are visitors I have to open my door to and can’t ignore (in fact, I can foresee that this will be one of my major stressors in the coming months, which I might write about separately in another post).
I have more than once, in my blog, stress the important role of environment for individuals on the spectrum. When my mood and how I feel is determined by the number of people I will come into contact with or whether or not there is someone else at the top of the peak; when having a good or bad day turns on whether or not I’ve had a quiet or noisy day, I have become a prisoner of my own environment. I’m afraid that my capacity for interacting with people has already reached its maximum level some time ago and while I can tolerate online or one-to-one interaction, I can’t do multi-peopling, I can’t do group interactions. I feel that I’ve reached a point of saturation, a point where I can no longer re-charge and other than a change of surrounding, I can’t contain any more of them, there is simply too many people, too much noise.
Related posts (all links open in new tab):
Into the wild (4 Mar 2017)
Death by overdose (13 Feb 2017)
Supporting a sensory and solitude friendly environment (31 Oct 2016)
Featured image credit: Peter Stewart via Designboom