• J.R. Reed

Autistically Waiting for the Tornado


Tuesday was an interesting evening to be sure

Tuesday during the day my weather app kept spitting out warnings about storms that were lining up and preparing to hit us hard in the evening. I didn’t know how hard until they started around 4 pm.


Being from California, I can honestly say that I prefer earthquakes as you have no notice of it hitting. You just sit there for 15-30 seconds, ride it out and then go about your life.

Natural disasters are a bit different in the Ozarks where you get notified through apps several hours ahead of time so you can prepare, freak out and wait for the tornado horn to go off.


It started with a tornado watch, which as I understand it, is really no big deal. Then came the tornado warning, which made me decide to go into my daughter’s bathroom (the only room in the house without a window) to ride it out. That adventure in her bathroom lasted all of two minutes.


One of my autistic traits is a bit of OCD and to put it mildly, her bathroom is clutter, piled upon clutter. A hoarder would feel comfortable in there, but I didn’t, so I moved into my bathroom where there was at least a tub to lay in should something serious happen.

A friend on Facebook suggested I put my mattress over the tub, but I have a queen bed and a twin doorway, so that was out of the question.


Keeping in mind that I’m on the north side of age 50, I grabbed a beer, a stack of unread comic books, my Black Panther teddy bear, my service dog Tye and my daughter’s one-year-old cat and closed the door to my bedroom.


If I need to be in there for protection, why not have T’Challa in there with me, right? I did my best to cross the Black Panther’s arms, yelled, “For Hollister” instead of “For Wakanda” and for some reason felt no safer after doing that.


Imagine that. A stuffed animal wasn’t going to protect me from a possible tornado.

So, I sat on the edge of the tub, drank my beer and waited to see what would happen. Around the time I finished my beer I ventured into the kitchen to fill up my water bottle, make a large Jack and Coke and head back to the bathroom.


Since it’s NHL playoff time and since I coached hockey for too many years, on the way back, I turned a game on the TV, turned the volume way up and headed back to the bathroom, where I planted myself on the toilet with the lid down and began to read my comic books.


I must have looked ridiculous and I know the combo of Tye sleeping on my Batman bath mat, the cat sitting in the window for two hours mesmerized by the lightning and me on the can reading Venom and Umbrella Academy was cringe-worthy.


This definitely explains why I’m single.


I hope you’re laughing at the thought of a guy my age taking a stuffed animal and comic books into the bathroom during a tornado warning, because it really is funny.


Having severe anxiety in addition to being on the spectrum, comfort in that moment with tornado horns going off and a dog occasionally freaking because the thunder sounded like it was ripping the roof off, was an extreme necessity. The Jack and Coke was just a bonus.


One thing I noticed is that, as with many others diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, we like to keep a low profile. In that moment, however, it would have been nice to have some human contact. Someone there who cared and wanted to be there. That would be way cool.


So, to sum it up, I guess I had a four-step process


1. Have a panic attack

2. Have a stuffed Black Panther literally watching the door

3. Read comic books and listen to hockey

4. Jack and Coke


All kidding aside, it wasn’t funny in the moment. The horns alone were enough to put me at a 9 on the panic meter. Add in the wind, thunder and crazy rain and it was a moment that still brings a little panic as I think about it.


Well, that was my autistic Tuesday night. What did you do? Use the comment box below.


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