Tunnel… Car Horn… Echo…

It’s a tunnel. The tunnel is fairly non-descript. You know it’s a tunnel with a road through it because of the cars you see and hear around you. You know it’s probably in mountains at lower elevations because it looks dry and barren all around before you enter the tunnel.

This is the Queen Creek Tunnel. It is along Highway 60 in eastern Arizona, between the towns of Miami and Superior. If you are heading west on this road, shortly after you exit the tunnel, you will exit Devil’s Canyon, and the desert floor will lay below you.

Superior to Miami has been probably my most favorite drive in the entire country. The formations through the canyon are a sight to behold. There are so many interesting things to look at. The drive it self is engaging as it twists, turns, and changes elevation. Eventually you pass through the small community of Top Of The World, only then to head back down in to Miami.

One of my more favorite parts of this drive is the Queen Creek Tunnel. I’d love to drive through there with a window down and honk my horn just to listen to the way it echos. It makes me happy.

This is one example of one of the things I would do that was out of the way and didn’t bother people. I didn’t have to worry about what others thought, except for the random other vehicle that would be in the tunnel with me at the same time.

As an autistic person, I don’t always have that luxury. I’m often around people that won’t, and may never understand me. That’s always too bad considering the effort I put in to trying to understand them. So I would mask. Yeeeessssss, everyone masks to some extent, but for me, I’m often taking guesses at what I am doing. It doesn’t feel natural. I don’t understand it, and I learn nothing in the process.

Masking is an exhausting process. There’s no time to be able to turn it off. Our “eccentricities” are not so easily written off by others as they are when it’s a non-autistic person. In the times behaviors aren’t written off, sometimes some nicety is used to communicate the desired change in behavior. It is full of subtext. This subtext is something you’re likely to pick up on if you are a non-autistic. However, for autistic people, those chances are slim. It’s real sapping trying to figure out what someone wants out of us when they won’t tell us.

There is a campaign that has started this week, led by some prominent people in the online autistic community. It’s called “Take The Mask Off”.

The topics and discussions are designed to educate about masking, what it is, and the effect on autistic individuals who must mask in the current society.

Since learning that I am autistic, I have gotten to the point I rarely mask anymore. I’m sure those close to me have seen that. It doesn’t change what I think about people. I just can’t always interact in THEIR desired manner. It’s not healthy for me. I will still make “social adjustments” here and there. However, these actions are by rote, and I still don’t always understand them. But I do understand that these adjustments help make others more comfortable.

Please take in all the content for the #TakeTheMaskOff campaign that you possibly can over the next six weeks.  Maybe it can help you learn more about autistic people, why they are the way they are, and be able to communicate with them a little more on their level. After all, this world is about compromise. A little push. A little pull. We are ALL better off when we meet in the middle.

The Honking…or “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”

Alright, so my wife shared the following story on Facebook this morning…

I really needed to be at the bank first thing this morning since they were closed yesterday. It didn’t go as planned.

I grab the baby, still in his PJ’s and go to put him in his car seat. I shut the car door and the horn blares and is stuck. I look down, no, I am not holding the panic button on my keys. It’s still honking! I press on the steering wheel. IT’S STILL GOING! I start and stop the engine. STILL HONKING!!! Oh no! My neighbor works overnights and got home not too long ago.. IT. WONT. STOP!! The workers across the street are staring.. STOP THE MADNESS!!! I bang on the steering wheel and it finally stops. What was that?!!?

I back out and it starts again. There’s something loose in the steering wheel for sure. I just keep driving. I am now driving down a residential area of town sounding perfectly insane, surely disturbing everyone. I finally get it to stop by pressing on a certain place with one finger. I drive all the way to the bank with my finger pressed on this spot. I can’t help but laugh out loud. I can only imagine how ridiculous I look..

At the bank, I let go. It doesn’t honk. Dare I breathe? I am about to name this car Christine or Pandora. While waiting in the drive-through at the bank I find in the manual which fuse leads to the horn. I need an oil change anyway, so I’ll just go and have them pull the fuse. Long story short, I have new oil but they didn’t know what the heck to do to find a fuse.

I decided to drive out of town so if it goes off again it wont disturb anyone. I find the fuse (easy!!) and I cant get it out with my fingers so I will stick a pair of needle nose pliers in the car and we will see what happens.. Stay tuned..

So, how was your morning?

So, for those who may have been staying tuned, those who didn’t get the first part of the story in the first place but should have, and for those who didn’t know at all…you’re now all caught up.

In our household, the evening routine on a normal night normally goes as follows: Jay goes to bed anywhere from 7:30-9:30. Tara will go to bed anywhere from 8:30-10:30. After that is my quiet time to write, read, or catch up on the DVR. So tonight, I’m catching up on the DVR, and I hear this car horn sound that at first thought could be in the universe of my show I’m watching. 20-30 seconds passes, and I revise my thoughts. Pausing the show, I still hear the horn. Another 20-30 seconds pass before my wife’s Facebook post from this morning occurs to me.

I go wake up Tara. She had just gotten¬†to sleep a little bit before this. And yes, this was midnight. Tara finds her keys as I put my shoes on. Has Jay waken up? No. I run out to touch the horn to make it stop. I only hear one front door shut, and that is of my neighboring county sheriff deputy neighbor’s house. No one had come out on the porch or in the yard.

So I suggest to Tara that we go ahead and pull that fuse. I find a light and she finds the needle nose pliers. As we are walking back outside, I remark about how it didn’t seem to wake anyone up. Then my next thought was “watch, they called the cops”. Tara thought the responding officer would get a laugh out of the situation if that did happen.

Now my wife is back asleep (or getting there), my son never woke up, and I’m writing this before going back to my show.

I wonder what would have happened with that horn if I had gone to bed early…