Honestly, I expect many people don’t like getting lost, even those not on the autism spectrum. However, I suspect that non-spectrum people do not find it quite as catastrophic! I love maps, or to be more precise street maps of wherever I am living. Until this move, I have always had one int he car, sometimes two. But…. when we moved at the end of last year to a new city, I figured that I would break with my map obsession and just make do with my TomTom whilst I built up my internal visual map of the area.
There are a couple of issues with this – I need to see a map in order to build my own copy of it and the TomTom just shows a section at a time or the whole thing with a lack of detail, plus the other issue is that although it is a grid based city, it has lots of streets that are ‘extra’ to the grid or that curve along their route….
I thought I was doing really well until yesterday when I had to take my car in for a service at 8am. I am most definitely not a morning person (and I mean that in an autism spectrum sense of it takes me a while to become at peace with the world in the mornings whilst I wake up and get organised and go through the morning routine of getting up and ready for work) and this meant an early morning awakening and leaving home by 7.30. I managed all that, and then 20 minutes into the journey started to panic that the TomTom was misdirecting me as I knew from my partial internal visual map I should be aiming for just north of the city and this was going way north. After about 5 minutes of panic I pulled over and checked the website for the service centre, which was indeed NOT in the direction I was going…. I knew how to fix it, all I had to do was be heading in the other direction (which meant getting across 3 lanes of traffic and then doing a u-turn) and joining the rush hour crawl back into the city. About this time my phone rang (I have it blue-toothed so you press a button on the steering wheel and talk and there is a mic in the roof and the sound comes out of the radio speakers). I had just tried to call the service centre to ask if it was ok if I was late, so I answered hoping it was them… it wasn’t, it was my partner. I proceeded to get more and more distressed about being late and being lost (although technically speaking I was not lost now as I knew where I was and where I needed to go). I did figure out what would help though – I asked her to phone the service centre for me to explain that I would be late and why.
After I had negotiated traffic turned off the road at traffic lights and then done a u turn and then rejoined the road in the right direction, the phone rang again. My partner informed me, the service station were fine with that, it was no problem and to drive slow because they didn’t want me to have an accident rushing. I am not sure I came across in the least bit grateful or appreciative as I suggested (loudly and with great distress) that that was highly unlikely as I was stuck in a traffic jam behind a bus….
I don’t think non-spectrum people have that rising sense of panic when they know or suspect that they are getting lost. Panic that is intense and anxiety provoking. It made me think about how little it takes to provoke such an intensity of reaction in those of us on the spectrum and how hard we work to ensure this doesn’t affect or bother anyone around us. I was composed and polite by the time I arrived at the service centre and no-one would have known just how upset I was.
On a lighter note – there is an ad on a billboard that I drive past regularly at the moment, which says “Buy this space before your competitor dies” and I keep imagining struggling business owners rushing to buy it so their competitor goes out of business…. very confusing…. only when I was stuck in traffic I saw that the last word wasn’t dies it was does! Nowhere near as much impact 🙂