Sunday, May 14, 2017

One morning with autism...

It is no secret that I have struggled to fit in for my entire life. Over the past few years, I've been on a path of self-discovery and self-diagnosis to recognize what it is about me that makes me different from others and why. This path lead me to seek out a diagnosis for autism, after much research and continued struggles that were otherwise unexplainable. I received a diagnosis a couple of weeks ago and am continuing to do research on what this means for me and my future. I was diagnosed with Autism, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Depression. I wanted to write out what would be an ordinary morning for most people and how I struggle with it due to my limitations regarding autism. It's just text, with no pretty pictures, and it is overly detailed, but writing it out felt very good. I hope this gives someone a better understanding of what it means to be Autistic and maybe gives insight to my friends and family about how I struggle with normal activities.

I woke up at about 7a. This is not unusually early for me, since becoming pregnant. I had woken up in the middle of a dream and had to pee. I went to the bathroom but did not brush my teeth. I came back to bed, hoping to maybe get some more sleep, but still recovering from my strange and disorienting dream. I realized Adam was still at work and able to chat on Facebook for a bit and knew he'd be going home and going to sleep since he had worked a twelve hour shift and was due back at work in eight hours, so I wanted to take advantage of this time and chat with him. As we chatted, I became very hungry. I knew I did not want to eat anything in the house and I did not want McDonalds. I looked up the hours of a new coffee shop not far from my home. I had enjoyed my first visit there, plus they have really great hash browns. Like all the other coffee shops, they don't open until 9a. However, a local diner opens at 6a, but I didn't want to go to a diner on Sunday on a holiday. Starbucks also opens early.

Adam and I finished chatting and I could no longer wait. I needed food now. I decided to take my book with me to Starbucks, where I would find suitable food, though not ideal. I would also find a suitable environment for reading, though not ideal. This Starbucks is perpetually crowded with the most fucked up parking lot I've ever seen. It's an incredibly overwhelming situation. I also knew there was construction on the main road that goes right from my house to Starbucks. These obstacles were daunting, but not impossible. I had planned out a route that would take me off the main road and enter in the back of Starbucks, where there were four or five parking spaces with enough room to enter and leave, despite the lengthy drive-thru line. There is never a time when the drive-thru line doesn't fill the tiny parking lot, so avoiding this complication was necessary. As I drove down my back roads, which were pleasantly absent of traffic, and while enjoying Taylor Swift on repeat, I began to think about cleaning out my car. I knew there were free vacuums just across the street from Starbucks, and it pleased me to think that I could finally clean up the car and arrange it to my tastes, since Adam is no longer using it regularly.

I had devised a plan for what I felt would be a pleasant morning; yummy food, quiet time with my book, getting out of the house, cleaning my car.

On my way to Starbucks, I realized I had forgotten to brush my teeth and felt embarrassed about how easy it is to forget a simple task if my morning routine is interrupted or not planned out. I arrived at Starbucks as I had planned and was able to find a spot behind the building. The car next to me had parked improperly, wheels over the line into my space. Luckily, it was only slightly inconsiderate and I was able to park and have room to open my door. I had to cross the drive thru line to get to the building, which was somewhat stressful. However, since this Starbucks is always crowded, most of the cars are polite and used to allowing for other drivers to exit their parking spaces or give room for a pedestrian such as myself. I entered the tiny Starbucks and the line was past the door. However, it was still only about four people, and I knew there was nowhere else to go. I surveyed the building and found an acceptable seating spot... it was with a low booth where my feet could actually touch the floor, away from many other people, a soft cushion instead of a hard chair, a table I wouldn't have to share. I set my stuff down and got in line.

Already, I was bothered. The girl taking orders was too cheerful, too loud, and overly familiar with the guests. Luckily, I had my phone and WiFi from Google and was able to text a friend as I stood in line. I knew that when I approached the counter, this employee would proffer me an inappropriate greeting. She was calling everyone, "darlin'," as if we were somehow in the Deep South in the 1950s. She was also wishing the people at the front of the line a Happy Mother's Day. This sort of familiar talk from a stranger makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I considered leaving. I didn't want to talk to her. I knew she would say things I didn't like. I didn't want to stand in line. But there were no other options and leaving a place to find something else is often too overwhelming. I didn't want to get McDonalds and eat in my car. I didn't want to go to a crowded diner. I wanted to go through with the plan I had enacted, so I texted my friend about the idiot behind the cash register and I steeled myself for what was to come. When I approached the register, I had already planned out everything I would say to her to ensure the transaction would happen smoothly with very little questioning and very little discomfort on my part. She greeted me, using the term "darlin'," as I had suspected she would. I immediately responded, while not looking directly at her, "Please don't call me 'darlin' as I don't know you well enough to use that term." She politely agreed and took my order, took my money, and I was able to leave.

I found a post on the wall where I could be away from all the other patrons and wait for my food. I texted my friend about the girl with the overly familiar speech. Doesn't she understand her job is to process my order efficiently, not patronize me with unnecessary pronouns? Many of the patrons were regulars. The crew was extremely cheerful and talked about personal matters with each other as well as with the patrons. I hate this kind of noise. I just want people to be quiet. Coffee shops should be like libraries, as far as I'm concerned. I wish the machines were mute too. Waiting near the counter, I could see both stations for the drinks made for eating in the shop as well as those at the drive thru. The employees were communicating what they had finished, where it was, what was next. They were talking with patrons. It was all very lively and disorienting. They called my name and I was able to take my food and go to my table.

The vast majority of the business was done through the drive thru, so there was plenty of space between me and the other patrons... most of whom were working or reading quietly. Perfect. I set up my table exactly as I liked. Folded the paper bag my sandwich was in. Placed my sandwich on top of its wrapper, which I had folded flat. Put my drink to the right of the sandwich. Placed my phone and keys to the right of my drink. Pushed the table out so my book could rest on my lap, since the table was too high and too small for me to enjoy reading with the book on the table. I have never been in a restaurant with seating the accommodates my small stature, so adjusting for my height is normal to me. With everything set up and my sandwich cooling (Starbucks sandwiches are always far too hot), I began to read.

Everything went well for a while. As I ate my sandwich, I had enough napkins to wipe off the crumbs that collected on my fingers and felt so annoying. I was able to read a chapter or two, reply to my friend, eat a little. Everything was well ordered. The noise of the coffee shop was up behind some walls and faded into the background of rhythmic clattering. While many noisy situations are untenable for me, there are also situations where noises fade into the background and are enjoyable or not bothersome. Many restaurant noises are like this for me, possibly because I've spent so much time working in the food industry and have been able to process the sounds to a low priority since I'm not responsible for them. I was greatly enjoying my time when something awful happened. Two very loud women came in, stood in front of me while talking, and then took seats at the end of my row, all while talking very noisily.

They were so clearly unaware of their surroundings and were as much like having an air horn going off next to my ear. They took away from my pleasant pattern of eating, reading, replying to my friend, watching the people outside the windows silenced by the walls between us. On top of their incessant chatter, everything they said was common and uninteresting. It was the worst form of communication possible. I waited to see if they would figure out that they were inside a building with other people who might not want to know the intimate details of their Sunday morning and the projects their children were completing for school, but they did not. I texted my friend about how they had ruined my nice morning. I looked at my book because I had just started a chapter and I hate putting a book down in the middle of a chapter. I cleaned up all my food wrappers. I decided I could finish the page and a half by willfully blocking them out and then I would leave.

When I threw away my wrappers, the trash can was full, so I told the employee about it. Full trash cans are disgusting. Fast food restaurants should pay more attention to them. More patrons should alert staff when a trash can fills, because they are dirty, smelly, and often wet. I hate them. I prepared to leave, knowing I'd have to walk through the drive thru line to get to my car and that it would be stressful. Luckily, the person who had parked over the line had moved and a new jackass had backed in, but at least was within the bounds of the parking spot. I was able to get into my car easily, turn on Taylor Swift, and head to my next destination to clean my car.

It was such a short drive with no traffic issues, but the car wash was full. I drove to the very end of the line of vacuums, only to find them broken. I pulled back to the front, where I was closer to traffic and more distractions. I started by collecting the trash in my car. When I was ready for the vacuum, I pulled it out, only to find it was broken. Another car had just left, so I started to back up, when a bright red car pulled into the car wash at a very high speed and whipped into the spot I wanted. I parked and waited. I could wait for the car next to me to go, but I was mad. Also, there was a huge puddle under that car. If I pulled in there, I'd have to step all around it or end up with wet feet. I hate having my feet wet in my shoes. It's incredibly uncomfortable and gross. Also, there was a bunch of trash in the puddles, the pavement was disgusting and filthy, the trash cans were filthy too. Does no one ever power wash this pavement? It's all dirty from soda bottles and other things in the dirty cars people are cleaning. Power washing would keep the pavement from looking like a dumpster site. Power washing would work on the walls of the building and the trash cans as well.

I sat there dismayed and disgusted. There was another free vacuum place, but it was on the other side of town, in another busy area, and I'd have to navigate many traffic lights to get there. I wanted to finish this up so close to home and where I ate so I would have minimal time spent out in the loud world. But I knew I couldn't use the vacuum next to me with the gross puddle. The more I looked at this place, the less I felt I ever wanted to visit here again, since it was so trashed and disgusting.

In the end, I chose to go to the other car wash. Again, I knew several back roads to avoid the bulk of traffic and I knew the other car wash was nicer and cleaner. I turned up Taylor Swift and drove over. The drive was less crowded than expected and I was able to pull into a nice spot with vacuums on either side of my car, in between two very clear cars with no music playing and with generally pleasant and quiet people. I turned up Taylor Swift, opened my doors, and prepared to clean my car with my preferred music.

I was excited to find some Clorox wipes in my car, so not only could I vacuum, but I could also wipe down all the surfaces. I could also go through the console and throw away the papers Adam stuffed in there and forgot. Then I could move his pipe, which puts ash in parts of the console I use, and hide it away so the car would be less dirty. I don't like when I reach for my chapstick and end up with ash all over my fingers. This was turning out to be an excellent decision.

I cleaned and vacuumed and wiped and organized and everything felt so nice and good. Cleaning makes me feel very good, but only when I can do it by myself with no interruptions from anyone and on my own terms. I didn't have to share the vacuums by my car as the cars next to me were nearly done. I cleaned out some nooks and crannies that hadn't ever been cleaned. I set the car up beautifully.

Afterwards, I was able to drive home down some back roads, listening to Taylor Swift and enjoying the cool, morning air. I came home thoroughly tired out from that morning's interactions. I had enjoyed food and my book and cleaning, but all at a cost of my energy. The ups and downs of the day were tiring. I wanted to climb into bed and snuggle with my kitties and take a nap and recover from my morning adventures.

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