I was physically and verbally assaulted today. It’s OK, other than a stiff neck, I’m fine. A 6’ 2”, 225 pound guy in his twenties, apparently autistic, was having a violent episode at a convenience store I happened to stop at to check the air in my tires. He left the side of his caretaker and called me a rude name as he walked past my car. I could tell he had some sort of handicap, and chose to ignore the insult and turned my body away from the individual to reduce the possibility of conflict. What I didn’t expect was to be hit in the back of the neck while I was bent over filling my tire.
As I tried to make sense of what had just happened, the caretaker appeared at my side and explained the autism and violent episode. I said no problem, I understood, but was thinking, guy—your skills need some work. While he was trying to make sure I wasn’t upset, his charge tore the mirror off of an old SUV parked at the farthest pump from me. I was thinking the caretaker was being way too passive in handling his charge. Why didn’t he yell out to me that I was about to be attacked? Why was he trying to make sure I wasn’t going to do something in retaliation instead of preventing his guy from destroying other people’s property. It made me think of a bodyman for a powerful politician trying to contain the damage he had no control over stopping.
This was all relevant to me because my nephew is autistic. While I’m aware that some autistics can act out in rage, I have never experienced it with my nephew. I cannot say enough about the care he received after being born and to this day he is incredible engaged with the world around him. He still doesn’t know when I’m pulling his leg, but by god, he went from a diagnosis of not being able to walk or talk to being one hell of a guy. He swims with the Mission Viejo Matadors, is a musician, finishing high school, has a great sense of humor, and an active intellect. My sister Carrie and her husband Zach have fought all these years to get him the help he needs and it shows.
I don’t know the story behind the guy who attacked me today. I hold no ill will or hard feelings toward him. I understood before it happened that he was leading a challenging life. I hope he gets the help he needs to deal with his anger, to become a more engaged member of society. In the meantime, I hope the caretaker learns from this incident and seeks better tools for handling his charge. The next victim might not be so understanding.
The ironic part? I watched Fight Club last night. I should have seen it coming. The good news is that someday you’ll find this incident in a future story I’ll write. I’m not one to waste a scene.
To learn more about Autism, go here: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism