Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another Trip to CVS and Taco Bell

This will be the 3rd time I recount a trip to Taco Bell and while I don't want to keep repeating myself I feel this is oh so important.

I gave a presentation this morning for the Hazelwood School District. On my way back to the office I stopped at the CVS near here to get some shipping envelopes. I had my normal glasses on and walked in to get the items I needed.

Once I had the items in hand I walked to the checkout counter. I placed the items on the counter and the cashier rang them up and asked if I needed a bag? I started to think if I needed one or not and this thought process went on and on. At least a dozen seconds passed and I am sure I was squirming when I said, "Ummm, yesss, noooo, ahh, I don't know?"

The cashier looked at me, befuddled, and said, "Okay, sir, I don't know what you are trying to say so I placed them in the bag for you."

This is the battles I must face. I had just gone from giving a 90+minute presentation to being tongue tied to the point that this cashier looked down upon me. I so badly wanted to give an answer, but I didn't know. My mind was already planning my trip to Taco Bell that I wasn't prepared for a bag question.

I left CVS angry at myself, but I told myself that this event doesn't have to define my day so I ventured onward unaffected. My next stop was the office, and then to Taco Bell.

My trips to Taco Bell are almost robotic. I have every move planned and I sound like a recording when I give my order. I am fine with this as this is the way I need it, but today a curve ball was thrown at me.

For being noon the Bell was empty minus the nurse in front of me who was ordering for the whole office it seemed. Once it was my turn to order I stepped up and I started my order, "Yes, I would like two volcano tacos..." and as soon as I said 'tacos' the cashier lady said, "We don't serve those anymore."

Was this a repeat of Olive Garden taking off the manicotti? I froze and was in a panic. I didn't know what to do or what to say. I thought of all the times I had ordered the volcano tacos and that I never would experience it again. I then was chilled by a, well, chill that went throughout my body. I didn't know what to say. What do I order now? The only thing I wanted was to go home and hide because I didn't know what was expected of me. I held my breath.

"No sir, we still serve them." the cashier told me as I was panicking. Those words came out of nowhere and I was not expecting it. The rest of my robotic order was slow and almost slurred. Just that one joke of a comment threw off my entire order, and this is important to understand.

In both instances today a question or comment I was not prepared for threw me off. I am now exhausted due to the adrenaline response those events caused. What is a non-event for most people derails my mind. I am usually not prepared for these curve balls and adapting to them is something that I am challenged on doing.

Am I mad at the bag question or the joke of no more volcano tacos? No. If anything I am happy because I am able to translate these occurrences to you and hopefully give you a better understanding if you know anyone who ever has been tripped up a simple comment or question. Yes, I am happy, but I am also really tired right now. Life is such a tiring battle, but it's worth fighting!


  1. Life is a series of little battles, and as long as you come out relatively unscathed, you're doing alright. Keep it up, and enjoy those tacos! :)

  2. Good post. I'm a new follower of your blog, and am really enjoying it.

  3. Do you have "key items" that you specifically order each time at each certain location? I order certain things from each place and stick with them.

  4. I will order the same thing every time at every location.

  5. Thinking on one's feet can be pretty hard for individuals with autism. When I go to a restaurant (fast food or not), my strategy always is to start from a very broad idea of what I want to eat. Then, I internally order what I really want to eat at that time- from the thing I want the most to the thing I want the least (but still tolerable). Next I look at the price of the food to see what I can afford. Based on this information, I will make my order.

    Similarly, in my line of work, I have to react in case my client reacts in ways I don't expect. But rather thinking in panic, I already know some backup plans so that the client doesn't know I am panicking... as I must believe in my skills and knowledge AND prior experiences. That way, I don't lose the client as easily. Plus, if the client sees me panicking, he/she will panic too because he/she will see that I don't know what to do.

    This is another thing I wish individuals with autism can learn from! Knowing yourself is one thing, knowing about the situation is another thing, knowing how to interact in the situation APPROPRIATELY and ADAPTIVELY is the level that we as individuals with autism should strive for every single day in social situations. If we fail, then go back to the drawing board, think of the next plan of attack, and seek help if needed. If we succeed, build on the success.