A DIFFERENT TYPE OF CALMING

Last Sunday was Autism Pride Day and as many know, autistic people tend to have great affinity with animals rather than humans. I love my brother’s cat, Nutsy, and he is a great companion to me, but my greatest source of calming is not an animate object but one that is comprised of metal, glass, plastic, polyester and various oils. That’s right, it’s my car.

To many people, a car can be something to get you from A to B, to others, it’s something to aggrandise with sports mufflers and exhaust pipes you can stick your foot in as they roar along the road, and to those with more money than sense, something to be physically painful to an autistic with sensory disturbances with as they perform burnouts at traffic lights.

To me, my car is something to get me around, but more importantly, it is my clement space. Like a weighted blanket, the Japanese content of my car is my security blanket (this interest stems from learning Japanese at school and enjoying it, something that was to make me a target for abusers, as never mind the Second World War, among some, learning Japanese was considered effeminate). Sitting on a Japanese made seat, feeling a Japanese lap/sash belt across me, holding a Japanese plastic steering wheel, transmission shift stick when needed, has a calming effect on me. Likewise, feeling the vibes of the speakers in the doors and in the rear as the CD Player lens reads the 80s and 90s tunes and the signals are sent through the wires to the speakers from the head unit is pleasurable. I am not into the screaming rock and roll, and I don’t need it at tinnitus producing volumes, but music of those eras calms me.

Like some autistic folk, I have had to reach a bit of a compromise. Some of us find driving difficult. I find, I’m a fairly cautious driver, but where I can avoid sensory overload is having a reversing camera and using that to reverse and having an automatic car rather than a manual, as I cannot get the co-ordination right for using a foot to depress a clutch, a hand to shift gears and keep one hand on the steering wheel at the same time.

I am also not one to thrash a motor car and drive quite gently, as I view my car as being like my pet and want to get the most out of her. I even have a name for her, Shigemi (also Japanese in origin). I also have a fear of the authorities on the road, and after driving for nearly 25 years, have a clean driving licence with the authorities.

Whilst I am protective of my car, I am not somebody who views their car as being more important than humanity. In fact, with previous car accidents with other cars, if the other driver apologises, I don’t tell the insurance company and nor do I explode at the scene. What is of greater concern to me is if a repairer wants to replace damaged Japanese parts with non-Japanese parts as this threatens my special interest. My mother cannot understand this, but then again, she is not autistic.

Human beings are confusing to us autistic folk, and pets provide unconditional love, but my car can provide it to me and I reciprocate as there is no confusion or ambivalence or even ambiguity. The fuel gauge tells me how much fuel is in the tank, the temperature gauge if it’s hot or cold, the oil pressure light comes on if the oil is low (mind you, I check the oil, I don’t leave it to chance) and I can provide Shigemi with the love she needs to get me from A to B and her with the reliance I need for her to carry me through.