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Autism: Vehicle Trouble

29 Jun

I woke up this morning to the sound of my husband calling into work. The van wouldn’t start, and he had been out there for about 20 minutes already trying to get it to go. He has had trouble with the starter for a few weeks now, but this is the longest it has taken so far to get it working. I say ‘he’ because when the vehicle is acting up, I won’t use it.

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Yet even when it was his issue to deal with, I could feel my heart start to race. When I was working, the van was mine to use. He took the car, which was standard… I can drive standard. He taught me before we were married, when he wanted to give me his car. But I don’t like it.

I get nervous driving to begin with. It more has to do with other drivers, and detours, than fear over my own driving – but when it comes to standard, it just makes everything worse. The biggest challenge for me in driving standard is stopping on hills. For the first vehicle my husband gave me, it would hold on hills. Still I was scared. People stop too close behind. It was like the feeling of when people stand too close, but so much worse. All of the standard vehicles we have had since, have rolled on hills before moving forward.

Oh, I know! Use the parking break… but then I have to think of having my foot on the clutch, my foot on the brake, my hand on the gear, and moving over to the gas, and removing the brake – all the while, watching what everyone else was doing (and still worrying about how close the person was behind me.) I could do it, but it was all too much for my anxious heart.

So I drove the van, and he drove the car, and as long as everything went according to plan, all was fine.

We always get used vehicles. Not just used, but old. I am okay with that – I am a very… thrifty person, and the thought of spending $30,000 on a new vehicle – or even $10,000 on a sort of new vehicle, is well beyond what my economical mind can agree to. We bought this van for $3500 8 years ago, and it has been good to us.

However, on a day like today, where the van wouldn’t start… while he sat trying to turn the engine for twenty minutes, my heart would have been racing at an increasing pace, and I would have been in tears by the time he called into work. And there would have been another struggle – the phone. I hate phones. I don’t think I can emphasize that enough.

Calling in to work to say I would be late – even if it wasn’t my fault… it would have been like failure to me, who was always at least 15 minutes early, and often 30. When I did get to work, I would have gone in shame, and it would have made it that much harder to go back each day.

If the vehicle then didn’t start, I would have had to call for help, or for a ride, or something. If my husband wasn’t there to help, I would have frozen up – and probably told work I couldn’t come in at all (though I never missed, even for sickness, except that week my back was out and I couldn’t even stand up no matter how hard I tried.)

It isn’t that I wouldn’t know what to do – but like driving a standard vehicle, it would have been too much for me. Too much.

So once again this morning, as I listened to my husband trying to start the van, I was thankful. Thankful that at this time in my life I rarely have to leave home – for out there, there are too many things I can’t predict, and I can’t control, and that is all too much for me.

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