My National Autism Awareness Tour officially begins today but the journey to get here was a journey that gave me many frustrations. This story begins many hours after my video blog from Sunday at the Streets of Lancaster and begins as I got the LAX. I normally love flying, but when it comes to airports LAX, or at least the terminal my airline was in, is awful and I had six hours to kill.
Killing time proved to be difficult but there certainly was a cast of characters to help it. For one thing this guy across from me got out his French horn and started playing. I guess when a person has to play they have to play, but this was something I have never seen before.
After working the race weekend I was rather tired and was counting down the hours until my 12:55AM flight and by 11 I just didn’t care about much anymore in terms of how depressing the terminal was. I had to conserve power because power outlets were nowhere to be found so I couldn’t blog, but finally it came time to board the plane and for the first time in a long time I quickly fell asleep on the plane. How fast? I was asleep during the taxi portion of the flight. The sleep didn’t last long and I then ended up bouncing in and out of sleep and when we arrived in Dallas I was getting excited to get home, see my girlfriend, then pack the rental van and start the tour. Things, however, did not go according to plan.
I got out of the plane and walked to the monitors of departures and my eyes looked around then I found Saint Louis and the time and on the status it said the worst word a traveler could see, “CANCELLED”. This was a first for me and I had no idea what to do and the pressure of getting on the road in a timely manner to get to Fort Wayne crashed upon my mind like dropping a piano on a car. I wandered back to the gate I came out of and asked the agent, “Um, what do I do know, it says cancelled.” She was unaware of any flight cancellations and she wasn’t all that helpful but eventually she told me I was on standby for a flight an hour later and she quickly went back to printing papers. I tried to ask again but she either didn’t hear me or chose not to hear me.
Next, I walked to the gate that I was supposed to standby not knowing what that means and I waited in the long line and after a while it was my turn to talk to the gate agent and when I did my words were slightly choppy as I was so dearly worried about the fate of my tour. I mean, would I be on standby for days? I asked what it meant and she explained so I asked what my odds were for getting on the flight and she said, “Let me see here. Okay, there are 60 people in front of you so it doesn’t look good… at all.” After that, though, she said I had a guaranteed seat on a 12:45 flight. This was some relief but I still worried about what time it would put me into Fort Wayne which is the first stop on my tour.
It was still dark outside but I was starting to get hungry so I got some food and while I was eating it these two people on this raised bar seating started talking and it was obvious they didn’t know each other which amazed me because it is hard for me to conceive of the notion that people that don’t know each can talk to each other. I was amazed as several minutes passed and they chatted away as if they knew each other for many years. As I finished up eating so too do their conversation and as the guy stood up he said, hey, my name is Karl, what’s yours?” There was an answer and then Karl said, “Well, I wish the best of luck to you.” And just like that a random conversation between two strangers was over. This haunted me, in a way, as thinking about the finality of what I witnessed saddened me.
I was starting to get extremely tired as the sun was now starting to break horizon and I tried to sleep in the chairs but this just wasn’t going to work as the arm rests are solid and tall. After being in the LAX terminal for so long I saw people sleeping on the floor and as I had been up for almost 24 hours without actual sleep I decided to try it.
This was something that I thought I’d never do as I always feared that if I were asleep someone would come and steal something of mine, but I was too tired to care. I went to a gate not in use and went towards the window and laid down. I used my laptop bag as a pillow and I put my phone under me, as I was listening to music to drown out the exterior noise, and quickly I was asleep.
I woke up sweating and I didn’t know why. I opened my eyes and immediately closed them due to the brightness. The slightly bright sky I last saw was now replaced with a radiant array of sunshine without a cloud in the sky and the sun’s heat was magnified through the window I was sleeping next to. My music was still playing and I looked at my phone and I couldn’t believe it as three hours had passed. Three! What had been an empty gate was now replaced with a hustle and bustle of human activity. Somehow I slept through the transition and I looked at my clock on my phone at it was 11; just one hour until my new flight was to board and even though I slept I felt as if I had not. I still had so much to do with getting the rental van, saying hello to Rob from Vancouver, unpacking at my house from the race and repacking for a 33 day trip across the country, and then making sure I didn’t forget anything (I failed on that front.)
So now, after all that drama from yesterday, my tour is about to begin. This year there is a major emphasis on speaking to students which is why this is the National Autism Awareness Tour: Building a Foundation for Hope. Yesterday morning I didn’t know if I’d make it on time, but today is the day! Today is the day that my cross country journey begins and I look forward to every stop, every presentation, and every story that unfolds and I look forward to bringing you those stories here on my blog.