Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Crosswalk of Fear

I wish you could've seen me. I had met my match and didn't know what to do. I looked to my right at the light hoping for direction, but there was none. The giant X in front of me on the ground was confusing and, in that moment, I realized that everything I knew was wrong.

You're probably thinking that, with my proclamation that everything I knew was wrong, that there was some major, life-altering event taking place. Well, I wish I could say that was the case. However, I hadn't met my match on a brand-new airport procedure or new laws involving cars. Nope, instead I had met my match by a crosswalk.

"A crosswalk?" I'm sure you just asked that in a dry, sarcastic voice, but let me explain because if you came across it you too would be in the X of fear and confusion. If you were taught in kindergarten how to do something and your entire life the way you learned was the way it played out every time you'd be ill-prepared to handle something new. That was the situation as I stared at the giant X that was made in the intersection. It made zero sense.

I was frozen and instantly put into a positional warfare which meant that I didn't know how my body should be in the space it was in. This might be the only time a non-social situation put me into this. Typically it's because I don't know how my arms should be, or how my face should look, or what type of smile I should have around a person or in a group. The more common wordage of this is, "those on the autism spectrum may appear uncomfortable in their own skin" and let me tell you, this intersection will make you uncomfortable.

The stoplight had gone red to green for three cycles and I still didn't know which way to go. I looked to my left to the extremely confusing sign. It stated "diagonal crossing OK" which I was hung up on. This wasn't clear because I wondered, "does this mean it's okay or is it required?" There's a big difference, furthermore it said to only cross on the signal, but which way to cross. I haven't been this confused since the first time I came across a diverging diamond intersection. If you've come across one of those, you'll remember the first time it felt wrong to drive on what should've been the wrong side of the road.

It was now teetering on the brink of being ridiculous. I had to make it on foot to a Walgreens and get back so I could make it to where the track is being assembled in Long Beach. I had to go, and on the fourth cycle I decided to go against everything in my body that said that walking diagonally across an intersection is wrong, but I went across and after surviving to the other side I felt the same sensation one might have at winning a game of Monopoly if it were played solo against one's self.

You may come across one of these someday and when you do you'll have a leg up because you'll be partially prepared. However, should you come across this, and you experience the same trepidation, and confusion that I did I think it prudent to tell you this. Those feelings, for me, are felt in most social situations, but unlike crosswalks that have been the same forever, social situations move like the weather patterns on earth; just when you think you've figured it out it could snow in May. While there is no true way for those not on the autism spectrum to truly know what it feels like, I think this immensely small situation may give you an insight if you can imagine coming across every social situation no matter how many times you've done it, it will always feel like the first time approaching the crosswalk of fear. 

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