Giving My 19 Cents Worth
Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions about dealing with hecklers. Jim and I always have our iPhones with us when we're out walking and I will attempt to take some photos should we be heckled. Other thoughts (rather silly) are to get Charlie this t-shirt (which, I suspect, will just result in some [fill in impolite word] honking EVEN LOUDER). And then there's this silly shirt (only readable up close, obviously) and this one.
Maybe we have a pessimistic view of human nature over here, but we rather expect to hear non-nice stuff. The only way we wouldn't would be if we didn't go out with Charlie and, for us, that's not an option. Jim and I have both had out share of being the different ones out (skinny hyper guy, the one Asian kid), getting mocked at for how we sound ( the one experience like this that really makes me flinch is when I tried to speak Cantonese to two workers at a Customs point in southern China; ouch), getting yelled various colorful epithets in Jersey City because we didn't let some guy in, etc., etc.. Heck, even for saying such inflammatory phrases as 'vaccines don't cause autism.'
In any event, one can only spend so much time about the silly things silly people yell from their cars when your own child is up to his own silliness—his obsessive-compulsive silliness—in your own car.
Thursday Charlie asked for a ride in the late afternoon. I told Jim (just back from what would turn out to be bike ride #1) that I would take him. Only, when I got in, Charlie kept pulling at the back of the driver's seat. He said 'gray' and 'pull' and something that rhymed with 'trunk,' and pulling more on the seat, tapping me on the shoulder, pointing to the dashboard. Jim had driven Charlie home from school and, as he's almost a foot taller than me, had pushed the seat back; to drive the car I had pulled the seat forward.
I reclined the seat back a bit and pushed the seat back just a bit. Charlie was not satisfied and kept saying 'gray' and 'pull' and the whole litany. Jim came out and he ended up driving the car on a little neighborhood tour. Charlie was edgy but stopped asking for any more seat movings-around.
Later, Jim and I talked it over and agreed, Charlie had started up yet another obsession with things—the driver's seat in the car—a certain way. Having observed such in Charlie again and again and having, slowly and sometimes not very successfully, dragged him out of his various ideas of how things should be, we agreed, here was another one to work through, though we weren't quite sure what to do.
Friday, Jim drove Charlie to school and then went to the library where he wrote an extremely lovely post about the each and every with Charlie. (Go read it, if you haven't yet!) (Among other things, it's about Jim playing golf for the first time in 5 years.) I'd told him that I'd pick up Charlie; Jim had asked if maybe he should, due to the seat thing. I said I wanted to address it—we work on helping Charlie deal with some of his obsessions and let others be, but there's no way I'm getting any taller.
Plus I only wear shoes with flat soles, thank you and since it's summer, it's all sandals for me.
Charlie had had a good day, as his aide noted when he came out from school. He buckled up his seat belt and, expecting that he'd want me to do something about the carseat, I hemmed and hawed a bit on the curb. He didn't say anything so I started driving, very slowly.
'Gray.' 'Pull.' 'Give Mom.' 'Mom.' '
Gray.' Of course, Charlie made these requests as I drove in the line of buses to leave the parking lot. I let the seat back just a bit. Charlie kept tapping and pointing and I uh-hmm'd and uh-hemm'd and then I decided to get back in the lines of vehicles to leave, and we did. For the next ten minutes, Charlie kept tugging at the chair back and pulling and calling 'gray' and such. We were on a windy residential street and I kept driving, really slowly; sorry man in black convertible behind us.
And that was all I did. In the past, I would have offered explanations to Charlie; would have tried to 'reason' with him. It's not that I don't think he understands why things can't be as he might want them. It's the language, the words, that seem to lead to things getting all mucked up; I suspect that certain words stand out to Charlie, but he has time catching a 'no' here or a time word ('later,' 'tomorrow') or verb tense ending here and there, and sometimes there's something like an explosion in his head from all the confusion.
So I let words go and just drove.
We got to the end of the winding street where there was some heavy-duty road work being done. There w
ere police cars with flashing lights and various construction vehicles; there were policemen and a lot of workers in hardhats. We kept driving and as we turned onto a main road, I could feel some sort of pressure evaporating from the back seat, like the air coming out of a balloon.
We made a stop for a soda and a sweet treat; it was cash only for purchases under $10 and I only had $3.00 in my wallet. I asked the clerk if I might go to the car where I knew there were some coins (we just needed 19 more cents) but if my son, who's autistic, might take the soda and cake into the car, and I'd come right back and pay. I didn't want to go into too many details, but it is very hard for Charlie to go out of a store without the purchase he was expecting and I still had the seat thing in mind.
The man waved his hand and said, 'don't worry about it, no problem.'
Yes, we need to make a return trip to that store in the relatively near future. I'll have the 19 cents ready and the driver's seat will be in its usual position.