Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 12 of Being Behind the Sunglasses: The Drive, The High, and The Low

What a day! What a long day!

My day started in Saint Louis early this morning and I ate breakfast with my dad at the Courtesy Diner. What lay ahead was a 500+ mile drive to Shawano, Wisconsin. The purpose of the trip is to flag the SKUSA Summer Nationals, but before that I had breakfast.

I always try and do something with my dad before a trip because one never knows when something really bad may happen. During this breakfast my dad commented that he felt a stronger connection to me because of the sunglasses as he didn't know if I was looking at him, or outside to road so he just assumed I was looking at him. I knew from that comment that the sunglasses work!

After a yummy breakfast I hit the road and started my drive. Quickly I found out that the ENTIRE state of Illinois is under construction. Honest! The whole state! Or at least that's how it seemed.

In the construction zones in Illinois they have two signs posted. One is that the speed is photo enforced, but I seemed to be the only one who believed this because I was a hazard doing 45 in a 45 zone, and secondly a sign that truly confused me. "Cell phones illegal in construction zones". Does this mean the sheer fact of having a cell phone is a crime? Or does it mean being on a cell phone? I dwelled on this for several miles and decided that the intent is saying being on the phone. Someone, if you are out there, please tell someone who will tell someone to phrase it differently so people like myself aren't confused. Thank you!

I usually love long car rides, but today I must admit I was sad. Well, maybe sad isn't the word but anxious. I was thinking of things to write so I can make a bigger impact. "How can I raise understanding even more?" was the thoughts that swirled around my mind at a pace that shouldn't be possible.

I made several stops today, two hours worth in total, because I was just to tired to drive. This led to many social interactions and again people talked to me and I was unable to show them I wasn't interested. This is a slight downside, but I think the positives outweigh this.

Slowly I made my way to Wisconsin and still had four hours to go. I became stressed about a potential event up here. NASCAR driver, and 2010 Daytona 500 champion, Jamie McMurray is racing in this race up here this weekend and Jamie is a huge autism supporter. I feel like I have to give him a book, but I am fearing I won't have the nerve like the event that happened two weeks ago with NHL announcer Joe Micheletti (for that story visit

That stress never went away and is with me as I write this, but between that I finally made it to Shawano.

Usually, when checking into a hotel, I am nervous. Through my job at TouchPoint I have had many hotel experiences in the past two months, but even still as I walk through the doors I panic. What if my name isn't on the list? Who will I call? Will there be a room anywhere? Will I have to stay in my car that still has glass everywhere from a crash I had with a horse two years ago?

This time I had confidence though. The receptionist would not sense the weakness in my eyes or my timidness. It seems everyone thinks I'm Mr. Confident because of the sunglasses, and I am perfectly fine with that.

The receptionist asked for my name and panic set it. She looked and looked, but found no reservation for Mr. Likens. Think Aaron, think! Without sunglasses I would have wandered out of the hotel wondering what to do. Honestly, I would have because I have had that situation happen before, but now, being able to hide my panic, I asked if there was a reservation with the last name of the person I am sharing a room. Success!!!

After that ordeal I settled into my room and then decided to see if they had Wi-Fi. Obviously they do because you are reading this. Then I decided to see where the track was in relation to where I am staying. "Wow, 4 minutes!" I exclaimed and I decided to see what the track looked like in person.

USAIR (I think it is United States of America International Raceway) is an amazing facility and seeing this track makes me wish I was racing this weekend. Gawking at the track didn't last long as I went to registration to say hello and sign in. I asked for the owner and president of the series, Tom Kutcher, and was told he was around.

Eventually I found him and he was with a group of six people. This is the "high" of the story. Normally I would not approach a group. A group is a scary dynamic because I can't judge what each person is going to do and the #1 fear is eye contact. I can't hide my eyes to that many people and all it takes is one glance, one minor twitch of a person's eyes towards mine to throw me off. Today I was invincible!

Confidently I neared and was greeted warmly. I was introduced to the group and said hello to Tom and got tomorrow's schedule (1st practice session 8:15AM). Is this how normal people do it? Is it that simple? Walk up, say hello, shake hands and leave? What was impossible was possible today. Was it the sunglasses? I'd have to say yes 100% because I'm learning all the initial fear is with the eyes. Take that fear out and I am able to get to the second step of a conversation.

I returned to the hotel afterwards and just started to wind down. There is a social function going right now though. This very second I hear familiar voices down by the pool outside my hotel room. It sounds joyous and festive like a bunch of friends that haven't seen each other for a long time. I want to go, but can't. (If you can't tell this is the low of the story)

The party, if you'd want to call it that, is indoors. For the first time I am wondering if I could pull off the sunglasses indoors. It hasn't been a problem because I am always coming from the outside. Could I say I left my normal ones at home? But then, well, I'd have to repeat that story over and over.

For all I know Jamie McMurray is down there, but there's so many people and music. The sunglasses have worked wonders, but they aren't the magic cure that will get rid of all anxiety because I am here writing to you.

I could be sad that I am in my hotel room, but remember how I wanted to think of a way to raise awareness even more? Through the high and low of today I think I have done just that. I can only hope that this is the case.


  1. It is not just the glasses, but the person who is wearing them! ;)

  2. You could say, "I am trying an experiment that I can't explain until August 5th." and I bet you could pull it off!

  3. Glass in your car from two year ago? Would like to hear that explanation!

  4. Gail, when it comes time for the two year anniversary I will give you the explanation with no "horse" play. Yes, I hit a horse.