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Monday, August 2, 2010

Hypervigilance

I had my blog post planned today and I knew what I was going to write about and the points I wanted to covered but life decided to intervene and throw me a curve ball at my morning stop at the grocery store to get carrots.

What happened this morning reminded me of all the times and event like this one happened. It's odd, in a way, because I am horrible at determining another person's emotions but I will be the first one to know that something isn't right in an environment.

Everything was going smoothly as I walked into the store. The sunglasses were on and I didn't see anyone from leaving my car to the produce department. I grabbed the carrots and proceeded to the checkout area.

As I turned the corner my heart rate increased instantly. Something wasn't right as I saw many management types surrounding an individual. I didn't know what it was, but I knew what it wasn't and it wasn't normal.

There is a safety in normalcy. From my earliest years I exhibited a knowledge of what is and isn't normal. If there is any change in my environment I will instantly know it. Case in point, when I was in kindergarten we had what sounded like a fire drill. This was my 2nd fire drill ever, but I knew something was wrong. In the first fire drill the office staff and principal didn't participate, which I found to be hypocritical (rules are meant to be followed... by everyone) but on this 2nd fire drill everyone including the office staff, cooks, and custodians were outside. I knew something was wrong.

It turned out the school had received a bomb threat, but at that young age I already was showing signs of a heightened sense of environment, or if you would want to call it this, a hypervigilance.

Going back to this morning, I neared the circle of managers and saw one of the managers grab the person who was in the center and, almost violently, grab into the man's pockets throwing out a toothbrush and dental floss onto the floor.

I didn't know how to react. I have never seen a shoplifter busted, much less get roughed up a bit and I didn't know if this man was going to burst out in a violent rage. My mind started playing out many scenarios, but as afraid as I was I kept walking towards the checkout counter which was passed this scene of crime. I wanted to be anywhere but there and I, once again, hated the fact that I was right.

Everyday is a struggle because I am constantly, well, afraid. Changes in my environment are signs that something like a bomb threat of shoplifter are in my surroundings. Most times I am wrong when I sense change, but I have also been right many times.

In 2004 my dad and I were returning from Lithuania via Frankfurt, Germany and as we were taxiing on the runway my heightened sense of hypervigilance kicked in. I noticed the way the flight attendants were walking about and the way one of them was talking on the phone. Furthermore there was a flashing red light that I had never seen flashing further up the aisle. Something was wrong and I was sure of it. What it was remained a mystery but that didn't stop my mind from conjuring up many different events, most of which left me dead. In the end it was the simple fact that our plane was, indeed, on fire. A small air conditioning duct had caught fire and if we had be up at 36,000 feet it would have been bad, but we went back to the gate, the fire was put out, plane inspected, and off we went.

This morning I walked passed the scene because the only checkout counter open was #7 and that was passed this scene. I held my breath and thought of all the bad things that could happen to me. The man who had been the man caught stealing started throwing money onto the floor and the man I assumed to be the manage started yelling at him.

Nothing sets of my alarms more than a harsh tone of voice. I believe that nothing good ever comes from a loud voice because the events after it are always tense. In other words loud voice equals bad event and is a warning sign that something bad is about to occur.

The manager started pushing the man towards the office area, I mean shoving him and pushing him hard in the back, but then they turned around and the manager threw the items onto the checkout counter that I was at. At this point in time I was getting my change from paying for the carrots and I heard the man screaming that this shoplifter was not welcome at this store, the store across the street, the pharmacy across the other street, and a whole host of other stores in the area. On top of this the man who tried to steal was wearing his work shirt and the manager swore he was going to get this man fired and, on top of that, make sure he never has a job in Saint Louis, "ever again!"

With each stern word I heard I became more fearful. By the time I had my change I was nothing more than a walking shell of a person because all cognitive thought was turned off. I was hurting and afraid for reasons I don't fully know. I was just an observer to something and all these words and stern postures were not directed at me, but I still was afraid and I started to shake as I passed through the doors and out of the store.

Almost 100 minutes have passed since this happened and I can still feel the heightened pulse and the anxiety in my arms. Events like this don't happen often, but from each one I have experienced my fear grows more. I am often wrong in my hypervigilance when I am sure something bad is about to happen, but then comes an event like this. I hate when I am right.

2 comments:

  1. That is very unfortunate for anyone to have to witness Aaron. Especially someone with Aspberger syndrome or someone on the autism spectrum. But it is frightening and uncomfortable for most anyone. The situation should have been handled more discretely and privately so as to not make the patrons of the store uncomfortable and frightened. If I had witnessed it,I probably would not have returned to that store or brought my grandson back into the store. I would never subject him to such a scene.

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  2. I know how you feel. When I hear someone getting yelled at I get really uncomfortable too. I get tense and start wishing for it to stop, just stop! I look forward to the day I get the freedom and quiet of living on my own.

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