Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Aisle of Fear

Yesterday was a long day as I woke up before 5AM to get to the airport to start my trek to Vancouver. Usually when I fly I am headed to a race and that means I have my flags with me and so often I get stopped and quizzed at the security checkpoint so I have a high sense of worry. Today there were no flags and yet I still had that fear because that's the normal emotion I have so it was part of the routine, I guess.

The first leg of my trip was fine, then I landed in Salt Lake City and was rather hungry but didn't have time to eat. I got to my gate and had a short wait before I boarded the plane. I boarded with zone one so the plane was rather empty as I made my way to Row 43 seat C.

Okay, it's been a while since I've written about anything that has happened to me directly. I miss writing about Kansas, Hyper-Kansas, The Positional Warfare, and any of the other elements that factor into my life. One of the ways I cope is that I am a fast learner as to to how to avoid unwanted situations. Also, the confidence I have within me is strong enough that the mild events that used to turn major are now just mild events. This event though that was about to happen was not one of those times.

I forgot to set me seat assignments before the trip so now I was stuck with an aisle seat. This doesn't sound like all that big of a deal, but for me it is. However, I wasn' worried because normally the flights I'm on are half full. Just as I convinced myself of this fact the steward came on and said, "okay folks, we have a full flight, and I mean full flight today..." Great, I thought.

What's bad about the aisle? First, I become part of everyone's world. This means I can't hideaway by looking out of the plane. I can see everyone as I look down the aisle and it feels as if everyone can see me. It's difficult being around so many people but if I look out of the plane it is as if I am alone, 34,000 feet in the sky, at peace.

The first person to sit in my row came so I had to get up, which I was fine with as that was their seat, and then the next person came and I was okay with that. Then, the overhead bins began to fill up and people started leaning up against me as they tried to fill the bins, then the stewardess did the same and the people walking back and forth kept bumping me.

So far, what I have mentioned, I'm sure, would annoy anyone, but for me it became on the verge of being too much. As my anxiety levels rose so to did it seem the volume of the people in the plane. What was a calm, constant hum of life became a deafening roar of jumbled noise. Then the person to my left needed something, I'm not sure what, and he leaned over towards me and the attendant leaned over me making contact with my shoulder and I wanted to be anywhere but there. Anywhere!

I wanted to scream. I wanted to retreat. It took everything to not crumble into a ball of an emotional wreck. I so badly wanted to say something, anything, but what could I? What would have happened if I said, "please don't touch me, or contact my shoulder as I have Asperger's and that makes me feel an odd, unique pain. How could I explain the elements of the time an usher tapped my shoulder at a hockey game? Then, I felt bad being who I am.

The flight from Salt Lake to Seattle lasted too long. I tried to read but I wasn't processing anything. I tried to hideaway but there was no where to hide. When I'm on the window I can withdraw into my own little world without any interaction, but in the aisle there are assaults from all directions.

Eventually we landed and I had to figure out how to get from one side of the airport all the way to the other. Thankfully there's a train service but since I was so frazzled it didn't make sense. I started to just follow people hoping that they would lead me in the right direction. Thankfully they did and I rode every possible train line they have to get to my gate.

On my final leg of my trip I had the window and I was able to become the only person on the plane as I looked out upon the blue waters and green trees. It was so relaxing after a difficult experience, but then I began to wonder why it was so difficult. Why was something like what had happened so bad? Up until that moment I didn't allow myself to calculate Asperger's into the equation, but when I did it made perfect sense.

Understanding is important and that's the reason I have gone on this trip. For anyone that could have seen me during that aisle experience I'm sure they had no idea what it was like on the inside for me. To what to scream and yet remain silent; to feel as if I have to run away and yet to stay put are both ways to describe how I felt in the ordeal. And for me, today, I get such an honor to present to a group of teachers my story, thoughts, and ways to describe the autism spectrum. I may not write as much as I used to on the hardships, but they're still there, hiding, and in the moments I lease expect them they show up. Thank goodness I understand the reasons as to why, and thank goodness I have the means to tell the world these things.


  1. I've only recently started reading your blog and your book, the way you explain your thoughts and feelings helps me communicate and understand our son tremendously. Thank you Aaron.

  2. This is a great reminder that every day things are so different for those with Asperger's. Thankfully, my son is able to articulate his sensory issues as well as anxieties. I know when and why we may need to leave a situation when he tells me he's getting itchy all over. He has strategies in place to cope but he also spends a lot of energy on social experiences and gets tired. I really enjoy your blog. Thanks again. Hope your presentation here in Canada goes well.