Wednesday, November 5, 2014

An Asperger Conversation in the Oddest of Places

I made the trip to Vancouver yesterday and each and every time I travel internationally I fear the point where the passport is inspected. It wasn't bad when I traveled internationally at first because I was always with my dad and I didn't have to do the talking, but this being my fourth trip abroad (does Canada count as "abroad"? I did go to Latvia and there very much qualifies, but is abroad meaning country or ocean?) I've become a bit confident in my speaking skills in those situations to not arouse suspicion. 

We landed in Vancouver and for the first time, I think, in all my flights this year I had a 100% uneventful and nothing of any worthiness to note. Thank goodness! Anyway, the cattle herding process began and we went left then right then left and down an escalator to the passport control area where my anxiety began to rise as I'm always sure I am going to say the wrong thing. Coming back from Latvia in 2008 I learned border checkpoint people don't appreciate anything remotely considered a joke. There was a question, "how much money are you carrying?" and I responded, because the normal question is, "are you carrying over $10,000?" with, "less than $10,000." To which then after I was required to say the exact amount I was carrying which I had to count and he watched me count all $17 in $1's. I didn't want a repeat of this story!

It became my turn to approach the podium and the questions stated off all about Ebola. There were about a dozen different questions on this the the question was, "what line of work are you in?" and if you ever want to see a perplexed look you should see a reaction when I say, "Autism ambassador and also an author." It's certainly not your run of the mill job and obviously this opens up a whole host of questions and it did so she asked, "what's that?"

Ah yes, the "what's that?" question. I explained that I go across Missouri, and sometime across the country, talking about autism and Aspergers. She the said "Aspergers is such a mysterious difference, isn't it?" There was something about her tone which made me comfortable. Maybe it was because she didn't say disease and she worded it with a positive tone. That being said I opened up and said that I, myself have it and she said, "Yeah, I sort of picked up on that by your lack of eye contact." From there the conversation went to my late diagnosis and how I took it which I then explained about that horrid website I found when I first was diagnosed to now nearing a career speaking total of 50,000 people reached and she said, "I don't know how you'll take this, but I just want to say good for you. Good for you! You probably don't fully understand that though, right?" She knew me all too well which tells me something; the level of knowledge she had tells me that the staff there do get so form of autism training. Either that or there was a personal connection to it, but the way she said "mysterious difference" leads me to think that there was no personal connection but she's learned about it somewhere else which that leads me to such a burning level of hope within me. 

It's not everyday a person has an overly positive experience at a borders and customs checkpoint, but I did and it tells me that awareness and understanding is on the rise. Yes, there's still downright awful and even frightening stories on the news and on the internet about autism ignorance and crimes directed towards those on the spectrum, but there's also stories that go untold. If I weren't sharing this story no one would know how it made me feel at ease and comfortable. Would this story have happened 10 years ago? I think the odds are rather slim, but it happened yesterday and this tells me the future is looking brighter and brighter so long as we continue to push forward. 

1 comment:

  1. What a great story. I wish parents of other kids at my daughter's school had the same point of view as the customs agent. Instead of a "mysterious difference" they see something negative.