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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

#8: Terror on the 10th Tee Box

This blog had a lot of, "I want to nominate it, but I don't really." because they were afraid it would offend me if it were considered a "favorite." It didn't offend me in the slightest because this is a prime example of the challenges we on the autism spectrum can come into in the most unexpected of places. I've now used this story at schools when asked, "Were you ever bullied?" as I think the moment the man said, "It's not that difficult!" was the most belittling moment I have ever encountered in my life and also, and it wasn't written in the original post and I'm not going to alter it, he said, "Son, this is America and sometimes you've gotta do things you don't wanna do." which, when I talk to students, I say, "I don't think that line has ever was or since been uttered on a golf course."

Thursday, June 27, 2013



Terror On The 10th Tee Box

I love golf; I've had the ultimate high and some rather low lows but when it comes to lows nothing can compare to the incident of today.

I'm in Indy on what is technically a vacation with a drive to see my mom in Rapid City, South Dakota tomorrow. With the weather being ideal for golf I went out today to simply enjoy the sport and being outside. It's been a nice change of pace after six months of nothing but go. That, and I love golf.

All was going well minus the slow play which I would normally care about but I didn't mind as I was simply enjoying the sounds of the birds, the slow movement of the clouds, and the fact that I was shooting good. The story picks, though, on the 10th tee box.

The two groups in front of me stopped into the pro shop and I passed them and got to the 10th tee box. Right as I was teeing the ball up I was told to wait for the ranger's approval to go who was down the fairway. I waited, got the okay, and hit my best drive of the day. Right as I was about to drive away a voice behind me said to wait and to pair up with the threesome that I had passed. So I waited.

The three took to the tee box and they were certainly not my type to play with. Vulgar words, constant taunting of each other's golf game, and crude humor is not my idea of a relaxing day on the golf course. To be honest people like that intimidate me so things were looking bleak but then one of them told me, "As soon as we get past the hill we will let you play on. You probably wouldn't like playing with us anyways."

Two of them hit great tee shots and the third, well, the third tried. After the third player finally hit a shot that went further than 20 yards we were going to drive away when a voice behind us said wait. This was a new guy to this story and I heard him say, "I'm going to pair you guys up but why do you have three carts? You only need two. So you, you need to grab your clubs and put them on the cart with the guy with the blue shirt." The group protested and I sat there frozen. The thought of nine holes with these guys wasn't something I was looking forward to. I know I blogged earlier this week about the enjoyment I had playing with another golfer, but in that instance he wasn't vulgar and we each had a cart. In this instance it was sudden, in the middle of the round, and there seemed to be no choice.

My heart rate was up and they continued to protest when all of a sudden I felt the thud of a golf bag and him saying a curse word with, "I'm not going to be able to finish the round so how am I going to get back when I need to leave?" and with that line I turned around with a look of terror as the whole situation was sinking in.

I looked at the man who was issuing this order and I said, calmly, "I... I have a form of autism and socializing isn't my thing." I was proud of myself because this is something I normally wouldn't do. To stand up for one's self is one of the hardest things to do. However, I may have been proud but this man was having none of it as he said, "Look, I don't care. We don't have signs but a lot of places do that we reserve the right to pair you up and take your cart if need be."

Again I said, this time with a little bit more emphasis, "I... I... I have a form of autism and I truly don't want this. I don't do well in social situations like this." I was teetering on the edge now. I don't like confrontations and this was turning into one. At the race track I can easily deal with a situation like this as I'm an official with the rules as guidance and I understand people may get mad there. Here though, on the 10th tee box, I was sinking into a bit of despair. Things only got worse.

As I said I had autism for the 2nd time the men behind me mentioned they now wanted no part in playing with me but the man who was issuing the orders said, "We reserve the right and sometimes in life you've got to do things you do want to." I was now cornered with no way out. I wanted no part of the back nine but I had that guy's clubs on my cart. Perhaps this is the epitome of a "fight or flight" episode and my reaction was flight.

I said something aloud, something along the lines of, "I'm done" and started to get the balls and tees and I stepped out and as I got to my golf bag the man said, "You don't have to leave! What's so difficult?" What's so difficult? If only he could have felt the unfiltered pain and anguish I was experiencing at that moment. To be forced into a social situation and then to be given a miniature lecture in a condescending way is something that my body does not react well to. On top of that I very much tried to avoid the situation; I made it clear this wasn't going to work and yet he persisted.

After his question of, "What's so difficult" I collapsed. I could sugar coat this story, or say that I was stronger, but on the 10th tee box I was reduced to a hyper-ventilating piece of rubble. The trio that had protested now were confused, and I think a little scared and they simply moved on as if my existence was irrelevant. The man who had caused the ordeal walked away and there I was, alone and shaking.

Time lost it's meaning and I don't know how long I was there, but eventually a different guy came there and said, "Sir, are you okay?" I tried to answer, oh how I tried, but it took a while. I had all this pure fear, unguided anxiety, and severe self-hatred within me. Self-hatred? Then, and now as I write this, I don't know if there has ever been a point in time that I have hated myself more because, as he so eloquently put it, "What's so hard?"

It took a bit but I got an answer and I guess someone had told him I had said the word autism because he then said, out of nowhere, "Are you aware of Asperger's Syndrome?" to which I simply replied, "I've got it." A short conversation then ensued as he told me his grandson has it, and then another group behind me teed off, and I was told to play after them, if I could.

I drove out to my ball with a smoldering fire burning within me. What had been such a relaxing day had quickly turned into the biggest social nightmare since an episode at bowling two years ago. I did hit my 2nd shot but I had no love of the game left. Love of the game, well, I had no love left at all. I felt destroyed, irrelevant, and inferior to everyone else because, "What's so hard?"

There was no third shot. I picked up my ball and drove back towards the club house. I was trying my best to not show my emotions as all I wanted to do was to break down and cry. When I got to the club house the man who has a grandson with Asperger's found me and asked me if I was okay and I replied, "I don't really know." He then went on to say he grandson is the brightest in class but in any situation there is anything as so much representing a confrontation the result was much like the one I was having.

I got into my car and as I pulled out of the parking lot the dam that had been holding back my emotions burst. A furious anger at everything poured out. I felt defeated. I travel the country, I work huge racing events, I speak in front of thousands and one man on the 10th tee box derailed everything. The only thing I was thinking was, "How can anyone without Asperger's understand this?"

So here I am at my sister's now. The incident happened about 80 minutes ago and I'm still a whirlwind of sadness. I don't know how anyone could understand how something that seemed so minor could have such a major impact. I don't know how anyone could relate to the feelings I had in those moments when before and right at when I was told, "sometimes we have to do things we don't want to" and, "What's so hard?" Perhaps this is the pinnacle example of the difficulty living with Asperger's Syndrome. I look normal (I think) I act normal (I think) and I go out and do normal things (if you consider golf normal) but one social situation can cause a total derailment. How can anyone understand that? How can someone without it relate to it? Perhaps this is another reminder about why what I do with my writing and speaking is so important because, while those that have no awareness or understanding may ask, "What's so hard?" perhaps my reason for being on this Earth is to say, "What's so hard? Let me tell you..."

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