Monday, June 13, 2022

Fender Bender Confusion

I work at a racetrack frequently. I've seen cars flip, slide, and impact each other. It's not something that is enjoyable, but something that's almost unavoidable in the high intensity sport of auto racing. With 27 years of racetrack experience, I know exactly what to do with the flags when an incident occurs. I know the radio procedure, what to say, what to listen for, and this all happens without thought because it's second nature. However, when an incident occurred involving myself on the public road, all that experience meant nothing.

This incident occurred over a month ago, the last time I was home in Saint Louis. I had bought a new car just a few weeks prior and was out running errands when I approached a red light. There was a merge lane I could enter for the right on red and as I looked over my left shoulder I started to go, but a box truck came up the hill at a speed way to fast and was changing lanes. This prompted me to stop and just as I was about to go again, I was jolted back in my seat. 

I was confused. There was so much force felt that I was awaiting the sound of glass bouncing around. My neck quickly burned, and I looked in my mirror assured I was going to see a massive amount of damage. However, all I could see was the emblem of a Hyundai SUV that looked fine. Surely there was a car behind the SUV that pushed it into me. Seconds passed by that felt like hours as I tried to make sense of the situation. I looked around and realized I needed to get my car out of the lanes and onto the shoulder.

Fear quickly set in. Would the driver that hit me be mad at me. It wasn't my fault, but I couldn't process what was about to occur. When I exited my car, I walked back and was amazed at what I saw. The damage was, well, by bumper was creased but that was it. For as much force as I felt I couldn't believe it. About this time the other driver got to me and started talking but I couldn't hear the words he was saying because my brain was going so fast on all the things that should, could, and might happen.

The other driver kept talking and I eventually turned to him, looked down and away from him, and simply said, "I'm on the autism spectrum and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do right now." Was this the right thing to say? I'm not sure, and perhaps not because this could've opened me up to him exploiting this and saying, "Oh, the damage isn't that bad, we don't need to do anything." Instead of this, he mentioned that I should take a photo of his license, the damage, his license plate, and his insurance card. 

When the routine of the day is broken; when the unexpected occurs, we on the autism spectrum may struggle with what to do next. We can train, or practice what we should do when the unexpected occurs, but when it happens, we may not be able to react in a timely manner. This is what happened and I'm extremely thankful the man that hit me was honest, nice, understanding, and helped me through the process. At the racetrack I expect the unexpected and am prepared for anything at any time and will have no issues processing the "what to do next" aspect of the job. This is why, in my book Finding Kansas, I refer to Asperger's as a "situational handicap" because there can be a similar situation arise in two environments and the reaction can vary drastically.

The end result of the fender bend gave me a bit more faith in humanity. I know not everyone will be understanding, or honest, but on this day the guy was, and I'll remember that honesty the next time the unexpected occurs and someone attempts to take advantage of the situation.

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