Monday, June 24, 2013

A Trip to Moe's

The weekend was long working a race in North Carolina then a 12 hour car ride back to Indy broken up by a 6 hour sleeping period. I got back to Indy yesterday afternoon and I had one thing on my mind; to get back to my sister's before the start of the Indycar race (as if working races the past four days wasn't enough.)

I also had something on my mind and that was a comment on last Thursday's blog that said that I should have a tape recorder or something of the like to share each thought that passes. I did a variation of that back in 2010 when I shared a trip to Taco Bell. I was thinking on how to do something like that again as I drove up to my sister's (I had plenty of time to think as I hit EVERY light red.)

As I neared my sister's I looked to my right and there was a Moe's Southwestern Grill. I just discovered that place less than a month ago and each time I go there it's truly like heaven on Earth (I know where I'm going for lunch) but I also was in a time crunch because I wanted to watch the Indycar race. But, I had no eaten in over 15 hours. With that being so the Moe's won.

If you haven't been to a Moe's they do something odd as every employee shouts, "Welcome to Moe's!" each time someone walks in. For me, this is uncomfortable as I don't fully know how to respond and each step to the door creates just a tiny bit more apprehension.

This time I open the door and walk in but there's nothing as there is a moderate line. At this point in time I realize just how hungry I am and the hungrier I am I have noticed the more trouble I have in social situations.

There's an elderly couple in front of me and it's obvious it's there first time here as they are looking at the menu board. I stand a few feet behind them with no expression on my face looking down but I'm thinking "hurry hurry hurry..." There's also an intermittent loud noise that I can only explain as an ascending human made beep from a guy who is next to be served. "This is going to be an interesting experience" I tell myself.

The man of the elderly couple looks behind at me and asks, "Do you know what you want?" and I'm so nervous between the time, this couple, and the random noises this guy is making that I just sort of nod my head in a non-committal fashion so he says, "Then why don't you just go on ahead." Yes!

I'm now between the old couple and this 20 something guy who is still making random noises when he finally is helped by an employee he says, "Okay, I've never been here. What do you have?" The employee looked as frustrated as I felt and she explained everything and he asked questions about everything. A minute or so passed and a long line had now formed. This man also said a few things that were slightly inappropriate and I kept trying to retreat in place (hard to do) but I wanted to be anywhere but there.

The elderly couple was now having to get closer to me because the line was stretching out the door and they were inside my personal space (which is very large) and now I was feeling about as uncomfortable as possible with these two events going on. This guy ordering kept asking odd questions and then he looked towards me and made eye contact which forced me to quickly look elsewhere but out of the corner of my eye I saw him scan the line and he said, "Wow, I now feel like a jerk, look at the line! But don't worry folks, I'm from Idaho and we don't have these there."

I don't know what expression, exactly, I had on my face, and I don't know if I could mimic it if I tried, but it must have looked abysmal as the old man asked me, "Are you uncomfortable?" Uncomfortable? That was the understatement of the day. I was so uncomfortable I couldn't respond with words and not only that, for myself, being asked that question made things more uncomfortable as I thought I was doing a good job hiding my discomfort but obviously I wasn't.

To respond I once again just nodded my head and then I closed my eyes. The line was now pushing forward and the guy wanted to know how spicy each bit of food was and whether or not the lettuce and other food choices were organic. Closing my eyes didn't help, however, because the noise in the front was getting louder and louder with people. This is something that a person either notices or doesn't notice. Next time you are out, if you sort of want a glimpse at what challenges we on the spectrum might face, just pay attention to the exterior noise. I've had 'normal' people describe it as simple back noise that isn't registered but for me it is a constant noise as if a loud waterfall is raging and each drop of water is able to be heard.

Seconds were ticking away and I wanted to leave; to cut my losses and just leave. I opened my eyes toward the door but the amount of people I'd have to walk by would create social encounter after social encounter and I was done with the whole social aspect of this seemingly simple trip inside to get a burrito to go. Finally though the guy from Idaho had chosen his foods and was progressing down the line so I went into ordering mode.

If you ever hear me order I almost sound robotic or like a recording because I know what to say in as few words as possible to complete my order and this time I said it even faster as I wanted out of there.

The guy from Idaho was at the register as I got there and my nerves got on edge again. If you are wondering why he made me uncomfortable the reason as to that is this; I don't like random and from his movements to his shrew humor to his random noises, everything about this guy was random. Within random comes unpredictability and I can't predict when the situation is going to turn tense. And since I can't predict that I have to preemptively get tense just in case the situation turns that way. Also, since I can't fully see the social picture, I have to get that way because things may become tense (tense being people getting angry and the like) and I may not be aware of it.

Eventually, and that is a long eventually from the moment I walked in, I checked out and got my salsa and left. It was a trying experience and while for most people a simple trip inside an eatery might be simple, it doesn't take much to create a highly uncomfortable situation.


  1. I am learning so much from you, Aaron. Both my sons are on the spectrum and this month my oldest graduated. He went to a small semi-private school and there were 22 graduates. The day of the ceremony/banquet was more difficult for my youngest. He has more sensory issues. Several times he asked why he was there, and I would tell him it was for his brother. I knew it was stressful and tiring for him, but the fact it was for his brother kept him there for 2 hours. He had to leave before we ate, but the microphone was very loud and the people talking and laughing was over the top. His older brother asked where he was and when we told him he shrugged and said oh. We all get it in our family and it makes for more understanding. Where others would find it rude to leave early, we are proud of how long he endured things all for his brother.

  2. Well Aaron, this time I'm on the opposite side of you. I find restaurants like Moe's and other's where, if you don't know what you're doing, you hold up the line and the other people give you annoyed looks. It gives me more stress than I need when I'm going out for lunch. Everyone has to have a first time at these places and I am a habitual menu gazer. I like to look and take my time ordering. I do NOT like feeling rushed during this time. I guess I should maybe avoid these places (Pei Wei is another one as is Fast Eddie's over in Illinois) but, like you, I do love the food at Moe's. But I still remember my first time there with my wife who had been many times before. Even she was getting a bit annoyed with me. Ugh, who needs that??? Funny though how the same place can give two people aprehension for entirely different reasons. I can see how someone on the Autism spectrum would like to go someplace where they know what they want and only have to have minimal social contact to get it. But those order as you go places will always make me uncomfortable.