What do you do when your husband freezes in a river full of moving people?
After a Go-Go’s concert, we got up to leave the Hollywood Bowl bleacher seats with thousands of other people. Tom’s hand gripped my shoulder.
“Are you all right?” I said.
He gripped harder and we crept toward the exit. I knew something was wrong so I tried to guide him. People were pushing from all sides. It was like rush hour on the 405 Freeway and there was no place to pull over.
“We’re almost out,” I said.
But as soon as we squeezed out of the theater, many lines of people converged from the various exits. We were in the middle of this crushing mass, trying to walk downhill.
“Wall,” Tom said.
I aimed for the snack bar building, about 20 yards away. We were oozing along with a somewhat raucous crowd of tipsy concert-goers, and the momentum was preventing us from reaching the perimeter.
And then Tom froze. He wouldn’t move or respond to me.
One of the hazards of Asperger’s Syndrome and ASD is something I call brain-lock. People on the autism spectrum tend to be hypersensitive to everyday stimuli that people not on the spectrum have the ability to ignore. Brain-lock occurs when too much sensory information comes in and the mind seizes up.
A crush of humanity triggers brain-lock in me.
At the end of the concert of 80’s bands, I held back and waited for the crowds to thin out. I know my limitations. There seemed to be a break so off we went. That’s when the crush began. I gripped Linda’s shoulders and let her lead me through as brain-lock descended. I honestly had no idea of who, what or where I was. It’s like standing in the eye of a swirling hurricane of colors, sounds, sensations and thoughts, where nothing—even your own existence—makes any sense.
“Are you all right?” I heard Linda ask through the swirling blur of loud Hawaiian shirts, shouting voices, the feel of bodies crushing in on me and the smell of stale margaritas. What she was saying made no sense to me.
I tried parsing out the words.
You—U? Ewww? Ewe?
All right?—Al Wright? Awl rite? All left?
“Wall,” was all I could manage. I knew if I had something solid, I at least stood a chance to get my bearings and just make it all stop. If nothing else, I knew it would eventually end when enough people left. We couldn’t make it. There were just so many souls in this river of humanity that the wall was about as far away as the moon. We kept going.
Eventually we reached an open area and I dove for the nearest people-free space. I vaguely remember clinging onto the railing of a closed snack bar, gasping for breath until my brain unlocked and the world slowly returned to normal. The hurricane subsided and I was myself again.
Just another middle-aged guy in a Hawaiian shirt
©2013 Tom & Linda Peters