Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Don't worry, it's almost over"

I had my blog for today all planned out in my head, but quite simply didn't have the time yesterday morning to give it the time it deserves. It will be a home run, I hope, but it does not get the nod as today's subject.

Yesterday there was a Community Networking Forum in Saint Peters, Missouri. I must tell you that I am becoming a big fan of working a booth, but after yesterday I know that the environment has to be right for me to be able to function.

As soon as the doors opened to the public I all but shut down. The amount of exhibitors that were there this year were up by a considerable amount and room was scarce. There was no safe place for me to stand that allowed me to have all my needs for position met. What that means is that I like a position where no one is standing in close proximity behind me, but yesterday a simple half step back meant I would run into someone.

The room was also rather noisy with over 500 people in the room. Noise is something that isn't usually a problem by itself, but when coupled with an issue like a positional battle then noise is much louder regardless of the actual level.

My defenses started to kick in and all eye contact was avoided. My slight ability to initiate a conversation vanished, but if someone asked me a direct question, or my book was brought up I could come out of my zombie like state.

Thankfully I only had to endure 40 or so minutes of this as I had to rush across town to the Crisis Intervention Team Training Committee meeting. Of all the things I do I think I have the most pride serving on that committee because it truly is an honor to provide my knowledge to the C.I.T. In what I do I hope at least one major crisis is resolved/understood by police officers and the event is made better than what it could have been.

I normally just observe at the C.I.T. meetings and stay quiet, but several times I was able to give my opinion on matters and this elated me. These minor victories to some are cause for ticker-tape parades to me. I am often afraid to express anything vocally for fear of all sorts of disasters (up to and including death... I am a worst case scenario thinker) but yesterday I was able to join in the group discussion.

After the C.I.T. meeting I drove back to Saint Peters to assist in the closing of the networking forum. All the elation I had from the meeting was quickly evaporated as I quickly found myself in the midst of chaos.

My defenses, which were already strong, became even more stout and my ability to look at people began to disappear. One lady, whom I picked up visually coming towards the booth so I began my looking down and to the left with my eyes, said to me, "Don't worry, it's almost over."

With those words I once again realized just how bad of an actor I am. I knew I had defenses, but I didn't know they were so obvious. All the words I typed in this entry about me looking away and looking like a zombie were not realized until I was told to "Don't worry..."

It is in moments like this that finding Kansas is so critical (Don't know my Kansas concept? click to read the concept). If I allow that moment to live on then I run the risk of letting it define me. If I allow the emotions and disappointment of having someone visually notice my discomfort when I am trying my darnedest to look normal I run the risk of severe frustration. If I start thinking about what I am not over who I am then I run the risk of hating myself. I mean, if I focus on the fact that so many other people can, without effort, say, "hello, how are you..." I would not be able to contain my frustration.

This story doesn't end with me talking up a storm, but I did not fall into the "what I am not" trap. Shortly thereafter a person visited the booth and we had a great discussion on the potential deletion of the term "Asperger" from the DSM. I went from zombie to bein in Kansas an became a stellar TouchPoint employee booth worker extraordinaire with just one direct sentence from the person who walked up.

It was a trying day, and at the end of the day there were attendance prizes. I never win at those type of things, but according to many people I won the top prize. What was it? It is a group of pictures and I am not going to tell you what, exactly it is and I will like to see if someone can figure it out so give a comment if you do. Here's a hint: Never stop doing it.


  1. never stop dreaming!

  2. dreaming...

    Keep writing... I enjoying reading your work.

  3. I am not saying this to belittle you... but there are environments that are far worse!

    For example, I have now attended 3 American Occupational Therapy Association (4 coming up next month) conferences in its entirety. That conference has at least 10 times as many people attending! Considering the business end of the conference is around 9-5 (some days end later) and I am expected to be pretty functional for that part of the conference AND the festivities part of the conference (which can last til 1 or 2 am in the morning) for 4 days. In that conference, at least you can escape when a lot of people are either going to the workshops or the expo... as the hallways should be relatively quiet.

    Another example is if you are a lucky person who mans a booth in a 3-4 day event in the Hong Kong Convention Center. You have to be there for at least 12 hours a day during the event (I can imagine) and there can be at least 20,000 people going to the event each day. If you are the only person running the booth, neither shutting down nor escaping are viable options... as you have to interact with potential customers AND the only way you can truly escape is to shut down your booth and ride a taxi to go home. (I don't recommend driving there because it is a much tougher place to drive.)

    My theory about sensory issues with people with autism is that, if they can be somewhat functional in sensory environments and situations that are really bad, the ability to function can only get better as the sensory environments become less overwhelming. The converse is also true.