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  • Linda Jones

Adult Aspie: When Things Break Down

It was cold and the next day I got into my car to go to the post office to ship the orders from my online business (my small craft business is my sole support). The car didn't start. The battery was dead. Totally dead.

For an NT (neurotypical) this is an inconvenience. It is a delay. They yell for help, start calling out to people, and it gets solved. So I hear, anyway. For me it is the end of the world (or it feels that way). I sat there in shock for too long, then saw my neighbor outside. Got out, asked if he could give me a jump. I have cables! I know how to use them! Can you simply start up your car for a moment? It won't cost you anything! I am harmless - I am a nice neighbor! I smiled, I tried to be charming, I was in panic with my teeth clenched. He agreed.

He tried to start his car and it would not start. HIS battery was also dead. :(

I thanked him for trying and we laughed oddly about this darn weather, and then I went inside, frozen stiff and melted down. A grown 60 year old woman sitting in frozen clothes and wet boots crying for a long time.

Finally I took my Not So outgoing mail out of the car and put the Post Office plastic tub back into my house, horrified that everything I had promised was going out today was NOT going out today now. I'm a liar. My customers will be angry. I have failed them.

I tried to start dinner, tried to get back into my "after the post office run routine" but I couldn't shake the black cloud that I felt. My car was broken. My car didn't work. I am stuck. I am stranded. I can't leave. I am 'dead in the water". If there is an emergency I can't do anything. My car is dead. This ran in a loop in my brain and kept me at full alert and full anxiety upset.

Call a friend? I don't have any. Ask a different neighbor? Don't know any. Call someone close enough? There isn't anyone. Everyone I know is at least an hour's drive away.

I have a place for car repair that I've gone to for 15 years and pretty much trust - they are only 6 blocks away and I formulated the plan to call them first thing in the morning and ask for help. How much will this cost? I probably won't have enough money. What if they cheat me? They could tell me any amount they want and I'm desperate and I'll have to pay it.

I didn't sleep that night. Brain on full alert, thoughts racing, panic mode, absolute upset.

When the sun came up I was up and dressed and the only issue for the day was Save The Car. I had other work to do, I need to make money, but this was the single focused emergency for the day. I worked myself up to Make The Call and finally called the Firestone car repair shop and they told me they can't come out and do "off site repairs" including jump starting my battery. They would have to tow it in to their shop and work on it, which is crazy and a LARGE fee for that. I thanked them and hung up, crushed. My Only Plan just Failed.

That phone call would have taken me a month to work up to normally. Phone calls are off limits and I dread them and avoid them always. This one HAD to be done. Just making that call left me in a puddle, wanting to curl up in a ball and just hide under a blanket and give up.

Thoughts of "Well what if I just don't have a car anymore? I can just do without it" start going through my mind. My logical brain starts yelling at my Autie brain and giving reasons why I have to have a car, and I am paying each month for this car, and I have a business, and there is NO ONE who will help me if I can't drive. Logical brain wins.

I'm stuck and there is no solution. This is unacceptable.

Next thoughts were "What if I lift the hood and attach the jumper cables and stand out there freezing and just hold the jumper cables up in a pitiful motion to every car that drives by on the street?" This sounded like a good plan, albeit it would be exactly like pan handling on the street. Out and out begging. Could I do it? I dressed warmly and started outside and realized "Nope" I could not.

Staring across the street at the funeral home there, I thought of the one time I went inside and talked with them (last summer, when my husband died) and they were nice. I wondered for a long time if they would possibly come out and help me. I've been up all night, haven't had breakfast, and now it's close to noon and I still have no plan. So I dialed their phone number and asked. They said SURE and someone would run out.

I stood by my car with the jumper cables and a man came out with a portable thing that jump starts cars. I said OH I need that. I need that now. He tried to use it on my battery but the positive cable clamp didn't fit and neither of us knew why and it was a problem and then he (cheerfully, I may add) ran and got his nice new model truck and brought it over. A couple of minutes later my car was running! I was at a loss then - I thanked him. I told him he was absolutely my hero on this day. Do I offer to pay him? Is it insulting to pay him? Should I pay him? Do I have any money? He gave me a half hug and said nice words and left. It nagged at me the entire rest of the day should I go take him money or doughnuts or say anything more about it? Is a thank you enough for a life saving event? Do I owe him something now, the day after? Should I let it go?

Now up and running, I drove immediately to the Firestone car repair shop. A nice young man named Marc came out right away. I haven't met him before, but I told him my issue and he offered for me to wait inside and I said I'd rather not, I'll stay here so we popped the hood. The best part of the day was Marc. He was awkward when we met, it was weirdly awkward until we got under the hood and then he warmed up and talked. AHA a fellow nerd. LOVE that.

He got his portable jump starter and his meter and I showed him the portable jump starter clamp doesn't fit this battery - and it's very weird and I've never seen this before. He said some models are like that now, the owner manual may show another way to jump it. I got out the manual and read and it did NOT say a thing about the weird battery formation. He was stumped but insisted they are different but they WILL have a work around so we both started hunting and looking and bingo - he found a small metal plate next to the battery terminal on the positive side and said "I bet this is it" and we hooked up the portable jump start to it and IT WORKED! We smiled and said YAY and felt accomplished. Having a fellow nerd with you and accomplishing a feat is the best thing in the whole world.

His testing of the battery and attempt to charge it showed that it had gone bad - it was not just a simple jump start. It would die again as soon as I shut it off. So he said a new battery is the only way. We discussed options, prices, and I was horrified to learn the mid range one that I should get was $170 including labor. He could do it immediately (that's the big up side). So here is a decision to be made. Do I trust him? Do I have enough information to make this decision? Is he honest? Do I really need a new battery? Am I being taken advantage of? Do I have enough money? (no)

But I do have a Firestone credit card. It gives me six months of deferred interest. I only learned this in the past couple of years and I only got this card a couple of years ago. All of these "interest" and money management things have been a mystery to me most of my life. So as I approached 60 I finally started to learn about some of them. This card goes up to 28% interest if I don't pay off the balance within 6 months. 28% interest is VERY VERY high and makes the balance multiply SO FAST and to an amount that is difficult or impossible to pay off. NEVER get a credit card with 28% interest. It is a trap.

So I can put this battery on my credit card, pay $34 per month for 5 months and there will be no interest fee. I did that math and said okay, that would work. I asked many questions, and Marc seemed happy to discuss everything I asked - which showed me I was in his hyperfocus wheelhouse and he was comfortable talking. He told me all about the levels of batteries, the amount of the charge they hold, the warranty on this one he is recommending, why he is not recommending the cheapest battery for me (and it had nothing to do with a sales commission) - and finally I said "Okay what do I do here, Marc? What is my best option that keeps me safest the longest and will be the smartest move?" He immediately said the mid range Interstate brand with the 5 year warranty. The $170 with labor install, and can be done in a few minutes.

I agreed, I waited 10 minutes and he had it in and I was done and ready to be back on the road. I thanked him. I told him I regularly post to Facebook giving this shop kudos (I always have after every time I visit and the manager has always thanked me for that and said he gets benefit from that from his boss) and I appreciate his knowledge and kindness and felt like I was in good hands here. When I got home I posted a glowing review for him on the corporate Facebook page and the local shop Facebook page. Because I have an online business I know that when people are happy they don't usually post anything about your service. When they are NOT happy, that is when they yell and yell and post all over social media leaving negative feedback about you. That's why all feedback should not be taken as the entire picture of any business. Most happy customers never say a word after the transaction. I always say good things when there are good things to say. It does help the employees and the business.

When I got home, mid afternoon now, no sleep, haven't eaten, I sat down and cried. Just cried and cried. It was "it's over" crying. It was a release, it was relief. It was the feeling of a "near miss" like a near death experience. It was the inexplicable feeling of gratitude that 2 kind humans helped me today, that I was safe, that I was in my home again, that my home was warm, and my little dog was here telling me it's all okay now. Finally I got up and made breakfast at 2 pm and tried to get back onto my routine.

Today is the day "after" and I overslept. Never even heard my alarm go off. Up late, breakfast late, I have the lingering feeling that I have been through some huge event and I need to rest and recover from it. But it was only a battery replaced in my car. My logical brain says "This was not life or death" "This was not earth shattering" I feel weak when I'm in this "hangover" place. I don't like it at all. "You didn't even go through much - you shouldn't feel this way"

Should or shouldn't, I do. I feel like I'm owed the day off to curl up on the couch and sip tea and watch tv and hide from the world. That's ALL I feel that I can handle today. The phone rang earlier and I didn't even reach for it. NO people. NO problems. NO communication today - no. I can't do it. (But I'm an adult - I have to. I don't have the luxury of a full day off to recover)

When I used to work for other people and held a job these kind of days were impossible. I had to call off and I had to fabricate an excuse why because the truth would never be understood. Why can't you come into work today? "Because I am having a Day After exhaustion hangover meltdown and I have to recover" or "Because I was so drained that I slept right through the alarm and woke up horrified to realize I was already 2 hours late" No one understands that. No one finds those things to be acceptable when you're an employee. So after the "event" the hangover adds more anxiety to life if you have to lie to a boss, get scolded or threatened for coming in later or taking the day off. This makes the "event" continue with more negativity, exhaustion and anxiety.

This is one incident in my life.

The real problem is when incidents are not spaced out and do not allow time for the meltdowns, the recovery. When there is more than one problem or incident, they slam back to back or on top of one another and all hell breaks loose. This alone was nearly too much to deal with. When there are more things, it is complete overwhelm. At that time I have gone into what I call 'gridlock' mode when too much is coming at me at once so my brain does a survival mechanism thing and just shuts down. At that time I can't speak, my mouth does not work. It opens and closes and no sound comes out. I think speech is a luxury and during gridlock the brain says "All hands on deck - pull in all power and focus it on the brain - get rid of all extra functions like speech"

When I looked over this event I see the differences between a NT event and an Aspie event.

NT - has others in the house, lots of friends, neighbors, can easily ask someone for help. Does not have an issue talking to people, can reach out without having an energy drain or traumatic encounter.

AS - no one in the house (or only my son, who has no car and is no help at all during these times), normally a hermit, has no established relationship with neighbors, no friends, no one to ask for help. Has anxiety issues that prevent connecting to ask for help (talking to others).

Even after making it to a repair shop, that's the beginning of more fear because they are known for overcharging gullible or clueless people. I admit to being gullible but when I have my owner's manual in my hand I am not clueless. That is one time when AS people can shine. I try not to hide in the waiting room and watch mindless tv and let them do whatever they want to my vehicle and charge whatever they like. I am usually under the hood also. When you have nice nerds it is a good experience. When you have people who are trying to cheat you, they will not want to tell you the details and they will not appreciate you being in on the work with them. This I have learned the hard way.

My new goal is to save and buy one of those jump start machines that you carry in your car. My back seat has emergency kits and a tow rope and jumper cables and snow removal items and extra water and emergency food bars and first aid kits and many other things. I always have to have ALL of the things myself - self sufficient. I know in an emergency there is only me so I have to have it all in my house, in my car, on my person, all of the time ready for anything. This is moving through life in a self sufficient bubble.

Three years ago I hit a deer on a country road and totaled my car. When the police arrived he said he'd never seen anyone before who put out cones and reflective signs down the road from the crash. I had those in my car with me. I've carried them for 20 years and that was the first time I needed to use them. But I had them. They were in one of my Emergency Kits.

I've been told many many many times throughout my life that it's exhausting just hearing a small bit of what goes on in my head. I just wrote several pages about something as 'simple' as my car battery dying. Welcome to my complicated world as an Aspie Adult.

I've seen the question "What classes or services do Adult Aspies need?" and I don't have an answer for that. My answer today is "this". This - what I just got through - this. We need to know what to do when things break. Because a break means the routine stops. It feels like the end of the world. Something won't work the way it should.

When there is an emergency, who and how to ask for help, how to interact, who needs payment and who does not need payment, how to manage credit, how to not be taken advantage of (both by repair people and by credit lenders). I guess we need all of that. To be this far along in life and just beginning to figure some of this out tells you that Aspie adults need to know this stuff earlier in life. WAY earlier.


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