It is a cliché, albeit a true one that one never knows what the next day is going to bring. We have no idea who is going to enter our lives and stay around for a while. This turned out to be the case during my most recent trip to Wildwood Crest, NJ when I made an impulsive decision to return there for the second time this summer, the first weekend after Labor Day in one last desperate attempt to hold onto what remains of summer. Being an adult is sometimes difficult, although one gift that never loses its luster is when we are able to keep the party of summer going a little longer even after the first day of school, as schoolchildren pay their dues of youth and are chained to a sometimes-unpleasant routine while it is still eighty degrees outside.
I was not completely looking forward to coming back to the beautiful Caribbean Motel during Motorcycle Week in which the entire community is inundated with loud motorcycles that are revved up as loud as possible. But I acknowledged they had the right to party all week and have a good time. The Caribbean Motel is one of my most favorite places in the entire universe, and the proprietors make me feel like family. www.caribbeanmotel.com My plan was to keep to myself and not cause trouble or complain to anybody about anything. A diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome does not prevent consequences for offending people, and in the past the repercussions were as bad as they possible could get. The only piece of constructive criticism I will not take seriously or dignify with an answer is, “You try too hard. Don’t always worry about always saying the right thing.” I was certainly going to be cordial, but sensible enough to not impose myself in their conversations considering we had nothing in common. I have always seen motorcycles as an unnecessary danger and this fear was enhanced by witnessing a man getting hit by a car while riding his motorcycle on Central Avenue hard enough to fracture the windshield in spiderweb-like lines. I announced to an appreciative bystander that I had just spoken to 911 and they were on their way.
Even though I understand the gang from that TV show, “Sons of Anarchy” is a bunch of malarky and an unfair stereotype…a stereotype still has to come from somewhere. I do not have mysterious ninja-like powers to defend myself against six real-life reincarnations of these particular characters from that particular venue of entertainment. I also saw footage of a gang dragging a father out of his van and beating him out of retaliation for accidentally running into one of the riders. But my experience with “a motorcycle gang” was unlike anything I could have ever anticipated!
The minute I arrived at the motel, one of the members of the motorcycle group saw me making about a dozen trips to bring all the unnecessary luggage I had hauled to the Caribbean Motel and asked to help. After some hesitation I accepted Nick’s help, and he turned out to be one of the kindest people I have met in my life. Nick later knocked on my door and already I was on guard and thought he was going to politely tell me that my car was blocking one of the parking spaces or some other mistake that had been made. I asked, “How can I help you” because strangers do not typically knock on my door unless there is a problem. But Nick actually asked if I wanted to hang out with them by the pool.
The first full day of the vacation was decimated due to the remnants of Hurricane Dorian. I spent most of the day writing business emails to put a dent in the amount of tasks I would have to perform after returning from the vacation. It made me feel better instead of being angry about the weather nobody had control over. It was a lost day only not. At the end of the day it was still miserable outside but not raining anymore. The group asked me if I would like to go out to the bars with them and off we went for an evening of “responsible drinking.” There were a few rough people at the bar because there are always a few bad apples in every culture even within the Asperger’s population where I have had the misfortune of crossing paths with a few people I would consider to be worthless bastards with no redeeming qualities. They promised they would keep an eye on me, but I reassured them that I was not scared because most of the time there is never any trouble unless someone goes out looking for it. They agreed with these opinions.
The next day was much nicer and we all ended up going to the beach together. It was a flurry of photographs, boogie boarding, and cherishing the spirit of summer. There was an older couple who spent a lot of time with us and they certainly did not look like motorcycle people. My assumptions were correct. They also were embraced by the motorcycle group as immediate friends years earlier and the rest is history. At some point I revealed my career as an autism advocate and published author. One of the members has a child with Asperger’s and we were able to bond over this commonality as well as everything else I had in common with other members even though I may not have been into riding motorcyles, which was perfectly fine with them. Another woman has a twin who attends the College of Saint Rose where I spend a lot of my workday. I told her that if there was ever any problems then I could serve as a lifeline because I live only a few minutes down the road and they live significantly farther in New Jersey. And I meant it. They told me to let them know if I am ever in New Jersey so we could all reconnect. And they meant it, too. Overall, this was one of the best weekends of my 37 years of life.
This weekend surely rages against the more frequent experiences of my past. Even though bad days certainly did not happen all the time, they certainly happened often enough to make my existence absolutely miserable. I am sometimes haunted by the destruction of my past teaching career simply because they did not want to deal with a substitute teacher who appeared to be “off.” One time they were too lazy to take me off the substitute teaching list so I was nicely escorted off the premises after reporting for an assignment and was never invited to return. My clumsy efforts to make small talk with a beautiful bank teller at a local bank led to at least a year of being treated like a social pariah even after my “behavior” dramatically improved. When I complained about the lingering treatment the bank manager’s cold response was, “If someone is making us uncomfortable we may have to ask that we do not do business with them anymore.” When they looked up Asperger’s syndrome on the Internet, the same woman was incredibly kind and sympathetic the next visit as though taken over by one of those alien pods from, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." But I could sense that it was forced, fake, and I still disgusted her even as she made an effort to go through the motions. The point of these examples is not just to vent about how bitterly sad my life has been in the not-so-distant past, but to let know that if realities within the rest of humanity were entirely like this particular group there would be no need to contemplate the existence of heaven. Darnit! “We would already be there…” I should mention the last line was taken from an episode of The Simpsons called, “Homer Loves Flanders.”
If only people could accept everybody and extend the hand of friendship because someone is a good person. If only everybody could just be nice to nice people. Perhaps a less-than-perfect day or a mistake could just be a bad day as long as nothing catastrophic happens with the slate being wiped clean pretty quickly. I barely know the difference between a Harley Davidson and a Honda Accord and yet I still fit in like a round peg because they sensed my character and could tell that I struggled with something based on the experience with the woman's child. The bikers meant it when they considered me a friend, and I look forward to being in touch with them for a long time. The photograph I have attached is credited to the talented and beautiful Karen Bernal. (I am featured somewhere toward the right and am wearing sunglasses!)