Thursday, June 28, 2012

Another Trip From... and a Random Case of Meanness

I'm beginning to wonder if flights are ever smooth and on time because once again yesterday was a day to forget.

After I wrote yesterday's post I sat around the airport watching humanity go by. Several hours passed and finally it was time to board the plane which happened on schedule. Then, as we were just told to turn off our electronic devices the captain said, "Okay folks, I know we have just told you to turn your phones off but you can turn them back on because JFK is closed at the moment, well, backed up at the moment due to wind. We'll get up in the air as soon as ATC allows it."

I wasn't worried as I had plenty of time to get to my next flight, but the single minutes turned into dozens of minutes and as I looked at my phone and did the math I would only have 5 minutes to get from this plane to the next and I was sure the gates would not be in my favor and America's least favorite Olympic event, the 100 gate dash, would ensue.

We finally took flight as I was engrossed in the book Animal Farm and I tried to set my worries aside. "Aaron, there's nothing you can do... Aaron, there's nothing..." kept going through my mind. After each time I told myself that a couple times I then remembered I had an important meeting this morning so not getting back was out of the question. The anxiety circle was in full arc and my heartrate was rapidly increasing.

We landed at JFK and I swear that the taxiing portion of the flight was longer than being in the air as it dragged on forever. When we got to what we thought was the gate another delay as the captain said, "Folks, I don't know what is going on as this usually isn't a tow gate, but they want us to be towed in today so sit back, relax, and enjoy yourselves for the next few minutes."

The plane lurched forward and then stopped which everyone thought was the sign we were at the gate so the mad dash to nowhere began to which the flight attendants in unison, aloud and over the PA system said, "Sir... Ma'am... We are on an active taxi way and not at the gate. Sit down!" The ruckus was loud with people confused as to why they were being told to sit down and some people refused which made the attendants yell louder and all the while this was going on I was staring at my phone's clock ticking away and with it my chance to make it home.

When exiting the plane I had to decide who to ask as to where the next gate was. Out of the jetway I looked around for a monitor and saw none so now this meant I had to ask a person. Asking and speaking up for myself is something I am awful at but then a stroke of luck; the person behind me asked the gate agent where the flight to Saint Louis was. The agent pointed straight across and the 100 gate dash was reduced to the 1 gate stroll. Awesome!

Or was it? We were the last to get on the plane and I was sure my bag would once again not make it with me, but then the captain said, "Folks, we have an issue with the aircraft. It should only be a few minutes and we'll try and make it up but for now enjoy yourselves." That must have been the phrase of the day as once again I was hearing the phrase, "enjoy yourselves." I personally don't find joy when the aircraft and I'm about to entrust my life with is having, "issues."

At this point in time I decided to use the restroom so I got up, noticed that the occupied light wasn't on and proceeded to it. As I pushed on the door and it cracked a little bit a shriek of a starlted person filled the plane. I said to no one particiular, "It said it was open. Now it says it is closed." Awkward? I don't know a word beyond awkward but I wanted to be anywhere but there.

When the lavatory was free I went in and when I came out the guy in the last seat began yelling at me in a langauge I didn't understand. The look on his face was of supreme anger and I truly have no idea what had happened. I stared at him blankly and walked back toward my seat as the words, possibly insults, were hurled my way. I made it a point not to look back or get up for the remainder of the flight, or the remainder of the time we were on the ground.

Every five minutes we were promised five more minutes. My body was now in a complete and utter emotional freefall. I was coming back to reality as being at the racetrack over the weeked as well as the few days I had to relax afterwards was now over and I began to feel all the anxiety I had from last week's flight. Also, fear of the future and the prospect of my 2nd book being published and just about everything else in life began to hit me at full steam.

100 minutes after the first delay we were finally headed towards the runway. I was angry at the world and just wanted to be tucked away in some dark room all by myself with no one to interrupt my thoughts.

As if my journey hadn't had enough to write about, as we neared Saint Louis we hit a random patch of turbulance which spilled my Coke which we down into my open computer bag and got all over my laptop from work. This was the tipping point and I just gave up. (I did find out today that it is fine as I'm writing on it right now.)

Eventually the world had decided I had gone through enough trials of travels and I made it home and the first thing I saw was my Champions of Mental Health trophy. I stood with my eyes fixed on it and I pondered the events of the previous several days. They were difficult days and at times I told myself I was never traveling again because why would anyone want to subject themself to that type of constant stress? Then, I realized, through it all I made it with nothing more than several bits of severe anxiey. I then felt good about everything; that is until this morning.

Five hours of sleep after such a string of episodes is not good. I woke up bitter wondering why that guy had to yell at me and why the captain of the plane kept promising us "just five minutes more" 20 times. All this emotion made getting out of bed a real chore, but I did so and headed towards my meeting.

On the way when I got to a four lane road the traffic wasn't bad at all and all of a sudden two pedestrians decided to run across the road right in front of me. I didn't change lanes as I felt no need to as they were running but as I got to them one of them stopped and did an about face and made a kicking motion towards my car. I swerved to the right and I angrily blared my horn to which both of these women gave me very inapproriate gestures that I saw in my mirror. I slammed my brakes and just about did a U-turn as I wanted to tell them, "Use the crosswalks at the lights!" as there was one just a couple hundred feet to the East. Or they could've waited until I passed as no one was behind me. I don't really know what they wanted me to do as it wasn't as if I appeared out of oblivion.

This got my day of to a very rotten start and I'm sure my facial expression at this meeting showed it. I mean, why are people so mean? This perhaps goes with yesterday's post, but how can people be so bitter towards a person they don't know? For me, when I have interactions like this, is fully tires my body out as the fear receptors go on full alert. It's as if I am in a constant struggle to protect myself. When random events of meanness occur I fear the next one so I become extra vigilant and the anxiety does not subside.

So, for now I am on alert. When will the next random delay be? When will the next angry person out of nowhere happen? Other people so easily brush that stuff off, but I can't. I may have driven away from those two angry women and they may have disappeared from my physical rear-view mirror, but for right now it's as if they are still right there behind me.


  1. Aaron,
    Sorry on one hand for the experience you had. On the other hand, it has given you an opportunity to share with the world how those on the spectrum are impacted by the world around them. Sharing your thoughts with the world are more valuable than 99% of the blogs that pontificate on the authors supposed brilliance.

  2. I have never even met you, but I am honestly proud of you for having the courage to get through your travel experience without any outwardly tangible consequences, despite all of the anxiety it caused. My two cents? Whomever schedules your trips (probably you) should make the layover an hour longer just to further ensure you make it to your next flight. I recall fro your first book that you actually like spending time in airports at layovers, so what's the harm, right? And, in my humble opinion, at least one of the legs of your journey should be in Executive Class! Ok, that might be a bit pricey, but when you start earning anything close to what Temple Grandin commands for her presentations, I predict First Class both ways! You certainly deserve that, in my opinion. I wish I could call up that man who yelled at you, to give him a piece of my mind, but, alas, I am not quite as mature or restrained as you are! Great (and at times, funny) blog. Keep up the great work Aaron.

  3. Yeah James, perhaps a longer layover would help, but the way the flights are to Saint Louis, with leaving Boston in the evening, it just didn't work out. Although, thinking back, I had a 100 minute layover so I thought that was plenty. I wrote today's post somewhat in haste, but I was supposed to leave Logan at 6:20 and leave JFK at 9. That should have been plenty of time. Another thing is I hope you are right someday of sitting in the front, but when traveling on a tight budget it seems prices are sometimes triple digits more when you don't take the tightest connection.

  4. I feel terrible that you had to go through all that. You did handle it greatly though. I would never be able to handle so much things going wrong on a flight when I'm alone like that. I'm sure I'd end up crying, not being able to talk and just walking up to a steward with tears in my eyes, hoping he'll pick up on the notion that I need help.
    You're way better with those things. You can be very proud of yourself! :)

  5. Aaron I am proud of you too! I have experienced trips like the ones you have had lately and it leaves me exhausted and with the feeling "I will never fly again!". Then something comes up and I have too : <
    Meanness is at epidemic proportions now days. The only remedy I find is to smile. It can sometimes take people by surprise and they stop being so mean..............that's when I am able to escape (quickly before they resume their rants! : >)
    Traveling by air is just awful for everyone. Keep your chin up. Smile. We need you out there to educate the world. You are doing a Great Service Aaron. I hope your next trip is a fantastic trip!