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Friday, May 22, 2015

Assisting, Five Years Later

Last night I assisted in my sixth Hoosier 100. It's amazing what six years can do. 

My first one in 2010 I was timid. No, seriously! I was the assistant started but I made no movement toward the flagstand and I stood on the infield like a lost puppy. I was eyeing the flagstand but I didn't know if it was appropriate to go to it without permission. It wasn't until the starter signaled me to come over that I was able to do it. 

With each subsequent year it became a tad bit easier but I still never felt 100% as if I belonged. Why was this? While the Hoosier 100 is a USAC event it wasn't the typical routine. I know what we do and how we do it in the .25 series but for the series I don't typically do I'm not confident in what and how to do it. 

In terms of flags I am confident, but it's in the pre-event things I'm unsure of. Where are the official shirts? Or the radios? To most it's probably an easy thing to go in, be assertive, and ask for what is needed but this is where I struggle. It isn't easy to speak up and ask for what I need even though it's what I need. 

This year though was slightly different as while I had the same title of assistant Tom, the primary starter, would be a bit late so I was responsible for practice. Not having a radio would not work; I had to be assertive in getting the stuff I needed to get the job done. 

It may have taken six times but last night I was able to, finally, walk in with confidence as if I belonged. And all this didn't have to do with others treating me as if I didn't, it just takes some repetition before I feel as if I belong. 

Practice went great and Tom showed up and I assisted him and I had as great of a time as I did five years ago. I was just as giddy as the 27 USAC silver crown cars took the green and shook the ground as I was five years ago and at the end I was about as dirty as possible and as akwYs the dirt never felt so good. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

5 years

I can't believe it's been five years since I started with USAC! It may have been a while but this day seems like yesterday as I prepare to go back the event where it all began http://lifeontheothersideofthewall.blogspot.com/2010/05/best-experience-ever.html?m=0

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

People, In a Different Light

I've noticed in life that any time there is a major event, like that covered in "A Crash in Huntsvillle", that things seem different for a while. They do, at least for myself, and what I mean by that is how I ended that blog that time is short and things and people need to be cherished. With that said I am more aware of the actions of those around me and yesterday I saw both sides of people.

Yesterday morning I was headed to the police academy to give a training on autism and it was early, I was tired, so I needed my daily dose of caffeine and I stopped at a gas station. This is a normal event typically not worth writing about, however I did have a bit of a limp as my left ankle is about twice the size of my right ankle from my minor incident in Huntsville. This limp was noticed by the clerk and when he rang me out he said, "you've got a limp?" and I mentioned that my ankle was slightly sprained to which he asked what pain medication I was using, had I been icing it, and if I had to be on it. Usually this would make me uncomfortable because it is needless chatter and I wouldn't know how to respond, but I was actually touched that a random person, a person that I may never see again, took the time to give his advice on how to minimize the pain and make it better more quickly.

I left the station with a gigantic smile. If you've followed my blog from the beginning you'll know that these encounters used to be the stuff that made me stressed above all else, but with this newfound sense of "cherishing the moment" it was touching. This feeling was quickly shattered as I got into my car and a car leaving the station tried an overzealous move to get out in front of cars that had the right of way and both cars honked their horns and one of them had a prolonged period of honking (writer's note: I never thought I'd write the phrase, "prolonged period of honking." I laughed out loud writing that!) and then they faked a U-turn with giving some rather no so nice gestures to the car that had crossed in front of them.

Seeing such juvenile behavior saddened me. I didn't let it shake me as I continued onto the academy and gave a stellar presentation (their words, not mine) and afterwards the same officers come to our city location to learn even more about autism and it was on this drive that I would see another experience that would sadden me.

When I got four stop lights from our city office I was stopped and the turn arrow came on and in the oncoming lanes the lead car did not go. The car behind blasted their horn for a few seconds more than was needed and the lead car reciprocated that behavior with some more much unneeded hand signals. I said aloud to no one that could hear, "What is wrong with people?"

Maybe when we've experienced one, or more, experience like the crash life takes on a new meaning. We, or at least I, realize that time is short and in a blink of an eye things can change. That being said how can we allow such instant anger over miniscule things? Are they times to get angry? Absolutely! But in the grand scheme of things is a few seconds at a red light worth getting that worked up over? Is it worth also returning the anger?

A post like this has probably been written an infinite amount of times in, "life is short, be happy, treat others with respect" and all that other good stuff and in a few weeks I'll probably myself move on from having these things impact me. That's what life is; if we stayed in that place of shock, and realizing time is actually short life itself would probably become overwhelming. That being said, though, is it that difficult to be like that gas station clerk? Is it difficult to, instead of emitting so much anger to others show just a little bit of concern? I know I'm probably the last person in the world to be speaking on this matter having tried to isolate myself from others for so long, but to that guy at the gas station I have to say you made my day and gave me hope that not everyone I come across in a day is going to be an angry driver who is more than ready to show their displeasure.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Crash in Huntsville

Racing is dangerous; always has been and always will be. It's also a spectacle of color, sound, and competition and is something I've been drawn to since the age of two and currently I am the chief starter for two different series and this past weekend I was working the USAC .25 Generation Next series race in Huntsville, Alabama. This was our fourth national event of the year and is my sixth season as being the starter and nothing could have prepared me for what happened on Saturday.

One of the things I love about the USAC .25 series is the safety. I've seen some of the wildest flips and the cars are tipped back over and the driver remains in the race. The rules and construction of the cars have made the safety for the drivers extremely high. However, things can still happen and as the field came to green for the first heat race on Saturday there was some minor contact and two cars headed towards the tire wall, which is rather normal, but as they got to the wall one car shot skywards.

I didn't believe what I was seeing. I don't want to say flips are expected, but they happen and 99.9% of the time are benign and the car remains in the race. In this instance though time slowed down and the car kept going up and it almost went over the eight foot high fence and then I saw my friend and coworker for six years and all time froze.

The next tenths of a second were an eternity as I could see Kyle running. "Run!" my brain screamed but he was only able to take two steps before gravity did its thing and the front of the car caught Kyle on the head and both he and the car disappeared from my view and then there was silence. There may have been noise, but seeing this was shock inducing. I think I displayed the red flag and the silence was broken when I screamed, "MEDIC!" as they were stationed right behind me.

The worst case scenarios began to creep through my mind. I couldn't see Kyle at all because the wall blocked my view and when the first person got to him the motions for the medics brought about a sense that the worst case was going to be realized.

More and more people got to him and the frantic pointing of the people continued to show the seriousness of this incident. I stayed in the stand because I didn't want to know. I thought back to my incident in Nashville three years ago and people reacted the same way so I was hoping that this was the same, but then again I was just thrown about in a stand and Kyle literally had a car land on him.

About five minutes went by and there was still a big huddle of people around Kyle and as they were righting the car I slowly walked over and as I got to the wall and peered over my heart finally started beating properly again because I could see that he was awake, in obvious amounts of pain, but was responding to those around. At that moment the shock disappeared and I went back into flagger mode and we started clearing out people that just didn't need to see what was going on.

The ambulance came and it wasn't until they left that the sense of shock came back. I've been flagging for 20 years and have seen a lot of things but never something like this. We are about as safety conscious as it comes and you can prepare for everything but still the unexpected can and will occur. For the drivers in the incident they were fine, as once again the safety of these cars were shown, but concern still remained for my friend.

We got back to racing but it just didn't seem real. My attention was on the track under green but between heats I still played back trying to figure out how a car went that high. I never did figure it out and about six races later on a start there was an incident that found it's way to the wall right at the flagstand which knocked me out of it and onto the ground. The first thing I said was, "you've got to be kidding me!" as it was obviously not a good day to be an official. I took a break as my shoulder was throbbing, and my shin was all different shades of colors it's typically not, but for some reason or another that incident put me back into a calm, cool, and collected mode as if Kyle's incident never occurred.

Kyle returned to the track just five hours later and I didn't see him right away but those that saw him described him as a "mummy" with a head bandage and other bandages from scrapes. Also, his foot was in a boot from a rather nasty break of some bones. I'd see him once the day's races were halted due to a flash downpour (a fitting way to end the day the way it went) and he was in obvious amounts of pain.

Back at the hotel I did all that I could to make sure he was comfortable as I was rooming with him and despite all the scrapes and trauma he was in rather good spirits keeping his sharp wit and still making me laugh. His nickname is "muscles" and it was obvious why because not many people would take a hit like that and walk out of the hospital just four hours later.

It wasn't until the next morning that I once again felt that shock of when it happened, but it wasn't just a sense of that, but in life in general. I started by saying racing is dangerous, but to be honest life is dangerous as shown by my possible tornado experience 10 days ago. It doesn't matter if one is at a race track because one is passionate about the sport, or crossing a street in a city, or simply walking down a supermarket aisle. Life is dangerous, things happen, we can prepare for everything and still the unexplained fluke can occur. This is where, at least myself, thinks about the fact that with all this being so it is of the utmost importance to cherish everything now because in the blink of an eye things can change, things can fall, and the unexpected can occur. Thankfully, Kyle is going to be okay and it may be a few weeks, or a month, before he's back to prime shape, but for a moment, I'm sure, all that saw that experienced the same moment of shock I did. So to Kyle, whom I sure will read this, get well soon!

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Aspie Traveler Round Two

It's coming! I didn't think I'd be doing this again, ever, much less than three months after my Amsterdam trip, but the way events have played out I am.

The question is, "why do it?" This question has a couple answers. The first is because I need it. I learned an immense amount about myself and my strength and at this point in time I need to test myself again. I'm struggling with life's complex questions of, "Who am I? What's my purpose? Am I acceptable as who I am?"

Those questions may seem elementary and ones that I shouldn't ask, but I do on a daily basis. The events of the past three months have put all of this to the test and I've been hurting. I haven't gone into that, and I don't intend to, but doubt has crept back into my daily existence. That being said I had a week where I had no presentations and I found an amazing rate on airfare to a place I haven't been so another week long adventure is upcoming.

First, this isn't about running away from a problem. It may seem like it, and maybe you're convinced it is, but I have utilized several of the things I learned in Amsterdam to fit into my presentation. As I left Amsterdam I feared I'd never get to do a thing like that again, but if I did, and it turned out to be more than once, I had this thought of having trips that progressed in difficulty because I have to admit that Amsterdam was rather easy as everyone spoke English. In terms of the challenge factor it wasn't there so, what will happen if there was a little challenge? That was my goal but where the second series of The Aspie Traveler will take place I am going to a degree of difficulty of 10.

As with my first series I will be running everything postdated meaning I will be writing my stuff live but it won't run until I'm back in the states. I will say I leave the Tuesday after the Indy 500 and will be gone for eight days and will get back just in time to head to a race which that within itself will be a story because integrating back so quickly is going to be interesting.

But I ask, how am I going to handle this? Where I will be going was, in my mind, the sixth or seventh location but now I am going straight to what I think is going to be a most difficult challenge. But I want that! I want the challenge. I want to prove to myself I can do it, that I can navigate, that I can (somehow) manage the food.

I could go on and on but the next three weeks are going to be fantastic. Right now I'm in Alabama working a USAC .25 race, I'll get back to Saint Louis late Sunday or Monday and then I've got three presentations over Tuesday and Wednesday plus I've got to pack for three separate events (Indy 500, Aspie Traveler, USAC .25 race in PA) and also get my car worked on plus get currency to the location that I am going. It's a bit overwhelming, actually, to think about all the stuff that I need to do and at the same time thrilled for. I mean, it's only nine days until the 99th running of the Indy 500 and two days later I am undertaking the greatest challenge of my life! It's going to be fantastic and I can't wait to take you along for the ride!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Back to IMS

Today I'll head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to flag the EVGP which is a race for electric go karts. It should certainly be interesting but the truly interesting thing is how this plays in to what happened a decade ago. 

Ten years ago right now I was in the hospital with a serious infection. Here's the thing though; just a week prior I had a major life event get canceled. I had been scheduled to be an intern for ABC for the month of May at IMS but the process of interns got changed and I had been dropped. Now here's the thing; had I been in Indy interning I highly doubt I would've sought out medical attention because missing a gig like this wouldn't be something I would've done. 

This is the thing in life. Sometimes doors are shut and while at that time it may be the most dream crushing of things, in the long run it puts us where we need to be. 

 

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Worst Night: 10 Years Later

There I was, a decade ago, staring up at the ceiling a bit unsure of my surroundings. I wasn't quite sure where I was but I felt this sharp pain in my arm. Before I looked at my arm, though, I looked at the window and it was a window I was unfamiliar with. In fact, now I knew I didn't know where I was. I heard a familiar television show in the background and I didn't need my glasses to know that Lost was on but for some reason I didn't care (this was the only show of the series I missed.) What was going on?

I turned to my left and finally looked at my arm and I had an IV. Things were slowly coming back to me and I remembers waking up with a large mass on my neck, a dangerously high fever, and I had been admitted into the hospital. To make matters worse my dad had to go out of town on business so at that moment, as I looked back at the window and the darkness descending upon Saint Louis, I too was at my darkest point of my life.

My time in the hospital would be four days and three of those days I spent alone. At this point in time I had been diagnosed with Aspergers now for 18 months and my negative self-talk reached a crescendo during these nights. It also didn't help that one night during a shift change my pain medicine was overlooked and I was shouting words I'm not proud of, but I was reaching a point that I didn't care. Why should I care? What was the point of survival? What was the point of enduring this because I knew there was and would never be any hope for me.

Isn't it amazing how things can change? On those nights in the hospital I wouldn't have cared had I died. That may sound harsh and to the point, but that's where I was. There was no awareness no understanding, and I'm not just talking about the world's view of the autism spectrum but also within myself. Lost on me was the human potential that was lying dormant. All I knew was that, at that point in time, I was going through hell and only a few people knew about it.

This plays into the event I blogged about on Friday about the storm. When I saw the flying tree I sort of had the same emotions but in reverse. I did care if this would be it for my life and I thought about all the things I've left to do and how I can achieve them. A decade ago I just focused on the things I was sure I'd never do, but now I know I can do them. A decade ago I thought of the relationship I ended, but now I think that the future is infinite in possibilities. A decade ago I thought of no one but myself and the despair I felt, but now I think of those that were in my position and all my thoughts go to how I can use words to better he world for understanding.

It's amazing what just the littlest seedling of hope can give to a person and as the years when on this seedling got watered and taken care of by many people, but ten years later I am certainly not the same person that I mentioned at the start of this. I remember those days well and I can't believe it's been a decade. I can still reach back to my neck expecting to feel a rather unsettlingly large hole where the MRSA infection had been cut out only to find that my skin is fully there. The physical scar remains, but so too does the mental scare. I may not be the same person and I may be filled with hope, but there is still that fear of being alone like that. I doubt that will happen, but it's still there and this fear is what fuels me. If I lost it then my motivation may go with it. One does not have to be bedridden with a 104 fever to feel alone, isolated, and misunderstood. If anything the proverbial fuse I speak of that had to burst to allow me to present burst on those nights and in tomorrow's post I let you know what events led to me being in the hospital and where I could've been instead.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Silenced Into a Storm


It happened again yesterday for only the second time; I had to cancel a presentation due to illness. I had two presentations planned in the Springfield vicinity and I drove down yesterday morning and during my first presentation my voice started to falter and it was obvious the second presentation, had I given it, would have been rather quiet. This sucked! I know being a writer I should use a more eloquent term than that, but I was angry that my body had let me down a second time within a month. However, this set into motion one of the scariest drives I’ve ever had in my life.

As I neared Marshfield I called my sister and within minutes of talking to her it began to rain. This was odd because there was nothing on the radar when I left Springfield. What became odder was the intensity of the rain and it was raining so hard the noise made it impossible for me to continue my conversation so I hung up and drove on.

About a minute after hanging up the rain, somehow, came down harder. The term, “blinding rain” did not give this storm justice. I slowed, but stayed in the fast lane as the right shoulder had many cars stopped on it and I could just make out a semi truck’s tail lights about four feet in front of me and to my right. I tried to shake it from my mind, but the level of danger in this situation was great and my brain started debating.

Stop, Aaron, you need to stop!

I thought about stopping but two things stopped me from stopping. The first was that the slow lane had many cars in it and I couldn’t safely merge due to being blinded. Secondly, I have always feared stopping on the Interstates. Ask my dad, when I was really young and we had to stop I remember screaming. Maybe it’s because it’s against the rules, or routine, but also, had I stopped, I risked being smoked by a car or semi that was at speed and there wasn’t enough room on the left shoulder as the cable barrier was very close.

Keep going then, Aaron, but do so safely.

Thanks, brain, I knew that, but I ventured onward for another mile or so and time was now being felt as if everything were in slow motion. Perhaps it was because I was now doing about 10mph, but there was this sense of fear that at any point in time there’d be a road blocking crash, or people that had foolishly stopped in the flow of traffic. As I had these thoughts the road curved to the right and that’s when I saw it.

Go! Go! Go! This isn’t safe, go, go, full speed go!

I thought I was about to die. The rain which had been pouring straight down was now going horizontal. The pressure had changed and the trees on the side of the road were stretched to the max and that’s what I noticed that put me into this panic; there was a tree tumbling about 16 feet above me end over end. I can’t say if this were a tornado, but from the change in winds, to the rains, to the debris that I saw overhead I wasn’t going to wait around to find out and with the change in direction of the rains I now had some visibility so my foot went to the floor.

I had to put in a lot of countersteer to keep my car going straight as the winds wanted to push my car into the cables. My speed was racing and so was my heart as I was sure this was it. A rush to judgement? Perhaps, but after a close call with a tornado whilst parked under an overpass in 1999 I told myself I’d never put myself in this situation again. My eyes were focused on the road but my brain was thinking about what my last conversation I’d have was, and all the things I wish I had said but had been unable. These thoughts continued on and then I rounded a corner…

 

It’s clear… Wait, clear, that fast?

 

It was that fast. Around a corner and sunny! I called my dad to tell him and a few minutes into the conversation I looked into my mirror and that was no sign that there had even been a storm. My dad kept an eye on the radar and that storm had just popped up essentially in place and 15 minutes later it was gone. Unless you were at that spot at that time there’s no way for you to know how bad it got so quickly, and there were no watches or warnings with it so I can’t say it was a tornado or if it were just straight line winds. And really, it doesn’t matter because the result to myself was the same. I was scared, out of breath, and I shook the entire way home. I questioned everything; am I doing what I need to be doing in life? Am I doing it enough? What is happiness? I thought of the past three months and all the life changing events, and when I got home I was out of it and had nothing left.

 

Breathe, just breathe.

 

Last night wasn’t a long one, I was asleep by 8:30 but the time I was awake was filled with the fastest thoughts I’ve had in a long while. It’s one thing to know you’re driving into a storm if there’s watches or warnings, but it’s another thing all together to drive into a pop-up storm that carried that much pop and that’s what shook me; this notion that all is well and it can turn into something so bad so quickly. I do my best to keep my life in a stasis of sorts because change is bad. I try not to think about the change that could happen and to be reminded of it in the grandest of ways, well, yesterday’s storm I drove through, while only existing for 15 minutes, will live with me a long, long time if not forever.