This is part one of a two-part post on my autistic dilemma, describing two separate events (mundane details of my boring life) that took place on the same day, 28th of March 2017.
For a long time, I suspect myself to have some kind of superpower. I seem to possess the ability to draw crowd to places I frequented, attracting people like magnet. I could be the Maneki Neko in human form, the beckoning cat commonly found in shops in Japan and parts of Asia, which is meant to bring good fortune and business. Either that or it’s a conspiracy theory, I’m paranoid about people following me wherever I go (I imagine people talking behind my back, “She loves this place/She loves going there, let’s start doing the same to annoy her!”) “I knew it, the world is out to get me!!” Superpower or conspiracy, it seems I’m haunted and cursed! (If only I have the power of the Hulk, there is so much anger in me I could turn that rage into something useful.)
If you are autistic or have a family member who is autistic, chances are you’ll appreciate that shopping (in malls) is hardly therapeutic at all. To avoid the stress and sensory overload, you’d have devised a set of guidelines covering details such as where and when to shop to help plan and make your trip as stress-free as possible. When is the best time to frequent the malls and grocery stores? What are the means of transportation? How long does it take to get there? How much time do you have? etc. Some hours and days are to be avoided at all cost. Some places are to be avoided at all hours. In essence, “to go out or not” is a decision that warrants thoughtful consideration, a cost-benefit analysis. These are planned carefully and purposefully.
I’m fortunate my present job doesn’t require me to be confined in an office from 9am to 6pm. Most days, I can arrange my own time. I tend to make use of this flexibility to run errands during office hours on weekdays. I rarely go out on weekends anymore. I do my grocery shopping on weekdays and there are certain times I’ll avoid such as the morning hours when it’d be populated with housewives and domestic helpers preparing for the day (I’m not even a morning person to begin with), the lunch time hours and the after work hours. I tend to visit between 2pm to 5pm. Occasionally, it turned out to be busier than I expected but was still tolerable. While there are several supermarkets near my place, the one I preferred and most frequented is the largest one and the only one that provides self-service checkout counters, which would come in useful in the event there is a long queue for the manned tills. I notice that most customers here prefer and would rather queue for the manned tills, hence the self-service counters tend to be empty (which provides a quick escape).
I was out during the day to pick up something from the campus and to mail a letter, and I might as well make use of the day to do my grocery shopping. On my way to the campus and in my anxiety to overtake the cigarette smoke of the pedestrian in front of me, I forgot about the letter I was going to mail and missed the posting box but no big deal, I will walk past again on my way back.
Leaving the campus to the supermarket, it was around 4:30pm. The first thing I noticed was the exceptionally long queue at the manned tills. My initial reaction was bewilderment and my first thoughts were, “Is it a public holiday? Easter? No it can’t be. Is it a school holiday? What’s the special occasion?” I haven’t been to this particular supermarket for about a month but I’ve been here countless times in the past at around the same time during the weekday and it has never been that crowded. Even the self-service checkouts which tended to be empty were in use (although there was no queue for that). The moment I saw the line, my heart sank, my day was ruined and panic started to set in. I have a habit of calculating the expenses in my head as I shop but at that moment, my mind started to shut down and all I could think of was an escape plan (Grab, Pay, Go). I quickly grabbed whatever I saw and needed, pay at the self-service checkouts and dashed off go.
Leaving the supermarket, I can’t wait to get back home. When I reached home and opened my backpack, I saw the letter that I was supposed to mail still tucked in my bag. Anxiety and stress can make someone forgetful 😂
After this incidence, I’m starting to contemplate online grocery shopping although I have the following concerns with online shopping and delivery. First, quality concerns especially fresh food. Second, I would have to buy in large quantities if I want to save delivery costs. Third, if I have a large quantity of food in my flat, I will be tempted to indulge myself in binge eating or comfort eating. Fourth, I hate not knowing the exact time my goods will be delivered. If I’m told that my goods will be delivered between a certain time period (say between 2-6pm), my fidgety mind would be pre-occupied from the morning of the scheduled delivery date, anticipating the time it’d arrive and looking out for any missed calls. The lack of control with online delivery is another kind of anxiety. Shopping doesn’t come easy when you are on the spectrum! To be continued…