Thursday, April 06, 2006

Losing It or Meltdown II

This past Sunday was a glorious spring day, and after doing some essential errands I headed back home to take Sweet M out for a walk.

She'd been spending too many days at home during the Spring Break from school last week . . . we'd only had two adventures -- one to see the Rauschenberg show at the Met before it closed and the other to see Ice Age II – The Meltdown the weekend it opened. As it turns out, not only did we see Ice Age II – The Meltdown, but we had our very own little meltdown times 2, Sweet M and her mom together.

Sweet M wanted to head out to Wendy's, but the one on Broadway is so vile, so filthy, that when confronted with the demand for Wendy's I try, at a minimum, to get her to head over to the cleaner one on Sixth Avenue.

No, she said. Can't go there. Changed that.

Changed what? What do you mean? I asked.

Joannie, Raven went, and they changed it. I'll show you, she said, with a surprising confidence.

So off we went to Wendy's. We walked the 6 or 7 blocks and there it was. An empty store front. No more Wendy's on Sixth Avenue. Another victim of the skyrocketing commercial rents in our neighborhood. Gone, along with the corner deli, the restaurant where we had our wedding party, the two neighborhood book stores, the art supply shop. All replaced with flagship stores from national and international brands.

Sweet M wasn't really phased by the closed Wendy's — she knew it was closed. But she was hungry, and now we were destinationless.

So we wandered around in the late afternoon looking for a place to sit down and have a bite to eat. The streets were crowded with tourists. The pizza place was too stinky for Sweet M's acutely sensitive nose. And Snack was too dark. And eventually we were giving up and Sweet M wanted to take a taxi. I could see that she was losing her cheerful disposition, as was I, but we soon spotted a cab coming down Barrow Street.

Just then a woman walked out of an apartment building hauling a suitcase behind her, and nabbed the cab. M started to lose it. Myyyyy cab. I want a cab. I want a cab.

I know you do. We'll get a cab, don't worry. That lady got that cab but there are other cabs.

I want that cab.

We'll get another cab. Look over there. I pointed to Seventh Avenue that was at standstill with Holland Tunnel traffic backed up all the way through the West Village. Look, I said, there are lots of cars. We'll find a cab.

We walked toward Seventh. When we got to the corner we had a red light and so couldn't hail the cab that was all the way across five lanes of traffic.

I wanna a cab she started to whine and wail as the cab moved away from us.

M, M, take a deep breath I said. Just take a deep breath. We'll get a cab. I promise.

As I turned to hail a cab in the middle lane I noticed a woman sitting in the passenger seat of a luxury sports car, window rolled down, staring at Sweet M and I with palpable contempt.

Don't stare. It doesn't help, I said.

She turned away, embarassed, I wrongly imagined.

But then she turned back and started staring at M and I with a look of such contempt that I do wish there had been someone standing next to me telling me to take a deep breath.

As we stepped out into the cross walk, nearly intersecting the car, I walked over to her car, and growled: My child has an autism spectrum disorder and your contemptuous staring doesn't help. If she were missing a limb you wouldn't look at her this way, so stop it, just stop it. Shame on you.

She said nothing, and continued in her contemptuous staring. We got into a cab that pulled in ahead of the car she was in.

At the moment when I approached her car I was so angry that I could imagine opening her car door, dragging her out and pummelling her. Fortunately, I didn't. That's the miracle of executive brain function, however minimally mine was working at that point. I'm thankful you're reading this instead of a headline for NY1 that says "Irate autism mom pulls sneering passenger from luxury coupe and pummels her." It could have happened.

So, this April — which is Autism Awareness month — I hope I have not done our cause a disservice by failing to be my usual gracious self. I am so tired of people who, knowing nothing about what Sweet M's life is like, feel completely comfortable standing in judgment of her and of me, and of our family. I am running out of patience.



Anonymous said...

*This* is the article I think you should link the phrase "Autism Awareness Month" to:

We don't need to pummel that bitch in the sports car. Instead, by uniting -- parents like you and me, and Dr. Gernsbacher, together with autistic self advocates -- and bringing more parents to our side through grassroots outreach, we will amass enough clout to *shame* her kind into retreat. Or render them as irrelevant, ultimately, as Lester Maddox and George Lincoln Rockwell.

-- Phil Schwarz
AS adult and father of an autistic son

Clara said...

Good for you. I hope that someday, I too will have the on-demand "executive function" to use my words as succinctly and effectively as you did, when my son does likewise in public.

That woman may have continued to stare, but you did her a service in sending her home with something to think about.

...IF she is capable of thinking on things other than the fancy little bubble she appears to live her life in...

kristina said...

So glad you are back!

Those are the moments I use my "ingratiating smile" for. Or sometimes I'll look at Charlie in his whatever moment and say, just a bit loudly, "Charlie, that person is staring at us, they even stopped the car, we gotta get moving." Etc..

I'm with Phil: She's irrelevant. The real sabre-toothed tigers are out there.

ballastexistenz said...

When people stared at me, I didn't notice, but I sure got told, and generally blamed for it later. ("Didn't you see how people were staring? Don't you know that's embarrassing to me?" etc.)

Wendy said...

I wanted to scream at people in my son's pediatricians office yesterday for staring at him when he wouldn't behave/listen.

Hey, how did Sweet M know that the Wendy's had closed?

MothersVox said...

Thanks for that link, Phil. That's a great article.

I've been thinking quite a bit about this meltdown, which was more mine than Sweet M's. In social and political theory there is an idea called "pre-political protest" -- the sorts of things that people do when they are oppressed but not politically organized.

Examples of unorganized rage, resistance, and refusal abound, but a simple one is the exploited worker who calls in sick when he or she isn't.

I would rather my moments of fury be channeled more effectively. I think they usually are. But lately I've just been so out of patience . . . I agree with Phil and Kristina that the important places to put pressure are not in one-on-one exchanges with sports car passengers.

And Wendy, I guess my narrative wasn't completely transparent . . . I think Sweet M knew about Wendy's being out of business because she went there on a playdate with her former babysitter and the babysitter's grandson (Joanie and Raven). I'll go back in and make that a little more clear. . .

Thanks everyone. It's good to be back writing. Things are getting very busy workwise and I'm not sure how I'm going to keep up blogging and my new work projects. TBD.

Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams

Oh, the rude people....and our own rage.

What you were subjected to was "drive-by parenting". Google it for some great (infuriating) examples.

A bit of topic hi-jack here, I apologize:

Have you considered attending BlogHer2006?

Day One Schedule

Day Two Schedule

Why should you attend? Meeting moms who are dealing with...well, this and that and maybe some other.

How the internet lets communities form in ways no one predicted.

Anonymous said...

Have you heard of "buzz off cards?" They are little cards that tell people who stare at you what autism is and promote tolerance towards them!

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