By S. Scott Sanderson
Everywhere I go there is noise. From my pocket I pull out earplugs. Alone I want to sit and read. But here I am in the midst of people working, moving and busy. Like the eye in the center of a storm, I want to be calm and still. To my right, up high and loud a television blares out some banal talk show. No one is watching, but I know that if I try to turn it off, people will protest. It has become background noise for them, but for me it is intrusive.
I open my book. It is a true story, a non-fiction tale. The writing does not seem to be too heavy. It moves along at a nice pace. Yet the noises still protrude. Next to me, a woman with spreadsheets spread across her lap, tries to conduct business. Her cell phone is on speaker while she talks to someone back at the office.
If that was all then I would be able to endure. Soon a worker comes to talk to her. He tells her that her job should take about forty minutes. “Ok”, I think to myself, “I can last that long”, perhaps I will still be able to do some of the other errands that I planned to do today.
But that is not the only source of stimulation. The waiting room is not enclosed. The comings and goings of the shop are heard: new customers placing orders, older customers paying their bill or talking to the manager about the work order. Nothing in and of itself is overwhelming, just normal business. Added together, though, everything becomes noise and clamor. I feel like the Grinch in the Dr. Seuss story. I wish that everyone would just be quiet.
I try to read. Since this is not a novel, I do not need to become engrossed in every detail. Outside I hear the busy highway that lies just beyond the doors. Trucks and cars whizz by. I look up to see. My mind wanders.
I pick up the book again, determined to block out the noise and read. But a new show is on the television. It looks interesting. At least, it sounds interesting, for it is louder and, full of audience laughter. I look up. No one is actually watching it, except for me, and I do not want to watch it. Why do people leave the set on, I think?
My mind wanders. My focus is gone. In vain I try to read, but everywhere is stimulation. A lady talks on her phone. A man, waiting for work to be done, paces back and forth.
Eventually my name is called. I get up and go to the counter. The man tells me what work was done on my car and what work needed to be done. I nod. “I can read the work order myself, I do not need him telling me,” I think to myself.
I try to read it, before signing, for that is what you are supposed to do. But the man seems impatient. Black and white thinking does not work well in an auto repair shop. Sure, it says to read before signing, but does anyone really expect you to wait and read all the fine print. I give in and sign. It is one more perfunctory step before I can leave.
The work is now done. The car has been pulled around to the front. I am ready to leave. It really wasn’t that long, perhaps an hour, but I am tired. I feel like going home. There were other tasks that I wanted to get done, but, I do not see how I can do them now. I am over stimulated and need a break.
I get in my car and drive off. The radio is silent. I do not speak. Except for the sound of the car and the sound of other cars, I am alone in my little world. This is nice, but it is only an interlude. Real rest will occur once I return home. There I can go into my happy place and forget.
Everywhere there is noise. Everywhere there is clamor. I get over stimulated easy. I feel old and weak, as if I am unable to remain in the world for long, before retreating into my space. So it is with car repairs, so it is with life for someone on the spectrum.
I am Autistic, I have Asperger’s. Having Asperger’s allows me to look at the world uniquely. While I am very educated with two master’s degrees, I have had a difficult time with employment. I often have had to struggle with anxiety and communication. Recently I have begun to incorporate autistic themes into my writing. I especially like writing about my feelings and perceptions. It is after all, who I am.
Above image: Kevin Hosseini “New Delhi”
Other blog by S. Scott Sanderson Sometimes I Stare