Chapter 9

Christopher has arrived at the police station, and they make him take off his shoelaces and empty his pockets. He still doesn't seem to care.

The sergeant behind the desk had very hairy hands and he had bitten his nails so much that they had bled.


Christopher then lists the entire contents of his pockets, and I have no idea why. I also have no idea why "This is what I had in my pockets" isn't followed by a colon.

I'll quote the list here to show how stupid it is:

  1. A Swiss army knife with 13 attachments including a wire stripper and a saw and a toothpick and tweezers
  2. A piece of string
  3. A piece of a wooden puzzle which looked like this [snip picture]
  4. 3 pellets of rat food for Toby, my rat
  5. £1.47 (this was made up of a £1 coin, a 20p coin, two 10p coins, a 5p coin and a 2p coin)
  6. A red paper clip
  7. A key for the front door

I couldn't care less about what's in his pockets. It's got nothing to do with anything. Maybe in a better book I'd think it was charming, but here it just annoys me. Who knows, though -- the pocket items might be Chekhov's guns. I've only read two chapters after this, so I don't know yet. It's hard to tell with this book. It's so full of random irrelevancies.

I was also wearing my watch and they wanted me to leave this at the desk as well but I said that I needed to keep my watch on because I needed to know exactly what time it was. And when they tried to take it off me I screamed, so they let me keep it on.

So this is the only thing he reacts negatively to after being arrested. He's totally cool with everything until they try to take his watch, and then he flips out. I like to know what time it is, too, but I don't need to know. Shouldn't a high-functioning fifteen-year-old understand that the compulsion is irrational and can be discarded for a higher purpose, instead of losing it and screaming?

Then we get a dull paragraph where they ask him about his family and he lists them off. We learn that his mother is dead, Uncle Terry is his father's brother, and three of his grandparents are dead and the fourth, Grandma Burton, "was in a home because she had senile dementia and thought that I was someone on television".

I googled "senile dementia" on impulse and found this page, which says: "Dementia is often incorrectly referred to as "senility" or "senile dementia," which reflects the formerly widespread but incorrect belief that serious mental decline is a normal part of aging." Either Christopher or Haddon didn't know any better.

They ask him for his father's phone number, and he gives his father's home and cell numbers. Then he gets put in a cell, which he doesn't tell us directly. Instead he talks about what it's like in there:

It was nice in the police cell. It was almost a perfect cube, 2 meters long by 2 meters wide by 2 meters high. It contained approximately 8 cubic meters of air. It had a small window with bars and, on the opposite side, a metal door with a long, thin hatch near the floor for sliding trays of food into the cell and a sliding hatch higher up so that policemen could look in and check that prisoners hadn't escaped or committed suicide. There was also a padded bench.

I can't tell what part of that he thinks is "nice". Does he like it because it's "almost a perfect cube"? Did he think to account for how much air he displaces? Why is he thinking about whether it's a perfect cube at all?

He seems to be interested in "science and maths" in general rather than anything specific. There's nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but ASD people tend to pick one topic at a time and obsess over it. (I've done this a lot.) Haddon is apparently unaware of this, so he sprinkled in a wide array of scientific and mathematical tidbits rather than giving Christopher clear interests. I'd understand the perfect cube comments more if they were connected to some kind of cube-related obsession.

Then he speculates about how to escape. Why does he want to escape if it's so nice?

I wondered how I would escape if I was in a story.

Is this supposed to be ironic? Also, it should be "were", not "was".

It would be difficult because the only things I had were my clothes and my shoes, which had no laces in them.

Yes, we were there when they took your shoelaces.

I decided that my best plan would be to wait for a really sunny day and then use my glasses to focus the sunlight on a piece of my clothing and start a fire. I would then make my escape when they saw the smoke and took me out of the cell, and if they didn't notice I would be able to wee on the clothes and put them out.

Stereotypical nerds wear glasses. On the other hand, so do all the aspies I've known, including me. No big deal. The only problem with them is that, for the plan to work, his glasses have to be farsighted. Farsighted fifteen-year-olds are not unheard of, but it's far more likely that he'd be nearsighted, especially since his interests involve close work. Nearsightedness is caused by overly long eyeballs where the retina is behind the focal point, so it must be corrected with diverging lenses that actually unfocus the light. Farsightedness is the other way round (short eyeballs). (See e.g. this page on starting a fire with glasses.)

I've never been any good at plans. I'm terribly indecisive and disorganized, and I'd probably have been too nervous to pull off something like this. I think this is typical. I'm also afraid of fire. I can usually look at it with no ill effects, so I don't know if it counts as a phobia, but I can't handle it (in the literal sense). Furthermore, I don't think it's even a good idea to escape; everyone knows you get in more trouble for that. I'd have been hoping they released me soon. The thought process here is foreign to me and seems like it would fit just as well on a neurotypical. Making plans to disobey authority is such a normal thing to do. Everyone does it in fiction.

He also calmly accepts the situation and coldly decides on a way out. This part makes it clear that he isn't just having trouble expressing how he felt about it. Either he was able to think through his distress, which I still can't do very well, or he didn't feel anything. The latter option fits better with what he wrote.

I wondered whether Mrs. Shears had told the police that I had killed Wellington and whether, when the police found out that she had lied, she would go to prison. Because telling lies about people is called slander.

Why would that be a lie? We have no evidence that she knows what happened, and when she saw Christopher holding Wellington, she apparently assumed that he was responsible. If she told the police that he did it, she would be telling what she believed to be the truth. It's only a lie if you know it's false. Maybe Christopher has a broader definition.

Once again, he doesn't really seem to care about this. He just "wonders". He should be outraged that he's suspected of something he didn't do, especially something this awful. We have a strong sense of justice.

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This page was last modified on 29/06/2016 (dmy).