Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Silence in the Burrito Line

I had a presentation in Kansas (the literal state, not my metaphorical state) yesterday and on the drive I was thinking about how amazing it is that I am able to give presentations. Even after 590 of them I still can't believe I can do this. After so many presentations presenting is, well, it's easy. Because of this I often forget the simple struggles that can arise from having Asperger's, but I was reminded of this while ordering food last Friday.

When I started blogging I had many stories of everyday things and their struggles. There were often stories from the checkout aisle, or my daily trip to Taco Bell when we were at our old office, but once again I've got a story from ordering food.

This happened at a burrito place near the office and I went in, well, I tried to enter but the door was locked. They open at 11 and it was 11:03 so I got sent into a panic as I tried to figure out what to do. The LAST thing I want to happen in any social situation is make anyone mad because, should I make someone mad, the result of a mad person can be random, random is scary, therefore I've learned that upon all circumstances to try and never make a person upset because the outcome can't be predicted. So, that being said, I didn't want to make the workers angry by knocking so I quickly got out my cell phone to pretend as if I had phone call. This is often my way to avoid a social situation so I did this and waited a minute and I tried the door again and it was still locked.

Another minute passed and then another customer came from the inside and opened the door. I walked in and started my order. When the burrito I was having got to the final station that has the salsa, cheese, and lettuce I was asked what I wanted. I stated that I wanted, "cheese, lettuce..." and I waited for that be done before stating that I also wanted salsa but before I could get to that point the employee started wrapping my burrito up. I stared in a silent amazement as I tried to figure out why salsa wasn't being put on my burrito. I mean, I knew that I wanted it and I've ordered the same burrito from the same employee dozens of times so why wasn't I getting the salsa?

The burrito got completely wrapped and packaged and sent to the cash register and I still was silent. I couldn't protest and I couldn't speak up as to the fact that my burrito was just a shadow of the burrito that I had wanted. However, had I spoken up at any point in time I would have risked, perhaps, making her angry and that can happen so I just accepted the fact that my burrito would not be having salsa.

So okay, what happened? I've been going to Subway a lot as of late and I'm used to their ordering process in that the spicy stuff and the sauce type stuff is put on last. That being said, after I said, "cheese, lettuce..." and I used the "..." to illustrate that my voice had a tailing effect to imply that I wanted something else, I was expecting her to ask what type of salsa I wanted, but, as was the case, that question never got asked and the salsa remained put. So a couple things happened; I had a serious case of, "I think therefore you should know" and my social anxiety played out in that I didn't want to risk a 1% chance of making her mad.

To add to this; I've mentioned this fear of making other people upset and one of the downsides to that is that this often leads to myself, or the other person, getting upset. At a former job that I had, when I was given directions I didn't clearly understand, I wouldn't ask for clarification because this could make him mad. So, instead of doing the job right, I would do the job and hope that I would get it done the way he expected. This often would be worse than if I would have just asked for clarification, but the process of asking for help, or asking for clarification, is difficult because of the risk of drawing ire. Upon all circumstances at all hours of the day I try to keep my world as stable as possible. With sameness and stability comes security and within that world comes a world where people don't speak with a harsh tone or yell. The emotions I feel when the world around me gets unstable are severe as I fear all the worst case scenarios. Worst case? At a burrito place? Odds are nothing physically bad would happen. Yes, I understand that, but what you need to understand is that, when things get unstable, or tense, or harsh tones are said, the effects in my body stay there a while. I don't just "shake it off" and the words remain and the tenseness and fear I experience remain for a long time thereafter. Sure, I may have had a burrito without the most essential of ingredients, but I avoided a potential momentary crisis. She could have been mad, she might have said, "why didn't you say you wanted salsa in the first place?" There were many possible outcomes and I had to keep my world as safe, and as stable as possible. It may not seem like much, just a story from a burrito place, but this is one of the daily struggles I face in keeping my world safe from uncertainty.


  1. You were only being honest. Even though they prepare the food in front of you, I never have the (I don't know if it is the heart or courage) to speak up and have food "fixed" like it should have been to begin with. I truly see where you were coming from. I guess I would have taken the burrito without salsa, and then asked for salsa on the side. Not sure what eatery you were at or if they even do that. Good blog Aaron!

  2. Aaron, you are such a blessing to those of us that struggle to understand the world of our friends and loved ones living with autism. Thank you!