Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Soapbox and a World Without Red Bull Cola

Yesterday I had the fun event of waking up and being quite confused as to where I was. This seems to happen frequently now, and I actually enjoy it, but after several minutes of looking around this foreign room I was in I came to the conclusion that I was dreaming and I went back to sleep.

The second time I woke up I realized that I was in Columbia, Missouri. The reason? I was to be involved in a panel discussion. I needed to get out of bed to get to the hotel where the conference was if I wanted to get there within my usual 1 hour early window.

My drive from the hotel to the location of the conference took me past Faurot Field which is where the Mizzou Tigers play football. I drove by slowly to see, and I can tell you, from my observation, the goal posts on the North end of the field are still missing since being taken off by students after last Saturday night's win against #1 Oklahoma. While I am on the subject, I do enjoy college football, but hate the BCS system and I best get back to my normal topic or I will go on a 2,000 word tirade about the idiocy of the BCS system.

Okay, back on topic after several deep breaths, I arrived at the hotel and was told what to do and when to do it so I was prepared and ready to go.

As with the United State Autism and Asperger's Association conference at the beginning of October that saw me on a panel with Temple Grandin, I experienced the same level of nervousness. The panel format is very awkward for me because, well, I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps it is very much like what normal conversations are like. You see, when I give a solo presentation I am fluid, fast, and constantly afraid of digging myself into a presenting hole. In my definition, a presenting hole is talking yourself into a corner and not having a point to build off of. Perhaps the phrase, "losing one's train of thought" would be better, but why would I want to use the normal expression?

I was third out of four to state what I was going to say and it was almost painful to wait. I changed what I was going to say at least three dozen times. And again, this is the essence of being on the spectrum I think. When I am the only speaker I have complete control over when and what I say, but on a panel the rules are different and there is time to think about what to say. The issues arise when I have to think and there is plenty of time to think on a panel.

I do want to state that I am not against being on a panel, but I am just expressing the challenges that go along with it. I would be lieing if I said I preferred being on a panel, but experiencing the challenges of this, and life, allows me to express the feelings and emotions to the world so please, if you are thinking about having me on a panel, don't let this sway your judgment.

After I talked, the woman to my right talked and used a figure of speech I had never heard of. I don't know the sentence it was used, but the phrase was, "I stand on my soapbox and talk".

Instantly I became perplexed. "Soapbox?" I said aloud to myself. I then gave a brief smile wondering if this figure of speech would give my blog as much fun as "The Banana Boat of Canada" did (see

I struggled with the visual concept of what a soapbox could possibly be and I thought of a soapbox derby racer. That instantly made no sense because who would want to stand on a thing with wheels? Nothing good could come from that.

My next thought was, perhaps, since soap is clean that means what one says is pure. But if that were the then wouldn't one be standing on soap and not a soapbox?

For the next ten or so minutes I didn't hear anything anyone said in on the panel because my mind became paused and simply lived in the world where the mystery of the soapbox had to be solved. As much as I needed an answer, the visual things inside my mind made no sense. I must say it was clean though with all the soap that was thought of, but nothing made sense.

Eventually I had to let it go. It was hard, but if I was asked a question I could not be caught off guard. Every so often I would go back to the slippery subject of the soapbox, but I couldn't come to anything conclusive and the actual meaning remained elusive.

When the panel was over, the moderator, who is the director of the TouchPoint Columbia office, asked me, "So, you're confused about the soapbox?" I thought I had done a good job of hiding the internal debate, but she saw right through me and explained how, when a person is really confident and passionate about a subject matter, it is as if they are standing on a soapbox. Today I also heard a story of how people would give streetside sermons while standing on a literal soapbox.

With the mystery of the soapbox solved I headed back to Saint Louis. Kingdom City is only 18 miles outside of Columbia and with each mile that I got closer I felt an extreme emptiness. (Read yesterday's blog to understand why.) Truly, the routine of stopping there, while it may seem silly to you, was a big part of my life. Freedom, accomplishment, and feeling alive are all emotions I experienced and this may be part of my associative memory system, in a way, but I felt as if all those were gone because as the exit sign appeared I did not slow down and Kingdom City became just another nameless exit on the highway to me.

I told myself that I would stop at one place on the way, and only one, to find a new place that carries it, the much coveted and needed Red Bull Cola.  Looking back I should have stopped at the Flying J at the Truxton exit (When I see the name "Truxton" I always see "Thruxton" which is a very fast racing circuit in England) but I chose to stop at a nameless gas station closer to the Saint Louis Metro area.

My hopes for a replacement of Kingdom City were squashed as this place did not have Red Bull Cola. This, of course, saddened me, but I was okay with it. Somewhere between Saint Louis and Columbia there must be a place that sells it and it will be fun trying to find it (so long as I keep to my 1 stop limit or I WILL stop at EVERY place).

A couple major events in my life are coming up shortly. It is less than three weeks until the SKUSA SuperNats, one of the largest kart races in the world where I serve as Chief Starter and flagman, and sometime in November I will be rerunning the three entry stories titled "Schumi and Me". Also, on Tuesday of next week, I will hit my 200th blog post. I plan on doing or writing something really special for this, but haven't decided yet. I can't believe 200 though, that is amazing. I never thought I would hit 20 posts, let alone 10x that!

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