A Day in the Life of...
The following stories were originally in the Autism Society of Maine Newsletters. I write a regular column for them humorously describing the challenges I face as an autistic individual navigating a non-autistic world. People see a little bit of themselves in each story and at the same time have a better understanding of the unique challenges we autistic individuals face on a daily basis.
The "Big Easy" Wasn't So Easy.March 2012
by Deborah Lipsky
I arrived at Louis Armstrong airport in Louisianna this past August during a heat wave. My dearest friend Sister Francanne waited at the airport and drove me to my hotel in the heart of the French Quarter. We made plans to get together later that evening which gave me the afternoon to walk around the city to do some shopping. Before I got out of the car Sister said, "Deb, the heat index today will be 118 degrees. Promise me that you will carry plenty of water in your backpack". I assured her that I would, so as soon as I checked in I purchased 4 large heavy containers of bottled water and placed them in my backpack as I set out to explore the surroundings.
Boy it sure was hot and humid. With each passing minute the water bottles felt more like 100lb bricks strapped to my back, but like a trooper it didn't deter me from wandering around outside for hours in the scorching heat with them neatly tucked inside my pack. New Orleans is known for its Mardi Gras beads and bling. Each store displayed never ending racks filled with a vast selection of shiny colorful beads. They weren't stores to me; they were shrines to bling-bling. I had discovered the autistic mecca where those of us autistic followers of shiny colorful objects must make a pilgrimage to at least once in their life. Like a kid in a candy store I was so completely mezmerized by all the "eye candy" that I didn't even feel the heat of the blazing sun that afternoon.
Later that day according to our schedule Sister arrived in front of the hotel. As I plunked my fatigued body and backpack into her front seat, Sister asked, "Did you remember to pack lots of water with you as you wandered the city like I asked you to?"
With a grin as wide as the Cheshire cat I proudly announced that I had. To prove to her that I kept my promise, I opened up my backpack and pulled out the 4 unopened bottles of water to show her. With a jaw dropping look of utter amazement, and with more than a hint of concern in her voice she asked, "Why didn't you drink them? I wanted you to stay hydrated in this heat."
I couldn't understand why she was making such a fuss over the very concrete instructions she had given me earlier. I replied, "Because you told me to carry the water and never mentioned I should drink it!" We were able to laugh at our mis-communication after she felt comfortable that I wasn't going to drop dead in her car of heat stroke from dehydration.
After a fun evening together I was once again dropped off at the hotel. It was only 9pm and my hotel was on the corner of the famous Bourbon St. of New Orleans. Bourbon St. is a wonderful place of merriment filled with happy drunk people staggering all around. With tons of neon signs, loud Cajun music, stores filled with glitter, and people wearing strands of sparkly beads, I couldn't resist the call of the wild. As I wandered down Bourbon St., I came upon an outdoor bar that offered mechanical bull rides. In sheer amusement I watched patron after patron get tossed off like a floppy rag doll within seconds of hopping on. Then, all of a sudden without warning and out of nowhere I was overcome with this sudden sense of bravado. In all my 50 years I had never ridden a bull; mechanical or otherwise. I had however seen bull riding on TV before which my brain in that moment impulsely interpreted as more than ample qualification for me to cowboy up and give it a whirl (no pun intended).
Once upon the back of this massive steel beast wrapped in leather I envisioned myself riding this bull to glory. Just as the hydraulic operator began the ride I quickly realized that I had not come up with a graceful dismounting strategy. Until I could figure one out I couldn't get off, so I had no choice but to hang on (again no pun intended) for dear life as the thing bucked, reared, and spun violently in all directions. I passed the 30 second mark in a blur. It is virtually impossible to focus on coming up with a graceful dismounting procedure when you are being twisted from side to side, tossed up and down, and flung rapidly around in tight circles in no logical sequence. At the minute mark a large group of cheering onlookers encircled the ring. At 2 1/2 minutes I broke a new house record and my fan base doubled. The hydraulic operator at that point full throttled it.The highly impressed spectators were taking strings of Mardi Gras beads off their neck and tossing them my way, literally showering me with prizes. I held on until the 3 minute mark but at that point no amount of brainstorming could over ride (seriously now no pun intended) the intense muscle strain my thighs and arms felt. Succumbing to fatigue and with no graceful dismount plan in place,I tumbled head first into the padded mat.
I stumbled out of the bar adorned with about 4 lbs of shiny dazzling beads around my neck. My equilibrium was a touch off, no doubt the result of the mechanical bull ride. I noticed large crowds gathered under the balconies waving their arms at the people above who were dangling strings of beads over their heads. Once I realized that they were throwing the beads into the crowd I made my way into the pack. Free beads, who could resist! Much to my surprise (I am usually not that uninhibited) I hooted and hollered with the best of them, lunging in mid air to be the one catching the necklaces thrown my way. No easy feat when your balance is off! The scene was very reminiscent of Sea World where we the seals were clapping, doing tricks, and begging for the fish dangling infront of our noses by the handlers which in this case were the party goers on the balcony. When it was all said and done, I ended up back at the hotel with a 5 gallon pail's worth of Mardi Gras beads.
Knowing the next day was going to busy with sight seeing I decided to pack as soon as I got back to the hotel seeing as I was moving to a new hotel the following night. Since I fly with a military camouflaged rucksack as opposed to carry on luggage, whatever didn't fit in the rucksack had to be left behind. That was a challenge with 4 cans of specialty coffee, tons of souvenirs, and of course my bucket's worth of beads. I crammed and I shoved and filled every nook and cranny until every last item was stuffed away.The pack now weighed close to 50 lbs. We would drop it off at the next hotel I was staying at in the morning before sight seeing so that I didn't have to schlep it on my back while with Sister.
It was dark when I had to check in to the new hotel and my room was in another building across the parking lot. Sister who drove me there wanted to walk me to my room to ensure I got there safely. The hotel offered to take my pack to my room, but I have an unbreakable rule that no one carries my stuff but me. It took 2 valet parking attendants to manhandle the bulky, massive rucksack onto my back; it was that heavy. It truly was a challenge to stay upright, but I was determined I could do it. I managed (despite the concerns of management) to exit the lobby and lumber across the parking lot as graceful as a drunken sailor.I was so busy bragging to Sister about my upper body strength and agility, I failed to notice the recessed manhole cover infront of us. One foot avoided this depression but the other foot didn't and down I went.
What a humiliating way to end an otherwise perfect day! I insisted I could right myself with the pack still strapped to my back but it took all my strength just to avoid tipping over. It only took seconds of struggling before I ended up flat on my back staring up at the stars. Not wanting to admit defeat I desperatly flailed my arms and legs hoping for traction to no avail .Like a turtle flipped over on its back, I too with my green camo shell lay there helpless. The shoulder straps snugly pressed into my collarbone acted like the best padded restraint any mental hospital could afford, keeping me completely and helplessly immoblized and pinned to the pavement. Completely embarrassed and unable to function at all, I could do was watch as Sister struggled to unbuckle the jammed straps that dug into my shoulders.We got it done and somehow by some miracle I made it on the plane and home without jettising any treasures but boy the Big Easy wasn't all that easy for me this time around.
- The "Big Easy" Wasn't So Easy. (March 2012)
- The Grand Luncheon Entrance (June 2011)
- The Incident with Nurse Nana (February 2011)
- Getting The Wind Knocked Out Of My Sail (October 2010)
- I Never Saw It Coming (March 2010)
- The Ride of a Lifetime (June 2009)
- The Pet Store Encounter (April 2009)
- When You Gotta Go (March 2009)
- Membership into AAA (December 2008)
- Falling Apart Like a Celebrity Marriage (September 2008)
- GPS Stands for Great Personal Story (June 2008)
- Flying is for the Birds Part II (March 2008)
- Flying is for the Birds (December 2007)
- My Adventure In Gettysburg (September 2007)
- I am Driving Myself Crazy (June 2007)
- Look But Don't Touch (April 2007)
- The Joy is in the Journey and Not in the Destination (December 2006)
- Underwear Burned (September 2006)
- Is It Worth It? (June 2006)
- Don't Be Alarmed (March 2006)
- When an Image isn't an Icon (December 2005)
- Novel Situations Aren't Best Sellers (September 2005)
- Caution: Generic Application form Ahead (June 2005)