Monday, April 10, 2023

Miracle on the G Terminal

There's an important thing to understand about Asperger's and that is, when there's a heightened sense of stress, seemingly impossible mistakes will take place. These mistakes would, under normal circumstances, would quite simply not happen. For myself, today, this took place.

I travel a lot. I can't begin to calculate how many miles my bags have traveled with me. Leaving a carryon bag behind is something unimaginable. Leaving a carryon bag with an Xbox and accessories is even something more impossible to comprehend. I achieved the impossible today.

It's tax season, and the taxman numbers didn't come up rosy. A minor miscalculation, but something that's been, let's say, taxing my thoughts as of late. Then, this morning, my ticket was no longer right. The airline rep said the ticket got "reversed" so it showed me going to LAX before arriving at my lay over in Minneapolis. Checking my bag took almost 30 minutes as they tried to figure out the problem. This raised the stress of the day to a level I thought was maxed out. Sadly, the "fun" was just getting started.

Once at my layover, my ticket again got messed up and I lost my preferred seat. Yes, that's a first-world problem and I wasn't going to throw a stink like so many travelers not on the autism spectrum have been throwing as of late. However, if I could get my original seat back, I was most certainly going to try. 

At the Sky Club (yes, loyalty to an airline pays off), I talked to a ticketing rep and she called several people and again, it took almost half-an-hour, but I got back to my original seat. I breathed a sigh of relief and sat down ready to work on my book. 

I went back into the flight app and looked at when I boarded. "12:53" it read and, wait a second! Why would a flight that's leaving at 3:37 board at 12:53? I realized I had been moved to a different flight which is why I got my seat back so I rushed to talk to the ticketing person who confirmed this change, and I rushed back to get my laptop and backpack and off I went.

It wasn't until I boarded the plane that I realized, "Where's my roller bag?!" Panic ensued. I deplaned, looking around the gate area for my bag, and it wasn't there. I didn't know what to do, where to go, and the gate agent took my name, and I boarded the plane defeated.

I was already calculating the crushing costs to replace everything. This mistake in my mind, was inexcusable. I gave myself no sympathy for such a seemingly absurd thing to do. Under normal conditions, I'd state at a presentation that, "yes, when routines go askew, a person on the autism spectrum is going to be under greater levels of stress because everything that was processed in the brain is going to have to be reprocessed and this isn't an easy task. We like knowing what's going to happen, and when levels of stress go up, mistakes that normally wouldn't happen could take place." I may understand this as a presenter, but in the midst of the storm I couldn't see that I'm a human on the autism spectrum and that it's okay to make a mistake.

Texts were sent to my dad and he got on the phone and reached the Sky Club. They would be on the lookout for a bag and, wait, a bag was just taken to lost and found, they said. They didn't know if it was my bag, and the wait over the next hour was brutal. 

When mistakes take place, I often do nothing but loathe myself. Is it conducive to a positive outcome? Does it achieve gains? No and no, but this seems to be the all too familiar way the Asperger mind can operate. We can have 1,000 wins, but one mistake will overshadow everything that came before it. We may forget who we are, what we are capable of, and we will become defined by the single mistake. This happened to me, and it was consuming me.

About an hour into the flight, I got a text. It was from my dad, and they had found my bag! It was the bag that had been turned in. It's hard for me to come up with a number of how many bags roll across an airport floor, so it's mind-boggling that it was found, turned in, and it will meet me at the hotel tomorrow.

I write this in the air on the flight. The spectrum of emotions felt in the past two hours is greater than the difference between being on the ground and up here at 37,000ft. There are two takeaways I have from this day. The first is a new understanding about the potential pitfalls of navigating life when stress is high. If you know someone on the spectrum, please understand the times of exhaustion, or higher stress, that mistakes that would be deemed "careless" could take place. It isn't that we willfully just left the bag of expensive goods in a public place, it's that so much processing is taking place that we may be operating on autopilot. I have no doubt that, if I were in the midst of working, my performace would not be impacted, but on the personal side of life, well, thaty's where the mistakes will take place. 

The second thing I learned is that, somehow, I've got to find a way to accept that I'm human. We shouldn't define ourselves by mistakes. I often will and it eats at the soul from the inside out. How can anything be celebrated when the mistake is the blocker that hides away the light? I mean, I'm headed to Long Beach to continue working my dream job with the NTT INDYCAR Series, and we are less than 50 days to the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500! Whether the miracle in the G terminal took place today or not shouldn't dictate the image I have of myself, but for now it does. 

On a month that I'm focusing on the understanding aspect of autism, I hope this sheds some light on the day-to-day challenges we may face and how those that usually have a keen eye on things and their surroundings, may make a careless mistake and then, in turn, understand how that mistake can gnaw at the soul.

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