Advocacy\volunteer

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…

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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.”

“I SAID ‘SHUT UP, YOU ARE A FUCKING LUNATIC! GET IN THERE (pointing to the CVS on the corner), BUY YOUR MEDS AND GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY TOWN, YOU RETARDED ASSHOLE!!”

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!”

“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

Can’t you get it?

Do I really need to take that awful phrase apart? I will anyway, but first let me provide some context. This is a comment I made on the Facebook page “Joy of Autism” on a picture of a boy with the caption: “I asked him to do something. He said “no” so we celebrated.”

Was it inartful? Probably. Was it insensitive? Possibly. Did I prove I have absolutely no understanding of what Autism is (and by implication never will)? At least one commenter thought so asking:

Jonathan Twiggar, can’t you get it? He’s nonverbal, and he spoke.”

“Can’t you get it?”

There were 100s of enraged replies I could have posted, and, believe me, I considered all of them. Was see implying I was stupid or just that I wasn’t worth explaining things to? This is why I quickly learned to not ask questions in school – either my teacher, classmates or both would have that “why are you wasting our time with this shit? This is OBVIOUS to anyone with half a brain!”

Can’t you get it? Of course not, and you never will because you’re stupid/retarded/etc. so why should I bother explaining it to you if you’re never going to get it?

To be fair, not 100% understanding something relatively trivial that I didn’t know and had no way of knowing based on the scant information presented to me is a federal crime… at least on Facebook.

Heck, I guarantee my mom could see that same reply and react like “what’s the problem with this? Why do you think she’s ‘attack’ …wait, what did YOU say to… how dare you write something like that!” #supportive

Speaking of Facebook, I couldn’t post any of the replies I wanted, but I eventually collected myself enough to give a reasonably measured response (which to my amazement, no-one argued with). However, that doesn’t mean I know anything about Autism – least of all mine…

Categories: Advocacy\volunteer, Autism, entertainment, Internet\FB | Leave a comment

Awesome Autumn memes

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Norfolk: Day 4 – Portsmouth and other disappointments

It’s just after 10am, and I am standing on the dock outside the newly renovated Waterside Marketplace waiting for the ferry to cross the Elizabeth River to Portsmouth. The weather app on my phone says its 65 degrees and cloudy, but the chilly ocean wind makes it feel colder than that.

The small paddleboat arrived around 10 past the hour, it dropped off about a half dozen people and let the three of us who were waiting on dock onboard. The inside had a rusted floor with benches along the sides. Apparently, there were more benches in the center of the boat at one point, but they were removed, possibly to make room for the three beaten up fare boxes. The bench wasn’t all that comfortable, but it didn’t matter since it was only a 10 minute ride across the river to High Street landing.

Portsmouth is a charming, quiet town that kind of reminded me of a cross between Federal Hill and Fells Point. Unfortunately for me, I was visiting on a Thursday morning so nearly everything was closed: The Naval Shipbuilding Museum (for refurbishment until “early 2017”), The Lightship Portsmouth (open weekends only), Virginia Sports Museum (permanently closed) and a half dozen “historic homes” (also open weekends only).

That left the Arts & Culture Center (which was “between exhibitions”), the Virginia Children’s Museum, the TCC (Tidewater Community College) Gallery and the exteriors of various buildings. Oh, and I could purchase cheap looking, neon colored t-shirts at the visitor’s center which is coincidentally where I had to go anyway to get the ferry back to Norfolk – and it was only 12:30 (it would have been noon if I hadn’t stopped for lunch at Jimmy Johns on High Street).

I arrived back at downtown Norfolk around 1:25 where it was a balmy 69 degrees with partly cloudy skies, and I was nowhere near ready to pack it in for the day so I walked over to Nauticus (though most of the parks were closed off due to construction of the various tents for next week’s Harborfest). I walked up the ticket counter and the somewhat disinterested cashier sold me a normal base ticket for $15 (included a movie and a limited tour of the attached battleship). I couldn’t decide if I wanted a snack or to just upstairs to see the exhibits on the 3rd floor first so I chose the latter.

The museum itself is hard to quantify. It has some exhibits that are geared towards kids (like the entry on port Norfolk, the touch a shark tank or the small “aquarium” area – which makes the former National Aquarium in DC look HUGE by comparison), but the majority of the labyrinthine museum space is ship life, Naval history, Naval recruiting and the nearby Naval base – not many of which would be of interest to the 3-12 set.

The exhibits are small, superficial and dated with broken or worn out “interactives” and little to no flow between the tightly packed exhibits – which you can’t really skip as there is only ONE path through the exhibit area (as I found out when one of the barely crowded rooms was too noisy for my tastes). The only place in the gallery that wasn’t claustrophobically small was the end where the theater, the NOAA exhibit and the stairway to the actual Hampton Roads Naval Museum\walkway to the USS Wisconsin (which were both on the second level). Though I didn’t partake in either this time as I fell asleep in the 3d movie and took that as a cue to head back to the hotel… at 3pm in the afternoon.

Not yet, first I stopped into their gift shop (my favorite part of their museum), and then I went into their café next door… but they were closed so I looked around thinking I might be able to take some snacks back to the room with me. Then a black man in black shirt hauling a large trash can behind him comes up behind me:

“Ya know,” he said. “We got a full menu.”

“Yeah, thanks, but it’s closed. There’s no-one back there.”

“What was that? I said look up there. We got a full menu up there,” he said pointing up to the large black and white sign hanging from the ceiling that I’d have to be blind to miss (I couldn’t read it with my crappy vision, but I couldn’t miss it when I came in).

“And it doesn’t do me any good if it’s CLOSED because there is NO-ONE back there.”

“’No-one back there?’ I work the café. I’D be the one ringing you up. Now, if you want to order something. Order it.”

With that said, I immediately turned around and decided to get dinner in the hotel and then get a start on my packing. It’s going to be another long day of traveling tomorrow – and my toes aren’t even remotely healed yet…

Categories: adventures, Advocacy\volunteer, Autism, entertainment, ferry, museums, Norfolk, sensory processing disorder, transportation, Virginia | Leave a comment

Welcome new residents

Welcome, new resident(s). My name is Jonathan (yes, contrary to public belief, I am a man), and I’m the writer of this blog, and de facto mayor of the Uncanny Valley (mostly because no else wanted the job).

I don’t generally write this blog with the intention of other people reading it, but I’m glad you’re here because it means I’m not alone in this journey (though it often feels like it). I often post sad stories here, but I’m proud to say that don’t participate in the “outrage of the day” thing like other pages do (seriously, whenever an Autistic child\teen is beaten, raped or murdered, it’ll appear at least a dozen times on my FB “News Feed” so it’s not a huge loss on that front).

Speaking of FB, some of you found this blog through its corresponding FB page where I post funny, sarcastic and sometimes depressing memes there, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to post more positive images lately. I also post any photos of places\events that I don’t have enough “good” shots to create a full “gallery” around.

I’m not sorry for what I post here, and I stand by what I write. However, I hope you enjoy my entries about “Adulting” with Autism or as I like to call it: “Life in the Uncanny Valley.”

Categories: Advocacy\volunteer, announcements, Autism, job hunting, news, photography | 1 Comment

A broken blogger

Today is Good Friday… so why don’t I feel “good?” Yes, I’m having a far better day than Jesus did, but… that isn’t exactly comforting – especially since I get the “you can’t be sad, there are millions of people who would KILL to have your so-called ‘problems’” (I know, I wrote a post addressing that topic about 3-4 years ago).

What set me off today was a relatively innocuous post on “The Joy of Autism.”

Ignoring or pretending someone isn’t there is a form of BULLYING. ~ Joy of Autism

 

I actually hadn’t thought of it like that – for me, it was often a relief FROM bullying. However, it made me realize that I’ve experienced nearly every kind of bullying – and several forms of discrimination – over my life. Honestly, the only ones I don’t have are physical and sexu…aw, damnit.

Actually, two separate incidents come to mind – one when I was 12 and the other 15-16 – one likely more serious than the other (though neither actually amounted to much in the long run and both parties have likely long forgotten all about their respective incidents – just as I thought I had).

I don’t know how to describe the first incident. I was away from home for the first time at what my parents called a “summer camp for kids with ADHD” (more like a 6 week “my first program” with sneering counselors, therapy games and roommates who clearly resented sharing space with a “retard”). As I said, I was 12, and they had these things called “showers” (a concept I was wholly unfamiliar with at the time as I only knew baths) …so some adjustment was needed. Anyway, I was trying to clean the foreskin (it was a reddish grey color, which I assumed was just dirt) when suddenly my penis started pulsing wildly and exploded all over the shower wall and pretty much shocking the Hell out of me, not to mention nearly making me slip and hurt myself. I refused to even think about touching it again for the rest of the summer (I was there for both 3 week sessions).

I came out and the counselor wasn’t happy with me. Saying I had no reason to “take some damned long” in there and obviously had no idea “how to take a shower” (he was technically right on that front, so I couldn’t call it an “insult”). You can see where this is going, right?

Yep, the next morning, when it was time to think about showering, he rather irritably followed me into the shower room as I was getting undressed and when I got into the shower he barked: “Don’t close that curtain. You obviously have no fucking clue how to take a shower so I’ll have to ‘guide’ you through the fucking process. I like this as much as you do, so shut up, you’re wasting water!” It was extremely uncomfortable for me with him watching me from 5-feet away (he wasn’t in there WITH me, it just felt like it) and he was acting like HE was the one being punished for “having” to do it. Fortunately, I never “forced” him to do it again, but it made our interactions awkward and may even be the reason I avoid showers unless absolutely necessary.

The second one was arguably more serious. I was 15-16 and visiting my cousin Andrew’s beach house in NJ for the summer. His mom was driving and we were play wrestling in the back of her van (the seats were folded down). You can see where this is going too, right? No, we didn’t have sex, but his mom acted like I just raped her 10-year-old son in front of her. She was FURIOUS, and, while I can appreciate her diligence, I literally had no idea WHY she was screaming profanities at me for demonstrating a move I saw on TV (and just like TV – no contact was actually made, but she didn’t believe me nor give me a chance to talk. I was “fucking evil” and had “no business touching, let alone being near children ever again” and to this day, any time a child touches me I hear Cousin Twinks screaming at me. I couldn’t even talk to either of them at my aunt’s 10th wedding anniversary last year (I know they were both there, as they were seated at the table directly across from mine).

I consider these both acts of bullying. They consider their behavior justified – just like a story I was going to tell from Benchmark about psychical abuse\bullying (which still makes me paranoid at night), but I don’t have either the room or the mental stamina to continue with that train of thought in this post. Maybe some better Friday…

 

Update: In the meantime, I have examples of other more direct forms of bullying on this blog (all of them, conveniently enough, also entirely my own fault making the other party completely blameless for their behaviors regardless of how rude, mean, spiteful or otherwise hurtful they were): “Food Court Follies,” “A Family Frustration,” “Running Out of Ikeas” and to a vaguer extent “National Disappointment Day.”

Categories: Advocacy\volunteer, Autism, family, Gay rights, Health, holidays | Leave a comment

Photo: “Autism Burnout”

(Photo credit: facebook.com/Trish’s Autism Page)

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Photo: The power of “awareness”

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Photo: Please be understanding

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