Looking for patterns in everyday life

One of the traits of many people with Asperger’s Syndrome (Aspies), like me, is that we spend a lot of time looking for patterns in the numbers all around us. For some reason, to do with our disability, we are fascinated by patterns, particularly in numbers. Pointing out patterns that I have seen sometimes gets me odd looks from non-Aspies, but I’m not worried. I look on pattern seeking as one of the interesting and intriguing points of being an Aspie.

My favourite occupation, when out walking or driving, is looking at car registration numbers. Most, of course, have no patterns in them, other than the simple pattern of letters and numbers that depend on where you live. For instance, here in Australia, many of them are a series of three letters followed by three numbers: Nothing much interesting in that! I keep looking anyway, and sometimes I find one that interests me. Mostly I just admire the pattern, but sometimes it starts me thinking about other things that might also be related to it or the chances of it happening.

One day when I was out driving and stopped at traffic lights, I noticed that the two cars in front of me, in adjacent lanes, had consecutive registration numbers. I had never, in forty years of driving, seen that before. I wondered: What are the chances of it happening again? I don’t know what the chances would be, and wouldn’t know how to work them out, but I would think that they would be very, very low. Perhaps it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will never happen to me again.

Shortly after buying a second-hand car a few years ago, I realised a similarity between the registration number and my sister’s phone number. Both have 888 in them. I wonder if I noticed it before I bought the car and it influenced me to buy it? I don’t know. I don’t think that I noticed the registration number before I decided to buy the car, but I may have done, unconsciously. I had known my sister’s phone number for many years, so it might have been lurking at the back of my mind looking for something with which to form a pattern, and thus caused me to buy the car with a similar pattern in the registration  number. I don’t know and I don’t suppose that I’ll ever know, but it intrigues me to think that it might have happened. Perhaps being an Aspie has more influence on my life than I think.

I saw a car recently that had the registration number YBD.08X. Not much of a pattern there, you might think. But it struck me, while looking at it, that there is a ’hidden’ pattern. Consider: Read the number from both ends towards the middle. Y is like X with the bottom legs squeezed together. B is like 8 with one side squeezed in. D is like 0 with one side squeezed in. In other words, it is, with a little bit of mental manipulation, a palindrome, the same backwards as forwards. This is the ‘hidden’ pattern that I saw in the numbers and I found it most interesting and intriguing.
When I have to remember a phone number, I always look for some sort of pattern in the digits. If I can find a pattern, sometimes only after quite a lot of thought, I find that I can remember the number easily, but if there’s no pattern that I can find, then I have difficulty recalling the number and soon forget it.

I have found this ability to seek out and find patterns can sometimes be very useful. For instance, I can sometimes see patterns in random data, particularly numbers, that other people miss. Sometimes, it happens, that there is no pattern to be found in the data, so I have to be careful not to get obsessive about it. It can sometimes be very difficult to abandon the search for a pattern, but that too is part of being the Aspie that I am.

I rather like and enjoy this tendency of mine to look for patterns in numbers. It gives my mind something to ponder upon. Wherever I might be there is usually something that might, just might, have a pattern within it that I can look for. That applies to car registration numbers, road signs, telephone numbers – virtually anything. When I’m lucky, I get the pleasure of finding the pattern. If not, I can always look elsewhere. There’s plenty of numbers around in the modern world.

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