Fare is fair… except when it’s not

Today I went to Publix to buy milk. I took the Red Line trolley to the end of the line. I got lunch at the Subway next to the store, bought my low-fat milk and waited 10 minutes for the trolley back to my apartment.

“STOP,” the driver barked opening the door, but refusing to let me on. “Why you always pay just quarter? I ask(ed) you a question. Why do YOU pay a quarter? That rate is for people who WORK along route. You no work. You have no work, do you? You ‘work’ here? Fine, show me an ID from your job?”

Wait, what? I thought it was a “resident” rate, but I could be misinformed.

“Huh,” he taunted before I could answer him. “Ha, you don’t have one. You are not ‘special,’ unless you are a senior or in a wheelchair – which are neither – you pay this much,” taps signs on farebox.

Right, because only people in wheelchairs are “disabled?” Gotcha.

“You see that,” he said condescendingly. “Do you? THAT is how much you pay. I am not a fool. I have job, and I am doing it. Now, you pay $2, or you do not get on. Period.”

I remember my Nextbus app saying “6 minutes” and then “39 minutes.” It probably wouldn’t have been THAT long as I was at the second stop on the route… but I didn’t feel like chancing it, so I pulled out 2 $1 bills (out of the $5 that were in my wallet) so the hero driver wins the day.

But victory wasn’t enough for him. He has to lecture me about how I can’t be mad at him for “doing (his) job” when I don’t have one of my own (because I was holding a SHOPPING bag, and “shopping is no working”). Finally, I just tune out his prattle and pretend this is all his being a jerk… and realizing I could get a “disability card” for Autism in Florida with a valid assessment (which I don’t have at the moment) and a consultation with an affiliated psychologist.

Three stops later, the driver stops for a young black man in a grey T-shirt with “DKNY” written on it with baggy white sweatpants. He drops a quarter in the farebox and heads to a seat across from me without a word from the driver.

See, I thought with a passing smile, I am “special” after all…

Categories: adventures, Autism, florida, I-Ride Trolley, Orlando, transportation | 1 Comment

An evening adventure

There were two things I was unaware of when I left the hotel to fin dinner at 6pm: The first was that there was a TB Lightning game at 7pm so in addition to being a Saturday, downtown restaurants were filled with hockey fans (of both teams) looking for a pre-game meal. The second is that was a HUGE event being held in the park across the street from the arena, so I couldn’t use the Riverwalk to bypass the increased pedestrian traffic caused by people trying to get food or into the arena for the game.

I did know that it was a Saturday, and thus my chances of getting into ANYTHING that late without a reservation would be darn near impossible. However, I also knew I was hungry and eating at the hotel restaurant was also not an option (see previous post), but there was a third saving grace to this evening – FREE streetcar service on the TECO line (a line I have ample opinions about).

Still with me? Good, because all the “exposition stuff” is out of the way, I can say I walked all the way from the Embassy Suites to past The Florida Aquarium without finding a decent eatery without a horrendous wait so I got on the streetcar and took it to what I thought was Ybor City… it wasn’t.

“Centro Ybor” is the THIRD stop on the northeastern leg of the route – I mistakenly got off at the first, which is slightly further than their maps make it look. Of course, all the sports bars were filled because they were hosting “watch parties” for the game so my choices were Jimmy John’s, 7-11… or a slightly hidden pizza place behind the main mall with maybe four or five other customers in it.

Touchdo… I mean “goal” – particularly since their NY-style pizza came to $3.50 meaning I get two quarters back for Sunday’s non-free streetcar service (and/or Lynx service later that night). When I returned to the Ybor City station, it was already 7pm. The game had started so the trolley system was considerably quieter so, as not to waste a free night, I got off at Channelside where the tailgating or whatever was going in that parking across from the arena was still going on, now they were listing donors, sponsors and “team captains” (that’s how I figured out it wasn’t a Lightning event, they could pronounce the names on their index cards). The reason I got off there was to get ice cream which didn’t disappoint, but I got back to the streetcar station exactly as it was pulling out.

Screw this, it’s only a two block walk back to the hotel.

It was three, and it felt like every foot of it with the surprisingly cool Gulf winds. Also, it was super bright or pitch black depending on where the arena was to me. The brighter areas had people either arriving late (more than I would expect considering they were already a half-hour into the game at this point) or looking for tickets (I actually thought the large guy standing outside the doors was asking to see my nonexistent tickets for security reasons) while the dark side (the backside of the garage) had scalpers, panhandlers and other shady looking characters.

The point is, I made it back unharmed… exactly as the next streetcar pulled into Dick Greco station. Because, of course, it did…

Categories: adventures, Channelside\Downtown, florida, Tampa | Leave a comment

Photos: Ybor City School

Categories: adventures, Channelside\Downtown, florida, Tampa | 1 Comment

Trolley songs

I’m not sure whose idea it was, but for some ridiculous reason (likely financial), the Tampa Electric Company Streetcars only offer afternoon and evening service on weekdays/Sundays. If they want to appeal to “commuters” (which is already laughable given it’s only 2.7 miles long and barely serves the downtown core), they NEED morning service. Let’s not forget visitors (like me); sure, the TECO serves mainly hotels/tourist attractions, but we need to get around too.

For instance, I came to Tampa to participate in the Florida Public Archaeology Lab in Ybor City (the city’s historically Cuban district, and last stop on the streetcar line) at 10am. So, I dutifully got up at 8am, showered, got dressed, had a quick breakfast and was out the lobby door by 9:30am. I specifically chose this hotel because the lobby opened directly onto Dick Greco Plaza (the penultimate stop on the extremely short system).

I waited along with a half-dozen other people most of whom stood around for 10 minutes, got impatient and left – and after 25 minutes (after it became apparent that there was no way I was getting to Ybor City for 10am), I was reluctantly forced to find alternate transportation.

Though none of the five cab drivers lined up outside the hotel was all that keen on taking me on such a short trip, I get one to grudgingly admit that, yes, he “knew where Ybor City was.” It didn’t make him happy about it, but he did agree to take me there (thankfully, I could take the trolley back if need be).

I won’t bore you with the historical information they never gave me, but it was the site of one of the city’s first public schools which was apparently torn down in 1905 and eventually rebuilt as a distillery (which is currently used as a commercial property of some sort). They didn’t really give me a lot of details.

My job was to clean and bag increasingly smaller pieces of window glass, broken bottles and rusted nails. Exciting, I know, but one of the girls next to me (did I mention only six people showed up to this event – SIX) found an old Pepsi bottle (with writing on it), a penny from 1934 (plus another from 1973), a button and some old slate fragments (likely from the school roof).

We got a slight break around 11am as three different sets of 3rd graders ran through the small museum and quickly found where we were working so one of the organizers gave a spiel about how “the museum and the garden we’re standing in were once townhouses for Cuban immigrants who worked in the nearby cigar factories.” She made no mention of archaeology or what we were doing (processing artifacts), but she did explain the site history to a reporter from the Tampa Bay Times who dutifully took our names, ages and hometowns as well as snapping several photos before leaving as quickly as he arrived (once the story is posted to their website, I’ll provide a link to it below).

Shortly after the reporter and third wave of students came through, my table reached the bottom of our bag (the group behind us finished a few minutes earlier), so our facilitator pulled out two bags of larger artifacts and had us wash/clean them.

This second bag took all of 10 – maybe 15 – minutes to get through at which point, she asked us to return our siphons (which we used to keep our artifacts in), brushes and wash out our washing pans. At which point, it was only 11:35am – a full 25 minutes before streetcar service began for the day…

Categories: adventures, Advocacy\volunteer, Channelside\Downtown, florida, Tampa, Ybor Ciy | Leave a comment

“Buddy, ya mad psyc elf”

Did that headline make sense to you?

Good, that makes TWO of us. I was thinking of that annoying Will Ferrell movie, but, sadly, it had nothing to do with that abomination.

I was going out to buy milk from the 7-11 catty-corner from my apartment. That was my only intention for this humid fall night – nefarious or otherwise… and, yes, I’ll get to that later in this essay, but first some context…

It was 7:45pm, and, due to the quaint anachronism known as “Daylight Saving Time,” it was practically pitch black out there save for oncoming traffic (which are extra dangerous for me due to my having a 1.5 second processing delay – which can be absolutely deadly as a pedestrian), a couple of flickering/sparsely placed streetlights and the signs on top of the two hotels – plus the aforementioned convenience on the other side of the extremely busy intersection.

That is stressful enough for me under normal conditions (but is far better than being out in the day’s heat), but did I mention that I also had to deal with the deafening noise of a rapidly approaching fire truck with horns blaring and sirens at FULL VOLUME.

I get it – it’s an actual emergency, but it doesn’t have to stop an inch behind me blaring said horns directly into my ears while I’m in the middle of a busy intersection with the pedestrian signal up (it was also the very thing I was trying to avoid so, congrats, mission accomplished).

This caused me to jump 3 feet in the air and freeze temporarily while their sirens were still going and now they were shouting “MOVE YOUR (horn)ING ASS (double horn), YOU (horn)ING RETARDED ASS(horn)!!!”

“Shit. God damnit, that hurts,” I said holding my ears in pain as I tried to continue crossing the street while the fire truck nearly clipped me as it shot off behind me.

“Buddy, up ya mad psycic elf,” this guy in a black and grey hoodie said passing me from behind, I could barely hear over the ringing in my ears.

“HEY, BUDDY,” he said repeating it for me impatiently. “I SAID ‘YOU’RE OFF YOUR MEDS AGAIN, YOU FUCKING PSYCHOPATH!!!’”

That is both helpful and not helpful at the same time – especially since I once again only caught half of it.

“God damnit,” I said stepping onto the sidewalk, “that horn was loud and an inch away from my ear. What the hell is wrong with them? Fu…ow. Seriously.”


That I sort of understood, but as I tried to work it through in my head, I didn’t realize I was repeating everything I was saying out loud.


“MASS SHOOTER?!! WHERE,” I shouted looking around frantically for a place to hide. Of course, there wasn’t so much as a bush in a 100-foot radius, so I looked like a madman to 100s of oncoming cars.

YOU ARE,” he said flipping me off as he finally disappearing somewhere into the darkness.  “YOU GOD-DAMNED RETARDED LUNATIC!”

Sure, he was gone… but what if he came back later in my trip? I wondered as I continued to walk towards my destination, my body still shaking as I entered the convenience store, but, hey, at least, my hearing was starting to come back…

Categories: adventures, Advocacy\volunteer, Autism, florida, Orlando, sensory processing disorder, Williamsburg | Leave a comment

Photos: Somewhere on 95

Categories: adventures, hurricanes, photography, transportation, weather | Leave a comment

Why I hate getting my haircut

Just got a haircut, after waiting for over a half-hour in the half-full waiting room I was finally called back to the chair. I told the barber that I wanted “scissor cut” (because I hate the noise/vibration against my head), and he replies: “Right, okay, like a 4 or 5? Okay, I see, gotcha.”

“No longer like-”

“You mean like a 6 or 7? Okay. Okay, I see. Gotcha,” he pulls out his clippers and starts giving me a 5 anyway.

When I tell him I wanted a scissors cut, he says “you did not. Your said ‘give me a 5 with clippers.’ Yes, you did, and that is what I am giving you.”

“No, YOU asked about a ‘4 or 5.”

“I told you that was too short and you recommend ed a ‘6 or 7.’ Why would I tell you to give me a clipper cut when I know I hate when barbers do those things?”

“Because you did,” he shrugged, “maybe if you told me in Spanish…

“What, you don’t speak Spanish? Pfft,” he said putting his clippers down and picking up a large, shoddy looking pair of scissors. “How do you understand what the people in the next chair are saying if you ‘don’t speak Spanish.’ I mean come on, this is Florida, EVERYONE speaks Spanish.”

He then proceeds to spend the next ten minutes manhandling my head with his giant hands (good thing I’m sensitive to touch too). I REALLY wanted to rip my apron off dramatically and walk out (wouldn’t be the first time), but I didn’t because “!el Stupido” or something – especially since I knew without even looking that it was already too short.

He then pulls out the razor for my ears and neck which is even worse from a noise/vibration stand point and doesn’t seem remotely phased by how clearly uncomfortable it is for me (as I had a stylist in Baltimore nearly cut my ear off doing that). He then puts it down, shows my hair and it looks like a damned buzzcut – and a sloppy one at that.

“See, what did I tell you? I gave you a great haircut. Huh, huh, huh,” he said elbowing me annoyingly. “Ya look great.”

Um, no.

On the plus side, he charged me full price for it (couldn’t understand how I couldn’t be happy with such an “awesome” cut), and I gave him a $2 tip simply because I already had too many 1s on me to get change from him. Very frustrating and disappointing, and it happens nearly every time I get a haircut.

Probably the reason I avoid them at all costs, just like my dentist…

Categories: adventures, Autism, florida, Orlando | Leave a comment

Not-so-happy returns

(Sorry, I really don’t feel like doing a write up now. Hopefully, these notes will do)


10:15am – leave house

12:07pm – arrive in Harrisburg

12:35pm – locate the Sheet z across from the airport. Sandwiches is awful, fountain drink is okay… okay, the 2nd one was (as I dumped the first one out).

12:48pm – arrive at MDT, agent for American Airlines cannot find my tickets tells me it is MY responsibility to call Travel agent or booking site to find it.

12:59 pm – shouting my name and phone number into the phone just to get: “Sir, I can not hear you. I am hanging up.” *click*

1:07pm – try to call Expedia. Get nowhere. Go inside. “Try the other airlines.”

1:28pm – none of the other airlines can find my flight on AA either.

1:35pm – I have no choice. I MUST get a new ticket for an extra $100 plus taxes and fees. It is too late because the flight I was trying to get onto is already making its “final boarding call.”

1:48pm – have tickets in hand, go through security to have power happy TSA agent rip my bag open and lecture me about the toiletries in my clear mesh bag. She then informs me that if I continue “arguing with a federal agent” (apparently we are seeing two different things here) the officers surrounding me would “be more than happy to discuss it with you in our holding cell.”

1:54pm – Get to the other side of the “hey, that’s my fat, ugly, hairy stomach hanging out when I lift my arms, this isn’t awkward or embarrassing at all” machine and one of the intimidation agents from a few moments ago stops me and asks if there is “any medical condition that would impede me doing a full pat down of your persons?”

“Actually, yes, it’s called Autism Spectrum disorder and it means I have severe, um, dislike of strang…,” and of course he does it anyway. Thanks for making me to talk to myself.  It almost distracted me from the patdown. No, it didn’t.
“You can go now. Have a nice day.”

2:15pm – board flight as usual. It is probably the smallest plane I have ever been on. I can literally barely fit down the aisle, but my bag fit in the overhead… once I was able to figure out how to get it up there without hitting the passengers in the surrounding seats.

2:22pm – take off.

3pm – arrive at PHL for my 2hr, 15 minutes layover.

4:15pm – get early dinner at airport. Chicken was all right, but fries were cold.

4:23pm – return to terminal. Flight boards in an hour and twenty minutes.

4:47pm – Passengers from plane I’m going out on are disembarking.

5:11pm – “Once again, this is a completely full flight. ALL passengers in groups 7 or higher MUST check their carry on baggage.”

5:13 PM – cool. I’m in… group 8. Yah.

5:27 pm – boarding begins. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere for the next 10-15 minutes.

5:47pm – finally board – it is another 10 minutes before we finished boarding and pushed back from the terminal. Just to find out we are “number 20 for take-off…”

6:44pm – Airborne. Things are starting to look up…

Categories: adventures, Autism, flying, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, transportation, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Some Shamokin memes

Categories: adventures, cartoons\memes, coal region, entertainment, humor, Pennsylvania | Leave a comment

Autism with a second side of… something

I was having a rather dull dinner with my mom and her friends in a restaurant I’d never been to before. As we sit down, my mom points out that they have “mozzarella sticks” here (because I apparently can’t read menus on my own) and how terrible the ones we had the night before were.

As I’m looking over the underwhelming menu, a harried waitress comes up from one side of the table and a woman I’d never seen before comes up the other: “Oh, hi, Liz.” “Linda, hi, wonder seeing you here, how are…”

JONATHAN,” my mom’s friend Barb shouted to get my attention and successfully scaring the living crap out of me. “YOUR turn to order!”

“JONATHAN,” my mom snapped at me for dropping my phone on the table. “That is completely unnecessary! Just tell her what you want to drink and be done with it.”

So, now, I’ve got my mom, her friends, the waitress and half the restaurant staring at me. No pressure.

“We’s got Coke, Diet Coke, Ginga-hale…”

“Water,” I replied only hearing the first three.

“All this shit,” my mom said exasperatedly, “and you’re ordering WATER? Jesus-fucking-God. Anyway, Linda, did you hear about…”

“What ’bout you, ma’am?”

“Um, water with lemon… Wait, Jonathan, you said wanted the mozzarella sticks.”

“Um, no, you asked me about them.”

“So, he wan’s the mozza sticks,” the waitress asked from three tables away.


“JONATHAN, do you want the mozzarella sticks or not?”


“Yes, he does. Thank you.”

Wait, WHAT? I literally just said “no” three times.

“Okay, I’ll put d’em in with ya order.”

A few minutes later, she returns with Barb’s soda, my water and my mom’s water with lemon, and immediately proceeds to take our orders. It’s now, 45 seconds before I’m expected to make my order, that Barb points out that there is a “special board” behind me that I missed before I sat down. Mom is still talking to that lady so, congratulations, it’s bumped up to about 35 seconds.

“Honey dipt [sic] chicken with fries”

“Fries, coleslaw, side salad, apple sauce, corn, lima beans…”

“I said ‘fries.’”

“I know d’at, but ya need a SECOND side.”

“Why? I don’t need a ‘second side.’”

“Ya meal comes wit a second side.”

“And I’m telling you, I don’t want a ‘second side.’”

Why is this so hard to understand?

“So, ya want TWO plates of fries?”

“No, I want one plate of fries. I’m telling you I don’t wa-”

“Give him apple sauce and be done with it.”

“And you ma’am?”

“Um, yeah… I’ll have… um, I’ll have… whatever he’s having, but with lima beans instead of apple sauce.”

Then Barb starts on some meandering story about a feud she was having with one of her neighbors who had allegedly called cops the on her “out of spite – TWICE.” The kind of story that was extremely hard to follow unless you knew what was going on (who they were, what happened and how did it escalate so far). She gets about 2/3 of the way through her story when the waitress unceremoniously plops a plate of bland looking mozzarella sticks in front of me.

“Here ya go, buddy. Enjoy.”

What the fuck is this? When I order it? What am I supposed to do with them, and, more importantly, who the fuck is “buddy?”

“Jonathan,” my mom asked. “What the hell is wrong with you? Why aren’t you eating the mozzarella sticks you ordered?”

“I didn’t order them.”

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t. I didn’t want them, and I still don’t.”

“Then why the hell did you order them?”

“I DIDN’T. YOU did because YOU wanted to know if they were ‘any better than the ones we had last night.’”

“Oh, for God’s sake, just eat the damned things.”

So, basically, I’m now forced to eat bland mozzarella sticks I don’t want and didn’t order because I did order them and do want to eat them solely to satiate my mother’s mild curiosity. Neuro-typical logic at it’s finest, folks.

After a long tangent about how much money she’s make “inventing a phone [cord] that don’t get all tangled like the ones we got at work” (man, she’ll be disappointed to find out cordless phones have been around since at least 2001 – if not earlier), she finally gets back to repeating the second half of her story for us. I still have no idea what’s going on other than this neighbor lady is (allegedly) “psycho” or something, and worse, nothing was going on on Facebook or Messenger and I had zero new e-mails.

An excruciatingly long time later, the waitress returns and once again plops our food down with the enthusiasm of an abnormally excited rock. Barb got the fish with corn. My mom got fried chicken with fries and lima beans, and I got fried chicken with fries…and a humongous bowl of apple sauce.

Once again, I have no clue who’s eating it, but, my god, that’s a LOT of apple sauce. Meanwhile, the lukewarm fries were undercooked, but the chicken was actually pretty good.

By the time we were ready to leave, it was already 7pm. Mom wanted to get some ice cream t Mauer’s a few blocks away on Market Street, but one of the ladies loitering on the porch of the building next door rather curtly informed me was “closed” (no details, just “closed”). In the car, I made the mistake of asking what Barb’s rambling neighbor story was about.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” my mom replied.

“What was Barb’s problem with her neighbor and the police coming to her house?”

“Who’s house? What neighbor? Who’s calling the police for what? I have no clue what you’re asking.”

“Augh, that’s what I just asked YOU. Essentially, you want me to know the answers to the questions I just asked you so you can repeat the answers back to me in which case I wouldn’t need to ask them to you in the first place”

“Jesus-fucking-Christ, Jonathan, what the fuck are you talking about? God, ‘houses,’ ‘neighbors,’ ‘police?’ I have no clue what the hell you’re even talking about?”

“What the hell was Barb talking about in her long rambling story about having her neighbor call the police on her twice in the past week?”

“Thank you, Jesus, THAT I understood. It wasn’t a ‘neighbor,’ she was renting a property she owned out as apartments, and the current tenant was three months behind in her rent so Barb was forced to evict her, but she refused to leave so…”

Bo ring. See? I knew asking was a mistake.

Now that I’ve “stressed [her] out,” she decides to go to Weis to pick up a gallon box of ice cream leaving me in the car as she shops. It’s not much, but it’s a break…

Categories: adventures, Autism, coal region, family, Pennsylvania, sensory processing disorder | Leave a comment

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