Standing in line for coffee this morning, I heard a repeated mumble to my right, “hi how are you hi how are you hey hi.” At first, I didn’t even notice—it was mostly white noise amid the light chatter and 90s music playing over the speakers. But then I realized the man standing next to me was talking to me—greeting me. He was awkward-looking, overweight and sort of stooped, looking rather pointedly into my eyes.
“Oh!” I said, surprised. “Hi.” And I turned back inward, musing about whatever it was; in other words, something of no importance whatsoever. Waiting for coffee, waiting for the weekend, waiting to see if a CF diet is affecting Logan …
Intuition? Karma? Something inside of me then felt profoundly sad, and I looked back toward the man, who was now—it seemed to be purposefully—looking away from me. He was trying to be friendly, I thought, ashamed of myself for not being nicer. Maybe he’s on the autism spectrum or has other struggles. Why hadn’t I been more friendly?
I then thought about Logan 30 years from now, when he’ll be 34 and trying to navigate life without his mom, trying to live a normal adult life. Will he be able to come down to the coffee shop for a mocha and muffin (Surely places will have GFCF muffins in a few years, right?)? Will he be able to strike up a conversation while waiting in line? Will he muster his all courage and try to remember his all he’s learned about social skills and attempt typical coffee-shop small talk? And how will the girl next to him react?
Will he spend his whole life waiting for someone to talk with him?
Logan is lucky that he seems to be fairly high-functioning and I doubt he’ll follow completely the same path as the man I encountered this morning. But even so, often he’ll approach people in odd ways, ways that are accepted because he’s 3 but in a few years will be seen as odd or rude, like the coffee shop man. I hope Logan will have learned better approaches in a few years so he is accepted—but maybe more so, I hope all of us will have learned better reception of people who begin conversations awkwardly.
Shameless plug: While we’re waiting for that day, our family is walking to raise money for awareness and research for Walk Now for Autism Speaks! Please support this cause by visiting our team page and making a donation: http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/minnesota/logansteam
And thank you!