Wednesday, December 7, 2022

A Decade Ago Today...

This happened to me a decade ago today. Kyle passed away five years ago so this story means more to me than you'll ever know...


When the USAC banquet wrapped up I waited a while for Kyle to get the things he needed to get as I was going to stay at his place as the following day had our USAC .25 banquet where we would honor the champions and top finishers of the season.


I had been joking during the night that I wasn't entirely sure where I had parked. I knew I was north of the Indiana Rooftop Ballroom, but other than that I wasn't sure. As much as I had been joking there was a sense of concern within me as I didn't want to be walking the streets of downtown Indy after midnight trying to find my parking garage.

At around midnight I left the banquet hall and Kyle told me to meet him at the USAC office and I would follow him to his place from there. I did let him know that my phone's battery was dead so if anything happened I would be unable to call him. This fact alone should have let me know that something odd was about to happen.

I walked north with my plaque in hand and was thankful that it wasn't as cold as it was the previous year. One block, two block, three blocks and I thought that my below ground parking garage was on this street. I took a right and thought that the buildings looked familiar so I walked a couple blocks and then I knew I was in the right place.

As I got near the entrance I began to get my keys out of my pocket and I turned the corner to go down the entrance ramp when this is what I saw:


This wasn't good. I looked around for a call button and none existed. "Okay" I thought, "let's try the other side. Surely a parking garage doesn't close." So that's what I did and instead of a walk I was now running. So picture this, I'm wearing my nicest pants, shirt with a tie, and dress coat and I'm running down this dark alleyway in downtown Indy after midnight. I was running because I didn't know where Kyle was and I didn't want him to have to wait at the office for a long time because after all my phone was dead and this delay was not good.

When I got to the other side of the building I saw a carbon-copy of that picture. Again, no signs that says when it closes and no call button. A sign on the down ramp stated that the garage was, indeed, "closed." Closed? But it's a parking garage. This couldn't be happening.

I now sprinted full speed towards the doors of the building because, maybe, the doors were closed because it was cold? With each entrance I tried I got the same horrible result; a locked door. This was not good.

Panic began to set in. I didn't know where Kyle was and my phone was dead and I wouldn't be able to call him if I had another phone because I don't know his number. What was I going to do? Sleep on the sidewalk? I could go to a hotel but a room in downtown Indy surely would cost at least an arm and half a leg. Wait a sec! A hotel, maybe someone left a phone charger in a room and there might just be one at the front desk in a lost and found pile.

With that thought I ran full speed towards the hotel across the street. I burst into the front door and approached the front desk where a weary traveler was checking in. I waited for seemed like 13 years, but it was probably more like 45 seconds, and when I got to the desk I asked, if by chance, there would be an iPhone charger I could borrowed. My hopes were dashed when she, the front desk lady, said no, but then I explained my ordeal and she replied, "What do you mean closed? That garage never closes! Okay, let me see."

Another 13 years passed as I awaited what I hoped to be her return with a charger. Okay, this time it was more like 15 seconds, but if I didn't get a charger I had no idea what I was going to do. If everyone had departed the banquet I would have NO WAY to communicate to anyone what was going on. Kyle would get to the office and I would never show up. Nothing good was going to come from this so I started whispering under my breath, "please please please have a charger" and sure enough she came out from the office with a charger.

She handed me the charger and she said, "That will be $5" so I got out my wallet and she then said, "I was just kidding. Wow, you really thought I'd charge you $5?" I didn't give a spoken answer but just looked at her befuddled. This probably would have been a highly awkward social situation for me but I was solely focused on getting my phone charged.

I plugged in the phone and when an iPhone's battery is completely dead you can't simply plug and go; you've got to wait until the phone as a minimal charge before you can use it. This amount of time seemed like a century. Okay, I'm on a streak of time exaggeration this post but this was about five minutes that I sat... and I sat... and I sat...

Finally, there was the beep and my phone was on. I got to the section on my phone that allows me to call, but my phone was also checking e-mail, text messages, chess.com, words with friends, and who knows what else so my phone took it's time not realizing the mess that had been going on while it was sleeping.

When I got through to Kyle I told him I had a problem and my parking garage was closed. "Closed? What do you mean closed?" He too had never heard of such a thing but thankfully he hadn't left downtown so he asked me where I was and after a short conversation he told me to go back to the site of the banquet.

With the briskness of a sprinter I ran back towards where this story began and once there I got in Kyle's car and he again asked me to explain just what exactly I meant by the fact that I couldn't get to my car. I explained and we drove to the garage. We parked in the dark alley I had ran through and he got out to confirm the fact that my car was not in a place that could be reached.

While he took the exterior tour of the building I had done I sat and I thought that 1. what an odd thing to happen and 2. I couldn't believe I had the idea to ask a hotel if they had a phone charger and then to actually carry through with the idea. I'm not one to ask for help, but sometimes I guess I have the power to amaze myself.

Kyle came back and said something like, "I can't believe it. You were right. This garage is closed." And with that we went towards his place with all my luggage sitting in my car locked in the parking garage.

The next day I left my car in the garage because there was no other place to park with so many functions going on in downtown Indy but that evening after our .25 banquet I got to the building and it was closed again. This time however I could get into the lobby of the building and I spoke to a guard there who said I got there just in time. He led me to my car and let me out and sitting in my car never felt better!

The moral of this story is to always make sure your phone has a charge and also, from this day forward, always ask, re-ask, and ask a third time if the parking garage as a closure time because, as I told someone, who knew parking garages closed?

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A Departing Solstice


It's been over a decade since General Motors retired the Pontiac brand, but on iRacing the Pontiac Solstice has remained on the service offering drivers a great car to learn the basics of car control and race craft.

When iRacing began, the Solstice was the car everyone had to start in if they wanted to road race. Call it the rookie trainer, but if you wanted to run faster cars on road circuits you had to start with the car that handled, well, it certainly wasn't a modern F1 car, or a F1 car from the 50's. It was heavy, clunky, but it did exactly what it was meant to do and that was give racers a good foundation for their sim-racing talents.

The start of my iRacing career was filled with many summer afternoons with that car. I started picking up some wins and I thought I was hot stuff, but then a driver that has the same name as current NTT INDYCAR Series Champion, Will Power, came on and suddenly I was 1.5 seconds off the pace. My confidence, and ego, were quickly put into place. Second place.

Like most, I moved on from the Solstice. It was still on the service, and it was still there, but it was a car I never thought to run. I'd see it frequently as I ran in a series that had it in a multi-class series, but I'd see it in passing or hear it mentioned when other drivers referred to it as a "Slowstice" or a "Puntiac". Memories, however, would always flash in my brain as I passed a Slowstice, ahem, Solstice from those days starting out and it would bring a smile. Yesterday, though, the era of the Solstice we found out would come to an end.

The loss of the car brought about an odd emotional reaction, mainly of which was sadness. I quickly got on the iRacing forums to try and orchestrate a big sendoff race in its last official race. I hadn't touched the car in a decade but there was a strange conviction that I had to do this. I had to do one last race in it. Would I be competitive? While I'm highly competitive, that didn't matter. First, last, didn't matter. It was about the car and the memories of driving it as a rookie and trying to find that tenth of a second that other people had that I didn't. It was about a time iRacing is nowhere where it is today. Hundreds of cars and tracks? Ha! It was a handful of each. We are spoiled now, compared to then, and yet for those that were on there on the opening years may from time to time yearn for that simpler time... and then we drive the newest car around the Nürburgring, and we are quickly glad for modern comforts.

The final race was a somber 25-minute race around Laguna Seca. It was one of the chattiest races I've been a part of as we all told our favorite memories of the car. While many moved on, it remained some driver's favorite car as the skillset of the car is one of pure exit speed and power cannot mask a driver's errors, such as mine yesterday, and it offered a different type of race than, say, modern GT3 racing. However, and this could be the true cause of my emotional response yesterday, time and life moves on.

We should be grateful iRacing kept the car around for almost 13 years after Pontiac became defunct. I recall people posting memories of Pontiac when that announcement was made that GM would no longer make the brand. Time moves on. Life moves on. Whether it's real steel, or a collection of pixels, it does seem everything in life has an expiration date and while I always saw the Solstice in passing on the track, it never came to mind that with each passing it was nearing the finish line. How many things in life are like this? It's hard to grasp this on a daily basis and we never know what was there until it was gone. The Solstice though is now gone and retired from official competition. Sure, it was just a collection of pixels on my screen and in the grand scheme of life it was of little consequence, but it's an end of an era. All eras do end, but it's amazing that a simulated car could've elicited an emotional response from those that noticed, remembered, and celebrated the car that was the Solstice.

Monday, December 5, 2022

A Checkered Past

I often get asked in presentations if I, "have ever had issues taking things literally?" I will usually mention that typically I do not unless I have not heard a line before. Little did I know I've been hearing a line over and over and had no idea it's true meaning.


I discovered my error over Christmas back in 2011 while at my sister's during our annual Who Wants to Be a Millionaire games on the Wii. It was the 2nd year for this and on my turn the second question I came across was, "Usually, what does it mean if someone has had a checkered past?" The first thing that popped into my mind was this photo of me:


To me, this is checkered. The options for the question were, "A. A troubled past B. A past filled with victories C. A past filled with dental issues or D. Lots of days playing checkers." With the image of me flying the checkered flag for the winner I instantly, without a second thought, went with B. My sister blurted out in a sad tone, "Aaron..." and I was confused as I was expecting the music of a right answer to play, but my joy experienced a false start as the crashing tones of the wrong answer played. I was in shock.

My sister looked at me in a confused manner as if to say, "How did you miss that?" and I stared at the screen perplexed. I've heard that phrase used so many times and I thought it meant someone of a hero status who always was on top. As my mom took her turn to play I got on my phone to look it up and was flabbergasted when it read, "A morally dubious past."

Thankfully, my misunderstanding only hurt me on the score sheet (although I must brag, I came out ahead in the end, although it was a hard-fought fight on the last night) but I experienced a thing that many people on the spectrum face. Non-literal sayings like this can wreak havoc on us. If it weren't for WWTBAM I probably still would think checkered past meant something much like the photo above.

There are so many figures of speech, and I use them too, that I think we forget about them and simply take them for granted. As you go through your day today just take a step back and listen to all the conversations. Keep a mental note of how many phrases are said that aren't literal. Also, keep track of how many times you hear, "That was like a..." Each time you hear one just think how confusing it would be if you took it as literal as possible. Maybe you'll hear a lot, maybe you'll hear a few, or perhaps none, but even if you hear one, or use one without thinking, just think how difficult or confusing it would be if you took it in the literal fashion. I'm thankful that, for the most part, I understand non-literal sayings... Although perhaps I just think I do. How many more sayings are out there that are like "A checkered past" that I have misunderstood? Hopefully there aren't many...

Friday, December 2, 2022

To Worry

 


            I’ve heard several misguided experts proclaim that, “All people on the autism spectrum have no imagination.” While some might have this, and while I was never good at pretend play unless it was under my terms using my logic, my imagination is super strong in terms of being able to visually play out scenarios in my mind. This can be a strength, but when I was younger this proved to create a lot of issues that those around me couldn’t understand and I couldn’t vocalize.

            The first thing in my life I can remember worrying about was the weather. There were two instances that might have influenced this, well, maybe three. The first, and this is what made me think of three, was this weather radio my dad had. Yes, this before the time of the Internet and this NOAA weather radio, anytime a watch or warning would be issued, would blare out this hideous squelchy, screeching sound. I would scream when it would go off and this may have appeared as a fear of the impending storm, which was there, but also the noise itself was bothersome for my system. Now, if we use many of the concepts put forth in my previous books such as “Film Theory” and “Associative Memory System” this meant that stormy weather equaled that noise which was bad therefore both storms and that radio were bad. I don’t know what happened to that radio but I hope it got dropped in a tub of hydrochloric acid.

            The second event was when I was about five and my dad and mom had just left the house and I believe my grandpa was watching me and no later than five minutes after they left a massive lightning bolt struck a tree in the front yard. I can remember this moment as if were right now as the sound was deafening and the light, oh the light was blinding. I think in this instance I screamed for an hour afterwards and from that moment on every storm equaled, in my mind, that experience of severe noise and light which was, perhaps, one of my first true sensory meltdowns.

            Thirdly, about a year after the lightning strike, a severe storm producing tornadoes was passing through Indianapolis and the tornado sirens went off (this too was a sensory issue ”first” as well as scaring me because I figured that eerie sound that everyone could hear would only be used if something was really, really bad) so my dad and mom rounded the family up and we headed to the basement. As I went from my room headed to the basement I can remember looking outside and the clouds were something I have never seen since; it was the greenest sky you could imagine and yet it was night and the clouds were moving in a straight down fashion. On top of all that electric lines and transformers were blowing ever half second. Needless to say it was a scary sight for a six year old to see. 

            We get to the basement and go into the deepest room but as soon as we get there the entire family, excluding me, go out the basement door to watch the storm. I heard the news and I had been taught that in a tornado one must go to the basement. This doesn’t mean go to the basement and proceed to go outside! This means hunker down and hope and pray for the best. However, I was left alone, screaming mind you, and going through my mind at the age of six on that stormy night, were all the possibilities that would happen to my family be it a lightning strike, or the impending tornado. Both of those options could have happened but my mind could play it out and I could truly see it. Because of all this I screamed and I screamed and I walked halfway down the hall and demanded that everyone come inside. 

            From all of those experiences I developed a severe fear of all things outside a sunny day. I used to live by a map The Weather Channel had and that was/is their thunderstorm forecast map. This map shows the US and where there could be strong thunderstorms the area will be shaded in orange and the possibility of severe was red and if my hometown was shaded in red it was all but impossible to get me to go to school? Why? Several reasons; the first was that schools don’t have basements and the rules on the television always said go to a basement or a “central room.” There was an experience I had in kindergarten where a storm was close and the sirens were going off so we went into the hall which was right by the front door. I knew this wasn’t safe and from that day I didn’t trust a school with my storm safety. Secondly, if I was at school, I couldn’t see the radar which back then, Internet less mind you, the radar was only viewable once every ten minutes which meant that every ten minutes my imagination ran wild.

            If I were at school my mind would play out situations of how and where the storm would develop and in my mind it always ended with a catastrophic F-5 tornado coming and ripping up where I was into oblivion. Was this probable? No, but could it happen? Yes, and this is where it can be difficult for those around us to understand our worry because to you it is something that has such a remote possibility of occurring that you don’t give it a thought, but since feeling an emotion is to feel something to the unfiltered level this means that not only can I play out the scenario but I can also feel it in advance.

            If storms weren’t bothering me another issue plagued me from a young age and that was the fear of losing those around me, specifically my dog Missy. Yes, I feared losing human family members but that worry was so deep that any thought of that at all was brain shattering and the only way I can compare that is to imagine what it would be to drop a piece of china from a ten story high window. But when it came to Missy I would sit with her and silently cry fearing the day that she was no longer barking in supreme happiness when I came home. This was when she was just a couple years old and again, was it probable that her life was going to end anytime soon? No, but again the possibility was there and since it was there in my mind it was consuming. My dad would always tell me that my worry was like, “paying interest on a loan that you haven’t taken out yet” but being so young I didn’t understand it. Even if I did it wouldn’t have mattered because the fact of the matter was that she was going to die, someday, and there was nothing I or anyone else could do about it.

            As I grew older my ability to worry grew with age as I learned more about the world and more about potential life changing events. With the advent of caller ID I began to fear phone calls because anytime a number called that I didn’t recognize I always feared the worst and assumed it was the highway patrol letting me know that someone I knew had been in a fiery car crash. This worry and fear, when it hits, is instant. It isn’t, “Oh, here’s a number I don’t recognize. Could it be one of my mom or dad’s friends? Hmm, probably not. Could it be a store letting someone know a product came in? A telemarketer? Oh, I don’t know, there are just too many possibilities.” Again, that’s not how my brain works. My brain instantly goes, “Okay, who just died.”

            I will try to cover social worries in later blog posts as those deserve their own time, but of course social issues can also cause worry. And with all these worries, and if I forget to mention this later on, you’ve got to remember that these worries/fears are more than just a slight worry for us as they’ll become the only thing that matters. We don’t go from an alert level of all’s well to all’s hell in a gradual form; no, we go from 0 to 10 instantly and we may be able to feel it, see it, and experience it because, if we’re a visual thinker, we can see it in advance. And what this means is that saying, or diminishing our fear by saying, “It’s nothing to worry about” or, “I understand” will do little to quell the storm of worry that is raging. Can you do something? Oh yes, but you’re going to have to understand why we are afraid and try to think logically and visually, but since each person with autism is unique and since each person’s worry triggers can be anything and everything there is no one answer I can give in confidence as to make everything perfectly better instantly. 

            As I reached my adult years the primary worry has been the worry that everything “won’t be okay.” This is a broad term I use and I have constantly, for almost 15 years, asked my dad at least once a day, “Will everything work out, will everything be okay?” Part of the genesis of this question was that awful website I read when I was diagnosed which told me everything was not going to be okay, but from that the worry had many sides and depths. Will I always have a place to live? Will I be accepted? If things are difficult will I swim instead of sink? Will I be able to pay my bills? Again, please remember that these things I just asked are things we all think and could quite possibly be part of the essence of being human, but for some these questions are just that. For me they take on a life in my brain like a movie and I can play out and see all the future expenses and I’ll know the exact date that I will run out of money. What can’t be calculated, and maybe this is caused by the worry, is what money will be earned. As good as I am imagining the end of my world and all that could go wrong I can see what could go right. You see, Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said, “But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” 

            There are other aspects to this that can cause worry for us on the autism spectrum and they are all around you right now. If you’re in a home listen for a moment and turn any music or background noise you may have on. Maybe you hear an air conditioner or heater, or maybe, and I hope you just heard this but the odds are low, you just heard the house settling. If not, I hope you know the noise which can very much sound like a footstep on the floor. I’ve heard over a dozen stories from parents that struggle with this because, and I suffered from this too, that when that noise is heard I don’t think that it’s the house creaking but rather I think of some masked robber here to take my things or hurt me. Again, is this the likely thing it is? No, but it could be and when we are talking about all the possible outcomes in life it is impossible to get everything right, isn’t it? But, what I think is one of the underlying causes of this worry issue, is that processing for us on the autism spectrum can be longer so I have to be prepared for the worst before it gets here. Maybe this is an instinctual response that can’t be helped to protect my body in these events. And then again maybe this is just because I’m just hyper-sensitive to my surroundings and since whatever is felt is felt to an extreme level therefore any hesitation, any worry, or anything that is 1% out of the ordinary will create a response that might be impossible for you to understand, but while it may be impossible to understand how I can fear a storm that doesn’t exist yet, or mourn the death of my living dog the fact of the matter is that my worry is real regardless the current state of realness of whatever it is I am worrying about and that is what those around me, and others that are around those on the autism spectrum, must understand.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Logic of No


If you know an Aspie I’m sure you’ve come across this. Let’s say you have a great idea, you offer it up, and the response without hesitation is a resounding “no”. What gives? It’s more complex than you’d think. 

Why was the answer no? You gave a great idea, the payoff at the end is much better than the current situation and yet the answer was no. For myself, the reasons of no are a bit layered so let’s start with the surface. 

So often, something new will require something socially and because social situations are difficult, I’m not looking at the payoff down the road but rather I’m seeing that, to go with this change, I’m going to have to speak to someone now. This doesn’t even allow me to process if the change is good, but instead I just see that an unplanned social situation will occur therefore the answer will be no without further thought. 

If there isn’t a social situation that’ll have to occur the answer will still be a no off the bat because new ideas bring change. Change brings unwanted processing and unwanted processing brings unwanted feelings and exhaustion. So again, I’m going to say no without even getting to the point of understanding that the change may actually be extremely good. 

Processing is the underlying challenge here. It isn’t that I thought your idea was bad, wrong, or silly, but instead it’s a challenge of my own to avoid the added social factor or the processing factor. You may need to take a logical stance and explain why it’s good. “Because I think so” won’t be effective, but use logic to explain the payoff. Why is this way better than the way it’s been? I don’t like change so that adds to the instant no response, but understanding the reason of the no is key to avoid feelings getting frayed. Remember, the No isn’t a put down of your idea, but rather all the things that’ll come from the change. 

Monday, November 28, 2022

My Biggest Presenting Regret

I can't imagine making it to the Super Bowl, being wide open in the end zone, and dropping what would've been the game winning catch. That type of life event would haunt forever. I have a moment like this. I think about it every day and it angers me. Why wasn't I better? Why was I intimidated? Why didn't I speak up? Granted, I didn't even, if we keep the football story alive, have the talent to be a starter on a high school team at the time, but nonetheless I'm haunted.

It's March 1st, 2010, and I'm awaiting my turn to present at the police academy. It's a big day for me as it's the day I became a full-time presenter and blogger. I'd had never had a full-time job up to this point and it was this that set everything up for the next decade. However, as excited as I am, I am equally as tired as just 48 hours earlier I was attending an Olympic event in Vancouver, and I also just stepped off a red-eye flight and I had been up for well over 24 hours.

It was my 18th career presentation. I'm over 1,050 currently, but this was my 18th career and 13th police presentation. I had never come across "that guy" before. Who is that guy? That guy could be anyone that fits into a stereotypical outline of a guy who just doesn't care, who doesn't get it, and is the worst at their profession. I would meet that guy as soon as my PowerPoint got on the screen.

You're going to get angry. I still am. I write this not to knock police officers as a whole. Since this event I've presented at all levels up to the top levels of the FBI and I have NEVER come across that guy again in my law enforcement presenting career. However, as a rookie, I did, and I crumbled.

The PowerPoint came up and the opening slide read, "Autism and Law Enforcement". This guy, front row and on my left side, said, "autism? What a bunch of spoiled children!" This was before I introduced myself, before I opened my mouth, and in this classroom that had 20 people in it, he became a blackhole of misinformation that sucked in everyone else's desire to learn, and the rest of the room fed upon his negativity. I had lost the room and I hadn't even had a chance to win them yet.

What was I to do? I'm a rookie, a novice, and I have zero confidence. Confront? Absolutely not! I decided, in my almost delirious state of being up for far too long, decided to go status quo. After I introduced myself, and said that I was on the spectrum, I was hoping his heart would turn, but stay to the dark side it did, and each sign, trait, or anything I said was met with a scoff or sneer. When I got to sensory issues he said aloud, "don't you mean you should just man up?" There was no retort from me, just status quo without wavering.

Twenty minutes went on and my confidence, or what was left of the little amount that was, was now a burning crisp of overcooked popcorn. My 50-minute presentation turned into a 35-minute express version, and I got out of there as fast as I could. What was supposed to be triumphant day had turned into a nightmare. What had happened? How could someone's heart be so blackened that they felt they had to disrespect the presenter to their face? Why did I do nothing?

Nothing... this is what has haunted me for a dozen years. I did nothing. I could've challenged him, perhaps won over the rest of the room. Perhaps I could've notified a supervisor. I could've done anything more than what I did. 

I often wonder what happened to that guy, and I do this not out of anger or spite but of true curiosity because I don't understand how someone could be so cruel in that moment. After I had time to think about it in 2010, I vowed to never be walked over again as a presenter, and I haven't. I learned tact, such as the time a director of special education for a large school district was amazed when they learned from me that routine is important for those on the autism spectrum (she didn't know this, or many other traits that are almost common knowledge) and I was nice and cordial about it. I learned compassion when a teacher broke down in tears thinking about how they did everything wrong for a student when they thought they were helping a kid before they knew autism was in play. And I learned how to be someone else's voice when they said, "Could you explain why I... we do..." when referring to behaviors of the autism spectrum. However, I never got the chance to go toe-to-toe with that guy. In 96,000 live attendees at my presentation, I came across "that guy" when he would've been around the 600th person to see me speak. I didn't have a chance, and even though I know this, I'm still angry at myself. Maybe though, the other officers there that day saw me attempt to power through. Maybe they saw me not be confrontational. Perhaps my professionalism in this assault of disrespect resonated with them after the day when they were removed from the black hole he created. I hope so... oh, do I hope so.


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The tale of the missing pencil


As I've said many times, I don't remember people in my memories. Because of this I need to remember people through other means and the #1 way I do that is through physical items. In 1993 my family moved from Indianapolis to Saint Louis. A lot of people were lost in my memories, but I had a couple pencils that I remembered them by. The pencils were from the school I went to and had the name on the side of the pencils. Through this item I still felt a connection with where I came from.

On my second day of school in this new place my classmates wanted to "test" me. I had been warned that this group always played some sort of small prank on a new kid, and I thought I was prepared, but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.

For one reason or another I had to leave the room, and when I came back all my pens and pencils were gone. Normally I could have cared less as the best way to prank a prankster is to not give them the benefit or acknowledgement of the prank ever taking place. However, my pencils from what was still home to me were gone. 

At that point in time I was not diagnosed and I probably couldn't have explained to anyone what was going on or why, but what everyone saw could only be classified under one word, "meltdown."

I became so frantic and irate that no one wanted to claim responsibility. I tore that classroom apart until I found my pencils which someone had placed under the teacher's podium. They say a person can't make a good second impression as everything is based of the first impression and this was true. From that point one I was a social outcast in my class because no one was able to understand why I reacted the way I did. 

This story had not been thought of for many years and when I thought of it today in the middle of my presentation it furthered my passion to do what I do even more so. I mean, what if my classmates had been able to understand that I didn't just "flip out" over an irrelevant pencil, but rather my means of remembering a place I no longer lived at as well as the friends that were there. 

See, spectrum and not, we aren't that different. Everyone has those items that remind them of someone, someplace, sometime, but for me it can be a seemingly irrelevant item. Those items, whatever they may be, become highly valued and to simply lose an item, like the day I described in 5th grade, creates a sadness that can only be described by explaining it would be like someone deleting your memories. On that day I felt as if that had happened and that's why I had my seemingly overreaction.

As with most things like this it was a misunderstanding on many levels and this states my purpose and passion. If there's just a little bit more of understanding in the world perhaps an incident like what I went through can be avoided, or at least better understood. I wasn't given a 2nd chance by my peers, but I'm okay with that now because it motivates me because it doesn't have to be that way. By you writing this today maybe I've come a little closer to creating a better understanding and for that I thank you.

Monday, November 21, 2022

The A Team

The final checkered flags flew, the 25th running of the SKUSA SuperNats had come to a thrilling conclusion after five days. My muscles ached, my feet were blistered, and five days of extreme adrenaline was now over, and I became sad. I wasn't sad over the loss of being so close to the action (and sometimes, too close) or the indescribable atmosphere that almost 600 racers from 60 countries brings. Nope. What made me sad was the ending of being on a team that worked seamlessly together.

It's difficult, unless you see the SuperNats, to know just how intense it is. The racetrack is a temporary circuit with barriers lining the track and trouble can escalate quickly when this occurs. It is at this point that, everyone working together, has to 100% know what the other is going to do. It's odd for me to say this, but the teamwork that's needed came easy to me.

I've never been a team player. I don't mean this in the sense of, "there's no I in team but there's a ME!" What I mean is that I am always on the wrong beat of the drum, or that I instantly think my teammates will know what I expect and do it simply because I know what should happen. Team sports were never my thing but working ground level on a track is a different animal altogether and the slightest error could have dire consequences. 

Being a member of a team is something I've heard is difficult for many on the spectrum. In school, I loathed group projects. I didn't want to rely on someone else when I could do it myself. It wasn't easy to just let others control my fate, but on the racetrack, that teamwork is paramount.

When an incident would occur in my section, it became to a point that nothing needed to be said as to who would cover, who would rotate, who would respond, and what the sequence of events would be to clean the track. Mind you, this is all happening on a track that has about 40 karts making a lap under 50 seconds. There's not much time, and as mentioned, the stakes are high because we are putting ourselves in the line of fire.

It just wasn't in my area that this unspoken teamwork developed. We were 11 different turn stations operating as one unit and as I sit here at the airport, not even 24 hours removed from that exhilarating and dangerous environment, I'm craving it again. 

Maybe this is an indescribable event. Perhaps there isn't a way to relate to you what it is like to fully trust those around you when life and limb is on the line. I wish there was an easier way to experience this. Why couldn't I have done this in school, or at other jobs? Whatever the case, the offseason begins now. The wait for the race season starts now. It'll come soon enough with SKUSA in January and INDYCAR in February, but until then I'll be dreaming of the time I just had with full trust, excitement, and working with a track full of friends.




Thursday, November 17, 2022

The SuperNats

It’s hard to describe how I’m feeling right now. It’s almost 7:00 in the morning in Vegas and we are about to start day to of the SKUSA SuperNats. 

This is the most physically demanding five days I have of the year, but it feels good to be back. This event was the event that first got me visibility for the pathway that allowed me to reach INDYCAR.

I wish I had the mental space to write more about what this event means, but day one kicked me in the teeth and we are less than an hour from going green, so I’ve gotta get ready to work the event that is, and helped me achieve, my ultimate Kansas.