A Day in the Life of...
Novel Situations Aren't Best SellersSeptember 2005
by Deborah Lipsky
Novel situations are those things that happen that catch you totally off guard and seem to wreck havoc with your routine. They happen to everyone, but for people like me who face the challenges of autism, novel situations are down right awful. You really can’t plan for them because if you do then you are “expecting the unexpected” (that’s an oxymoron) and then it wouldn’t be novel anymore, would it. I have come to the conclusion that the only thing you can do is to pick up the pieces when the situation is over, smile at yourself, and pray it never happens again. It does help to share your tale of woe with a friend or two. Let me share with you my “Burger King” story (more like my BK nightmare).
After a fantastic retreat with ASM, I decided to head home the following morning. In Aroostook County, 10 cars at a stop light is a traffic jam, so imagine my horror to find myself trying to get on I-95 on a Monday morning during rush hour (why do they call it “rush hour” when it goes on way past 60 minutes?) Southern Mainers must really love their jobs to be in such a hurry to get to work on a Monday. Somewhere in all the confusion I ended up in Kittery instead of Houlton. I did a U-turn, but I’ll tell you I was getting some anxious. At the first toll I accidentally got in the exact change lane, and I didn’t have the exact change. There was this huge line of cars behind me. Do you know how difficult it is to back up and switch lanes amidst honking horns, shouting, and drivers giving me that half of a peace sign designed to indicate universal displeasure? I managed to do it, and to avoid such a “novel situation” like that again I decided to have exact change ready just in case. Sure enough, I found myself in the exact change lane, but I was feeling good thinking I have mastered this beast. I rolled down the window (apparently not all the way) collected my 60 cents in nickels, dimes, and 15 pennies, and went to throw it in the change basket. My knuckles grazed the window just enough to deflect my aim, and the entire 60 cents floated through the air like confetti before scattering everywhere on the pavement. I began to panic as I had 3 quarters handy but the toll basket said 60 cents exact change only. Again, a long line of cars piled up behind me with the familiar honking, yelling, and gesturing postures. My logic, which was failing quickly reasoned that 75 cents would not be acceptable so I shut off the car, got out on my hands and knees and began to look for the coins which had camouflaged themselves with the tarred road. Fifteen minutes later I recovered all the lost change and paid my way through the toll. By now I was an emotional wreck trying to battle a severe case of sensory overload. I needed a break, fast.
At first I thought it was a mirage, but then I saw that heavenly sign which read “Burger King”. It was the first rest stop on the turnpike. It was also the busiest, being full of tourists. It was just what I needed to calm down. Running on bare survival mode, I decided to stop, get a drink, and collect my nerves before attempting to get back on the Indy 500 also known as the Maine Turnpike. I had put my wallet on the front seat so as to access toll money so I grabbed it with one hand and took an empty cup out of the car to throw away as I went in. The trashcan stood stoically by the door, overflowing with a weekend’s worth of “BK” trash. It was a virtual cornucopia of half eaten food and a dazzling array of paper goods. I was a hair away from a full meltdown mode so in my confusion, I threw in my wallet instead of the empty cup. The wallet was full of change so naturally it sank to the bottom like a cement block. Out of sheer desperation I dove through the flap trying to rescue my wallet. It was a dive worthy of getting me on the U.S. Olympic Dive Team. The flap was only wide enough to accommodate my upper body so basically my butt and legs dangled on the outside. My communication button in my brain was malfunctioning so I kept repeating to myself “there is nothing here” instead of saying “I don’t see my wallet”. I thought it didn’t matter who would hear me inside the trashcan. Next thing I feel this tapping on my butt. I wiggle myself rather ungracefully out of the trashcan to find this kind looking man gazing pitifully at me. In his hand were two dollars and he said, “Here, dear, why don’t you buy yourself a real hamburger?” That was it; too much novel situation for me. I wanted to reply that I was looking for my wallet but all that would come out was, “But I don’t want a hamburger.” You should also know that my arms, chest, and chin were covered with mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise streaks. It looked like I had dipped my body in a vat of melted Crayola crayons.
Entangled within my frizzy red hair were bits of hamburger, bun, and the occasional French fry. This kindly gentleman reached back into his pocket and pulled out a 5 dollar bill and said, “Here, you can buy yourself whatever you want”.
I was mortified as I was frantically looking for my wallet, and he thought I was using the trashcan as a feed trough. I had to communicate this misunderstanding, but all that would come out of my mouth was, “’But do I have to get it now?” In a gentle voice he replied, “No, only when you are ready”.
For a fleeting moment I thought how I would be hungry by the time I reached Bangor, but again I wanted to communicate that he misunderstood my intentions. Somewhere with the control switch in my brain I switched tracks back to the Bangor thought so all I could do was to stutter out the words, “thank-you” and accept the 5 dollar bill. I stood there completely stunned and unable to move as the man smiled and went into the restaurant. I unfroze and dove back into the can retrieving the wallet successfully. I decided to forgo getting a drink and just try to make it home. It was a really hot and humid morning so for the next 5 hours I would smell like a whopper with cheese. Half way up to Augusta I realized that the man thought I was a homeless person, and I couldn’t help but wonder what gave him that impression?
- 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)