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Autism: Surviving Tourist Season

19 Aug

Summer is tourist season in my town. That means traffic, crowds, noise, and all of the things that set my heart racing whenever I have to leave my house.

I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “If there’s a tourist season, can we shoot the tourists?” I laughed.

Tourism is important to this town. It is what brings in a lot of the money for the year. I understand this. I do. I even worked in the tourism industry until a couple of months ago, and know I wouldn’t have had that job but for the summer season.

Still, if I could hide out in my house – or better yet leave town for two to three months of the year, I would.

I live in a small town. I like it that way most of the time. True, there are days that I want to be anonymous – and I can’t go out without seeing someone that I know. There is no bus service in my area, and nothing worth mentioning in the town. We are big enough that most of what we need can be found here, but small enough that I can usually drive into town at some part of the day without feeling like I am having a heart attack from the panic.

Not in the summer, however. We probably triple in size, at the very least, for a couple of months a year. We are on the lake. Surrounded in mountains. Beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails close by. Nice beaches. Boating. Fishing. Hiking. Swimming. Houseboats. It is a beautiful place, and I can see why people want to come here.

Crowd on Sunday

I am scheduling this to be posted while I am away, but the weekend I am writing this is our music festival. The first year I worked here, I had no idea what it was. I lived on the other end of town from the fair grounds, and when the music was blasting at 10pm, I thought it was my neighbours, it was so loud.

I thought about calling the police. Of course I wouldn’t – you know, phones, and talking to people, and having people angry with me… but I thought of it. I had to work in the morning (running my daycare) and couldn’t afford to be tired. I thought they were being very inconsiderate. Then I found out it was the music festival, and couldn’t believe how loud they were.

So it is the music festival this weekend. The biggest weekend of the year for tourists, and so important to our town. But loud, and busy, and way too overwhelming for me.

But I forgot what weekend it was, and went downtown. I had errands to run, and food to buy before our trip to the lake – both for my son, who stays home with the cats (he doesn’t like camping) and for myself for the trip.

The traffic along the highway was horrible. The parking was tight, and there were people everywhere. Where I live, drivers stop for pedestrians at crosswalks – I like that (though it scared me at first, as I come from a big city where that is unheard of), but it also means that it was hard to move at every stop sign in town. In the stores, there were people all around my. It made my skin crawl, and my head hurt. I am so overwhelmed by crowds. The whole time I was out, and for a while after I got home, I was shaking and panicky.

Crowds don’t make me melt down the same way that food does, but they do make me shaky, panicky, unable to think, and feel all over claustrophobic (though I like small spaces.)

All in all, I am glad we are getting out of town for a while – and will be so thankful when September comes.

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