I hope it’s casual day

Posted on the inside of the front door at my house is a list of all the things I need to remember before heading to the airport. I’m laser focused on some things like computer security, which is good because that’s my job.  But at the basics of life, I’m totally scatterbrained.  My executive function never was much good and I have to resort to building rigid routines like posting lists on the door in order to compensate.

Many of the items are on the list because I have at one point gone off without them.  If there’s one thing my wife hates, it’s overnight shipping a laptop power adapter to me.  she did it once, then added it to the list.  If there’s one thing I hate, it’s seeing how much it costs to overnight ship something to me. When I saw the bill, I invested in a docking station so I never have to use the power cord while at home.  If it stays in the backpack, I can’t leave it behind.

My alternate strategy is to keep multiples of most important things in my backpack in case I leave one behind.

  • Extra eyeglasses?  Check.
  • Extra USB cables and charger?  Check.
  • Extra pens? Check.
  • Extra batteries in AA, AAA, Samsung galaxy, and Sony N?  Check.
  • Extra medicine in case I can’t get home?  Check?

You get the idea.

My wife is keeper of the list.  I get to scratch stuff off occasionally.  Like the bluetooth headset that never seemed to hold a connection between my ear and my belt holster.  But she’s in charge of adding stuff.  After this trip, I think I’m going to see a few new items on the list.

“Your trip go okay?”

“Well, sort of.  The flight and hotel were fine but I have a good news/bad news situation.”

“What’s the good news?”

“No ironing at the hotel!”

“And the bad news?”

“No shirts.”

Yes, that’s right.  I’m on a consulting engagement, working at a client’s office for the next 4 days, and I have exactly one shirt.  At least it’s winter and I won’t stink it up before replacements arrive.  The good thing is that with Amazon Prime, I can get new shirts in two days and pay less than one FedEx shipping fee.  It’s a purple shirt, too.  If I’d worn the white one it might not even be noticeable.

So, what happened anyway?  My wife had done the dress shirts the night before and left them hanging in my office for the final dry.  She does this thing where she takes them out damp and hangs them and they never wrinkle.  I stuff them into a suitcase and compress them so that by the time I arrive at the hotel they appear to be heavily pleated.  Then I iron them in the hotel on the first night.

Normally, I pack up right before I leave.  I do this 30 ~ 40 times a year so it’s routine and takes about 10 minutes. Except this time I knew she’d be napping right up until I left so I packed in advance and had everything except the shirts ready to go.  The idea was to grab them when they dried, stuff them in the suitcase and hit the road.

That little wrinkle in my routine – packing in advance and not all at once – totally threw me.  I know that next week before I leave there will be a few new items on the checklist inside the front door:

  • Socks? Check.
  • Underwear? Check.
  • Pants?  Check.
  • SHIRTS?  Freaking shirts to wear to the office?!?!?!  Check.

Which is fine as far as it goes.  That list saves me from something almost every time we review it.  But it’s her list.  The item on my list that isn’t really new but is newly refreshed is a bit more generic: don’t break the routine.

Come to think of it, there is one new item on my list.  If the collapsible suitcase seems remarkably small and light, if it zips closed without complaint, if it seems to good to be true… it probably is.

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6 Responses to I hope it’s casual day

  1. This is unrelated but I have a question I thought you might be able to answer. When an autistic teenager fixates on an object (lately it’s a straw that he carries with him everywhere) how you think we (as educators in a High School setting) should respond.

    • T.Rob says:

      First, I have to say I lack credentials to respond with any authority. That said many so-called authorities do and recommend things that horrify me so maybe my experience is enough qualification to at least have the discussion. The first thing I’d recommend is to have a look at my post When does intervention cross the line from helpful to harmful? In that essay I talk about how my parents and school authorities focused on the behavior as a problem but ignored the root cause and the trauma that resulted.

      To answer your specific question, I would try to understand what emotional or cognitive need that object fulfills. For many of us who are overwhelmed by sensory input, an object can be a way to divert attentional resources away from external stimuli. For others of us that object might be a fixed, permanent thing in our life the presence of which helps reduce anxiety about change. It brings order.

      In the case of someone using the object to stave off anxiety, the proper course of action is to focus on reducing the anxiety rather than removing the object. For someone overwhelmed by external stimuli, coping techniques might include physically reducing stimuli. Things like dark glasses, ear plugs, white noise, music, etc. can help. In my essay I talk about how chewing gum provides several different sensory experiences, all controllable, all of which provide a focus that reduce the effects of external stimuli.

      In general I would not try to stop someone from carrying a token item around. If I did anything it would be to try to understand from where the need arises and whether that root cause is something traumatic or dangerous. Not traumatic? Not inherently dangerous? Perhaps no intervention at all is called for but at least there is a closer relationship and more trust for having approached it as if the behavior has a legitimate reason to exist and not simply outside social norms.

      There is a tendency among caregivers and educators to fall into the pattern of thinking that our job is to modify any behavior outside the norm that an autistic person displays. Sometimes our job is to modify our own culture, our own expectations, broadening these to include a world in which an unusual autistic behavior that is not stemming from trauma and is not dangerous is also not remarkable. It’s just part of the normal human variation.

      Does that help?

  2. Last time I went back to Chicago for a visit, I forgot to pack socks and underwear! And I didn’t have a car there, so I had to ask someone, “Will you take me to Target so I can get socks and skivvies?

    • T.Rob says:

      Yeah, you don’t want to go commando in Chicago. Fort Bragg, maybe. But not Chicago. And of course if you accidentally do go commando, the best course of action is to head straight for a Target.

  3. Morag says:

    Packing Lists are simply the best. We’ve been developing ours for at least the last ten years. Have completely eliminated that, “what have I forgotten?” feeling that I used to get as the taxi drove away from the house towards the airport. It too developed as we forgot things and added them to the list.

    • T.Rob says:

      We should trade lists out of curiosity. But you probably want to wait until my wife makes her latest modifications if you want a good laugh. There may be an entry for “your head” by tonight.

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