Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Places we Visit

                It’s easy for routines and rituals to get set in stone quickly and one of the ones that I’ve developed the past three years or so is stopping at this bagel place near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I’m working my second Purdue/USAC EvGP this year and last year, each early morning, I’d stop by for a bagel. It was neat as there were always various other race staff inside preparing for their day on the big track as Indy 500 practice is going on while the Ev race is in a parking lot on the north side of the track. Anyway, I’d sit alone but it was fun to imagine that maybe someday I’d be sitting with these other people; whether they were mechanics or even the doctors I’d see in there. I was always silent and invisible but being in that place was always relaxing and part of my routine. That was, until this morning.

                I haven’t been in Indy for eight months and as I got off I-465 onto Crawfordsville Road and neared the bagel place the sign had been taken down and the section of the building was now hollow and the place I had stopped at each morning for every event I work at IMS was gone. To most this would be a minor inconvenience but to myself, well, it was emotional. Gone was the routine, gone were hearing the old timers talk shop, and gone was the knowledge that the place would remain the same. Change is difficult and when there’s a change like this it does evoke an emotional response.

                Improvising quickly had to be done to decide what to do for breakfast but my day had already been ruined. Sure, I was invisible in that place and I would go there six times a year, but it was a part of the routine as were the people. Isn’t this unique, especially compared to yesterday’s blog? I mean, here I am afraid of interaction and yet a physical place of business can have an emotional response. When I hear misguided experts say, “People with Asperger’s have no emotions” I just shake my head and want to scream, “Ha! If you only knew!” because I had a highly emotional response to a place.

                Why a place? Why would this create such a reaction? First off it’s a reminder of change and it creates fear. Think about your life and the places you’ve been and maybe there’s been a time that you returned to a town wanting to revisit a great diner, or store, only to find that it no longer exists. Now add on top of that fact that the place had an emotional response. I’m sure everyone, autism spectrum or not, has had that place that meant something to them that is no longer there. Now, add the autism spectrum in that it isn’t that we have no emotions it’s just that they aren’t experienced or shared in the traditional sense and that’s when issues arise. Traditional sense? Yes. This means that the place to most might have been a bagel shop but whilst in there I felt a connection to those in there. It was warm, welcoming, and the average age was high but I always had thoughts that when I’m that age I too would be in there talking about races of old and the good ole days and, well, with the closure of the store it’s more than a closure but rather a deletion of those thoughts and images.

                My memory words differently and is spurred on by various things but places is one of them and if a place gets deleted it’s much like deleting the memory. Having this system is overwhelming at times, to be honest, as so many places mean so much but at the same time when something gets deleted it’s difficult to deal with because I then fear the next event that will be experienced like this.

                The day dragged on as the weather didn’t play nice and not a single lap was turned today and once the event was called for the day I drove towards Noble Romans on 10th St and this drive was one full of angst. Would this place also be closed? I grew up just a mile from that place and their breadsticks are divine, but would it still be there? After experiencing one loss today I was fearing another, but thankfully the lights were on and it was business as normal.

                Once inside I began to think heavily on this topic and how on one hand it is what keeps memories intact and on the other it’s downright overwhelming. Intact? I’ve called this the “associative memory system” and having as good of a memory as I do it makes it where there needs to be aids to assist in keeping it all in line or it’s as if everything, every single memory I have, happened all at once. My memories would be almost indistinguishable from each other if not for this associative system. However, it’s overwhelming because anything and everything can be related to something else and when change occurs it is very much like deleting the files that went along with it. This is why change is bad, even if the change is for the better. It’s hard to adjust, it’s hard to move on, and it’s extremely difficult to be in constant fear of losing a part of one’s self due to things like this.

                I now wonder about those people I’d see in there each time I was in. Did they migrate somewhere else? Do they still have the same conversations? It’s an odd feeling to feel a connection to a place, but I do and I know I am in fear of the next time I go somewhere that means a lot to me only to find that it, and the memories experienced there, no longer exist.

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