It has been a difficult week for me since I came back from my skiing trip to Norway. I haven’t had any head or physical space to write about my experiences because it has seemed I have been on a sensory tipping point since coming home. I think rhythmic physical exercise is in general a good thing for those on the autistic spectrum and certainly skiing is a good thing for this Aspie. However, there were a few times when I knew I was getting overwhelmed by the situation so I want to put those down on record because if nothing else it might help me in the future to remember.
I was going to write that there were three occasions I noticed my unease but thinking about it, there were more that I probably discounted because they were more manageable. For instance getting out on the slopes in the morning took a certain effort. I recognised that as I walked to the ski lockers, I was accompanied by a fear. Part of that is worrying about whether I would be able to ski (which makes no sense because I am a good skier) but I think a greater part is knowing that I was going out to ski on slopes with other people. I think the most dangerous thing about skiing is the unpredictability of other skiers. Most injuries happen through collisions and enthusiasm for speed reduces the safety margins which often thrill seekers don’t appreciate. I actually only had two close shaves, both with children who decided a few inches was adequate clearance to sneak past, but having other skiers around make skiing more challenging for me. Perhaps that is why, when I am in a group myself, I tend to lead from the front.
Anyway, I managed to get out of the hotel and on the slopes each day. The first major challenge came on our last day of skiing. Having been skiing in Norway twice I could be over generalising here but the busiest times on the slope are Friday and Saturday. From observation, it is not uncommon for people to travel to the slopes on a Thursday night so that they are skiing over an extended weekend. Consequently the lunch spots get significantly busier on these days. The last time I was in Norway, the group decided to have an early lunch to combat the crowds which worked fine. This time I went for a late lunch option (1.30pm) which didn’t.
There was no queuing system for getting a seat. The standard technique seem to be to stand in the middle of the room of maybe eighty people seated in it and wait until somebody looked like their were leaving and capture the space by talking to the folks leaving to see if the space would be free. Often the space is being reserved for friends though. There is no spotting who has been waiting longest and letting them go in front. It’s a dog eat dog world in getting a seat. Ski eateries are noisy places and being autistic I have a low tolerance for the noise and the chaotic seating system. After twenty minutes or so, the game got too much for me and I had to leave. Saturday’s lunch consisted of a granola square and healthy snack bar sitting on the side of the piste. I had lost my appetite by then so it was enough for me, but I did feel sorrow for my daughter. My advice is go early. Norwegians love to drink alcohol on the weekend afternoons. Though I have no idea how they can afford it.
My next near meltdown came when I started my packing. It was the evening after our meal. I picked up my skis from the locker on the way back to our room. I had left it later because it gave the skis a chance to dry before putting them in their bag. Back at the room however I couldn’t find the ski bag. I couldn’t understand where it was. I looked everywhere twice. I got my daughter to look everywhere too. It seemed unlikely that somebody would steal the bag and nothing else so logically it meant that I had left it somewhere. I returned to the ski locker. Nope. I went to reception. No nothing there either. I was really unhappy by this point. How was I going to get my skis home? I saw a roll of bin bags and asked if I could use some. They guy agreed and also found some strong tape to use. By now it seemed the only place left was the ski hire shop. We detoured there. Peering through the window we could see my bag lying on the floor. I don’t remember leaving it there but I did remember leaving the shop having a feeling that something had been left behind. The shop was closed by the keys were still in the lock on the inside. The lights were on. Nobody came when we made a noise. How could nobody notice the bag? Why didn’t somebody look at the label and see if the owner was staying in the hotel? Why not try the mobile number?
The shop opened at 8.30am but we were catching at 7.55am bus. There was no alternative if we were to catch our flight home. Why hadn’t I noticed before? I found it so hard to get past my mistake. For an hour or so I couldn’t do anything. Finally my daughter told me I needed to get packing and so I sorted out my clothes. I started wrapping my skis and poles up. Would this be acceptable to the airline? Would my skis survive the journey? Where would I put the luggage label so that it was secure? I was so disturbed by circumstances that I felt it would be better to not try to get my skis home. Leaving them behind felt so much easier and so tempting.
The bin bags proved perfectly adequate in the end. My skis made it home intact. After emailing the shop, I’ve arranged for the bag to return at a cost thought £40 is much cheaper than buying a new set of skis, pole and a bag.
My last near meltdown happed when sitting in the departure lounge. We arrived in plenty of time and found a seat right next to the boarding gate. We had been allocated seats 1A and 1B, the same seats as our outward journey. From previous experience we knew that getting last on the plane made it difficult to stow our hand luggage, important because there are no seats in front of us to put the bags under. Last time my daughter ended up half way down the aircraft before finding a space which meant retrieving the luggage on leaving the place was going against the flow. It’s not the end of the world but since we were getting public transport to the hotel, it was an additional anxiety I could do without.
Our flight was called and people started queuing. I am not a fan of waiting in queues because of people gathering around me but we joined it when maybe a third of the crowd was in front of us. The queue slowly moved forward. I don’t like being in a queue but I do like the idea of a queue. First come, first served. Maybe my British heritage encourages me to queue but I think it is also an autistic dislike for chaos. Whilst the majority of people joined the queue behind us, a middle-aged women in grey and with wheelie luggage, got up and joined the queue at the front. I could have done that but didn’t, why was she? The indignation nearly proved too much, I could feel the fight or flight response kicking in. I kept control. Just.
Bags stowed and in my seat, I wondered whether airlines made any allowances for those on the autistic spectrum when embarking and disembarking on planes. An internet search proved inconclusive but I did find out that there was a movement in the UK for airports to provide support for those of us on the spectrum. Quite what that means I don’t know but I am going to try and find out. It is not an area that I ever thought about asking before.