Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On Crowds, Unpleasant Noises and Trying To Do Good

On Saturday, I went to give blood. I have done it only once before (though I have made four attempts and been sent away because my iron was too low) and had decided that one of my resolutions for 2011 was to give as often as they would let me.  I'm a fucking saint, right?

I made an appointment for 11:30, because the last time I had gone in on a Saturday without an appointment, I waited an hour just for the initial finger prick...and who wants to wait that long for a little prick? When I arrived, there was some kind of alarm going off -- a loud beep every few seconds. I don't know how it wasn't driving everyone else crazy but, holy shitballs, for me it was like torture. Every beep made my whole body tense up. I couldn't put my earbuds in to block it out because I was waiting for my name to be called.

Since I was a little bit early, I figured I could tough it out the ten minutes before my appointment time. It was very crowded and I took a seat as far away from the rest of the people waiting as I could. The chatter on top of the beeping alarm was grating at best, so I tried to keep myself distracted with a game on my iPod. 11:30 came an went. Soon it was 11:45. Then noon. I was still waiting, still forcing myself to tolerate the crowd and the obnoxious beeping.

I let one more minute tick by. I saw the nurse stand up to call the next name and waited to hear mine. Surely such a large organization that allows you to make appointments so that you can help them would not be more than a half hour behind schedule. The next name was not mine. Then a man walked in with two small children. The only seats available were next to me. The children brought loud video games with them. I was done.

I approached the counter and explained that I couldn't wait any longer, but would look at my schedule and make an appointment for another day. I felt guilty. I wanted to donate. I wanted to help people. When I saw that there were still five people WITH APPOINTMENTS ahead of me, my guilt began to ebb slightly.  Then the nurse gave me some kind of self-righteous sneer and I walked out with my guilt fully assuaged.

I still want to give blood. I think that pre-diagnosis, I would have just decided never to go back. Now I think I'll try a different approach. I am going to contact the director and explain my situation. Being on the autism spectrum, I can't deal with crowds and noise the way others can. I have emailed the blood center and asked what a good time would be for me to go in where there will be less of a crowd. This means less noise, less chance of waiting a long time and the ability to use my earbuds and still know when they are calling me.

--Update: I explained in my e-mail to the organization that I am not comfortable with the phone and that I needed to converse via e-mail.  Their e-mailed response told me to call them.  Guh.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's Gonna Be An Aspie New Year!

We are now a week into 2011, a new year and a new decade. I have had a feeling for a long time that important changes were coming for me and my new diagnosis certainly fits that description. It’s exciting and scary, learning to navigate the world in a new way.

I went to Sea World with one of my roommates (Chick Tender) on New Year’s Eve, knowing it would be somewhat crowded, but confident I could avoid the majority of the chaos. Aside from three incidents, I think the night was a success. The first thing that happened was that we got caught behind one of the stadiums as it emptied from a show. Too many people, too much noise and no way out. CT (unfazed by the mess herself) tried to say something to me and I had to tell her, “I can’t focus on anything you’re saying right now. Please tell me again when we’re out of this crowd.”

That was a big deal for me. A short time ago, I would have tried to listen to her and get through the crowd and it only would have made me more overwhelmed and likely to have a meltdown. Instead, I said what needed to be said, then pushed my way to a wall so that the crowd was only on one side of me. I worked my way along the wall until there was finally some heavenly open space around me. I survived and didn’t have a meltdown.  Score one for me.

The second incident involved some hyper children whose parents were ignoring them. We were standing in line for The Polar Express and these kids were climbing all over the queue’s railing and pushing each other and alternately singing and yelling. After they had pushed one another into my back for the fifth or sixth time, CT saw how stressed I was getting and switched places with me. I think that made the parents notice how their kids were behaving and start paying attention, because they were much better behaved after that. Again, I survived.

When it was time to get something for dinner, off we went to our "usual" spot on the other side of the lagoon. To get to where we thought the restaurant was, we had to pass through a crowd. Not only was it a large crowd, it was a very loud one, as it had gathered in front of a stage where a salsa band was playing. There were cleverly designed cocktail tables about, with glass tops and bongo drum bases – even a hole cut in the top of the glass so the top of the drum was exposed. Cute, right? Sure, except that every asshole near them felt is was their sworn duty to drum on the damn bongos. This might not have bothered me so much, but it seemed there was not a single person in the crowd with enough rhythm to at least play the same beat as the band.

On top of the noise and the crowd, CT and I were then separated by the “I Have A Stroller So I Have The Right Of Way” people. You know the ones. The people who act like they are the first humans to ever breed and think having children means that the rules don’t apply to them and that they are excused from showing common courtesy? Yeah. There were a lot of them there that night. Having a friend nearby was the thing that was really keeping me sane, so the forced separation just about drove me over the edge.

Then we reached the other side, where we realized that we had already passed the restaurant back on the other side of the lagoon and that we now had to go back through the same fucking obnoxious, off-tempo drumming, drunk-dancing, goddamn parental entitlement crowd. I have never been so grateful to sit down in front of a hamburger in my life as I was when we finally reached our destination.

All in all, I still consider the night a success. I never had a meltdown, CT was supportive of my need to stop and refocus periodically and I ended up having a really good time. I’m really looking forward to the coming year.  But I swear on all that is holy, the next person who physically runs into me with a stroller is going to feel my wrath.  And it's pretty wrathful wrath, too.  So watch out.