Friday, July 15, 2011

The Trip From ______ and the 100 Gate Dash

I don't know what I did to upset the order of the world today, but so far my day has been beyond miserable. The day I speak of starts shortly after writing this morning's post. I packed, left home, but then I forgot a book I needed to ship so I swung back home and made it to the post office. I was a little irked at this, but this pales in comparison to what was to come.

Today's trip was the first time that I was parking at the airport. All the other times I have been dropped off, but this time due to scheduling conflicts I would be parking myself. This was a new experience for me and I didn't know where to park as there are many options. I choose the airports lot and the cheapest means the best in my opinion so I went to Lot "D" and as I pulled in there was a man in a van swinging a towel. "Funny" I thought, but I thought nothing more of it. I pulled up to the gate and now the man with the towel was yelling. I stopped, backed up, and rolled down my window. "Lot's full, you've got to go to "C".

"Lot C?" I asked to no one even though he was there. I was processing because I had planned what I was going to do. I mean, I had never caught a parking shuttle and I was worried about walking the whole distance and was there even shuttles and my oh my the mind of mine was going faster than the Concorde used to.

Seconds ticked by at a extremely slow pace as I tried to figure out what "C" meant and then I did. I turned around and headed to "C".

Once inside the airport I made it to the security line that was backed up beyond the ropes. Such is life in these days of security, but it was louder than normal, or maybe I had not calmed down from the parking lot issues. In any event I was what I would call, "shaky" and all the elements in play in this environment was effecting me more.

I made it to the boarding pass check place and I was already getting my bag ready to get my laptop out when I was asked what the other bag was. The other bag was my flag bag and when I said flags the agent looked at me oddly. Trying to explain what flags are, to someone who doesn't know racing, is somewhat difficult. This caught me off guard and I forgot what I was in the process of doing so I started walking and since my computer bag was open my computer flew out of my bag and slammed on the ground. To make matters even worse the battery shot out and hit a man in the feet and he gave me a very stern look so all in all getting through security was a horrible experience.

I wish my day had ended there, but it continues. The plane was supposed to leave at 2ish and I had a scheduled 40 minutes layover in Salt Lake for my connecting flight to Grand Junction. However, it was 1:40 and there was no plane at the gate. 1:50 and still no plane. Finally at 2 the plane arrived and we boarded.

As I sat down a man behind me tried to put a large bag in a small overhead in. He slammed and he slammed and he slammed the door so hard he broke it. We couldn't take off until it was fixed so out came a pilot, a mechanic, a flight attendant and many rolls of masking tape. Masking tape? I hope other mechanical difficulties on planes aren't fixed by this method.

Once that was fixed, and we started moving, the pilot stated the flight would be about 2 hours and 30 minutes so the entire flight I was calculating just how much time I would have. The entire flight I was in a heightened since of pure panic because I didn't know what would happen if I were late. In my life, being late is not an option. I am ALWAYS early, but now I was going to have to contend with what the flight attendants refer to, and they refer to it quite casually, a "tight connection".

To make matters even worse, I had to valet check my flags as the regional jet was not designed for any over head space whatsoever. We landed at 4:30 so I had 25 minutes to get from my plane, get my flags, look at the monitor, and make the trek to the gate. I was praying that my next flight was right beside the one I was on. That would be great, wouldn't it?

I exited the plane and went to the area designated "valet" bag drop. Time was ticking and it kept ticking and the bags were not getting there. The way the gate is there were no agents anywhere near this area so I was in a further state of panic. I decided to walk down to ramp and find an agent and I made my plea and showed him my ticket, "Am I going to make my flight? I have a form of autism called Asperger's and need help."

For me to state this and to attempt to advocate for myself is something that doesn't happen very often. In fact, in public, this is only the 2nd time I've done this. I was somewhat proud of myself, but this feeling went away when I heard, "I don't know sir. I don't know what you said or where your gate is, you can look at the monitor for yourself."

In my time of needing some direction and some prediction of what was going to happen I got nothing. I wandered, aimlessly, back to the valet area as I could not see a monitor without crossing into an area that if I went into I would be unable to go back to get my flags.

Time was still ticking and I was getting more and more anxious. My heart was beating too fast and my breathing bordered on hyperventilating. I was in a crisis and I had no where to turn. I was so worried that if I missed this flight I would miss the SKUSA Summer Nationals. This, in my world, is simply not an option.

After five more minutes the bags arrived and in a stroke of unexpected luck my bag of flags was the first bag out. I grabbed them and began my dash. I felt as if this was the Olympic sprint, but first I had to find which gate I was going to.

I turned the corner and found a monitor. I was at B10 and I looked and looked and found, "Grand Junction. On time 4:55PM Gate E83". In a rare slip of the tongue I said, "Oh God!" And with that I was off. It was 4:44.

The run itself was bad enough, but I had my computer bag and in it also is a huge book along with the bag of flags that also has my metallic flag stand. Running was done awkwardly and I also had lots of other foot traffic to weave around.

4:50 came and I was starting to run out of steam. Running and hyper-ventilating is not a good combo, but I was not going to miss this race. I couldn't miss it, on top of that I'm never late and above all else I didn't know what happens when one misses a flight. Would I have to talk to someone? Panic! Panic Panic!

At 4:51 I made it to the E Terminal and at 4:53 with my legs having no feeling and my brain in give up mode I got to my gate. With the weakest of voices I asked, "Did I miss the Grand Junction?" The lady behind the counter stated simply, "Yes, you did." Then she said, "Let's see here, you have already been rebooked for the 8:15. Here's a $6 coupon for food for your inconvenience."

I stood there and was at the brink of collapse. I was breathing but there was no feeling of oxygen. The lady obviously could tell I was having some sort of issue so she came around and asked if I needed to sit down. My generic answer to this is, "No." But after five more seconds I said, "Maybe?" She grabbed my flags from me and stated, "Oh my, these are heavy, what are they?" I said, "Flags" to which she asked what that meant and I had already answered that twice on this day and I was in no mood to explain.

She led me to some chairs and I sat and I just stared off into space. Breathing was difficult and as I write this it still hurts; it feels much like when you've been outside in extreme cold. I'm coughing and maybe I'm just getting sick, and then again maybe this was such a shock to my system that I'm just having these difficulties.

So now I am two hours from leaving and this day has been difficult. I am proud that I tried to advocate for myself, but what can I do when I try to ask for help and get denied? This just further shows that there is a lot of work to be done. In any event, contrary to what I thought, missing my flight was not the end of the world. I will be manning the flags tomorrow and the world did not end. I thought it would, but it seems everything is going to work out. So for now, I'm going to go enjoy my $6 meal voucher and hope that this day's hijinks are over.


  1. Heh, an hyperventilation attack after panicking and running. Welcome to my world (chronic fatigue because of neglected Asperger's), I know how you feel.
    That's a terrible experience you had there. Glad there's 2 hours to rest and eat (important after hyperventilating). You'll probably feel better afterwards. :)

  2. Putting on my professional hat, it's a great attempt that you self advocate for yourself. However, that is not the best social script for the situation.

    I know thinking on one's feet is difficult for individuals with autism. But, that would have been a great spot for you to slow down a bit and think, "What will my mom do? What will my dad do? What will my sister do?" If not, observe how other people does it when you are with them or notice how other people ask you for directions.

    I will throw out an example to explain. Hours before I took my OT licensing exam, I had lunch at an Olive Garden that I had not been to before. Since I was really jittery after I ate (I recalled I drank a lot of water), I knew I needed to use the restroom. Since I had never been there before, I knew I would have a hard time finding the restroom. So, I decided to ask the servers. The question I asked was, "Where is the men's restroom?" They quickly pointed me to the restroom and off I went.

    For places like this, it's best to be short and sweet. You also can't assume that they are aware of what autism is. If I were in your spot, I would have said, "I am lost. Where is (insert Gate number)?" If you have asked your parents or your sister after the fact, I am sure they would have said the same thing to you.