Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 18, 2011

Routine brings order, security for some

By MATT CHRISTIAN
Princeton Times

PRINCETON — When my wife and I first moved back to Princeton, my dad introduced me to a character on “The Big Bang Theory” named Sheldon Cooper. Cooper is a theoretical physicist at what I have always thought to be CalTech in California, and he has several unique traits that cannot really be considered “normal.”

For example, he uses the bathroom at the same time every day (8:20 a.m.), goes to bed at the same time every night (9 p.m.) and has a strict eating schedule that he follows. He gets very upset if something disrupts his routine as well.

Other than Ray Barone from “Everybody Loves Raymond,” I have never really identified with a character like I do with Jim Parson’s Sheldon. Much like Sheldon, I have a strict list of routines and guidelines that I try to follow.

Here are some of them:

• Try to sit in the back corner of a restaurant. I like to get in the back corner because it is very distracting to have people walk around you all the time. It never fails that someone you know will come up to you and scare you. Also, if the place were to be robbed by gun-toting mad men, the location in the back would give me the most time to plan an escape.

• Try to call my parents at around 9:25 p.m. every night. If I call them then, I get to watch all of the first “King of the Hill,” because it ends at around that time, and depending on the length of the conversation with my parents, most or some of the second one that comes on at 9:30 p.m.

• There are certain things that I must do in certain places like at the Board of Education meetings. I have to sit in the same spot every time, and at the Princeton Public Library, I try to say hello to the same people at the desks every time that I am there.

To the lay mind, that would be where the comparison ended, but Cooper and I are alike in other areas as well. We both have an abundance of facts that we break out at the slightest mention of something related.

Cooper knows how the fork was introduced in Thailand and why a toast is called a toast. I think about sports all the time, so I just randomly think about something sports-related. When I meet people, I think about their name until I can remember someone famous that has the same name or they mention or do something worth remembering.

Also, we both hate it when people get something wrong and feel the need to correct them on it. Neither of us can stand to be wrong. My parents would probably have me mention that we both are a little bit prideful.

Now, you may be asking, “What does any of this have to do with me?”

That answer comes in the relationship of Cooper’s actions to his potential to have Asperger’s Syndrome. Many of the traits that he showcases are consistent with a diagnosis of Asperger’s, and he may serve to illustrate the issues that many of us face on a daily basis. Then, maybe people could see how to help and talk to others with Asperger’s. That wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Matt Christian is a Princeton Times reporter. Contact him at mchristian@ptonline.net.