Goin’ to California

Well, it has been a bit. I’ve been a busy little human, working the “day job” most of the day, and sometimes late nights, and squeezing in the extra stuff where I can. Sadly, the blog hasn’t quite made it to the top of the priority list, but I’m still here! Hi! 👋

As some (many?) of my followers may know, I have been acting as chief advisor for a BRAND NEW International non-profit org called the Umbrella Alliance for a little while now. And until now, it has felt more like a dream than a job. I pretty much get to do what I love, which is sitting back, attending meetings and waiting for my spidey sense to tell me when to say “hold up, did you consider THIS?” Basically, I prevent bad things from happening due to not thinking quite big enough, or offer ad hoc advice on any conundrum anyone in our group may have. Sometimes it’s just moral support. I’ve also been absolutely KILLING IT at recruiting new volunteers to join us in our mission: in short, to make the world a better place for autistic and other neurodivergent people on a global scale. At any rate, thus far, this volunteer position has not felt like work at all, primarily because other people have been doing the things that come easier to them and I’m doing some of the things that are harder for others. Our group works because we are all working to each of our own strengths.

To that end, I’m really excited that I get to MEET 2 of the 4 other founding members TOMORROW! Friday night, after working all week, having to get a last minute appointment with DMV the week earlier because I realized that both my ODL and my passport were expired (whoops!), and having to get a haircut before that, I dropped down into the Burbank airport to start my week of touring, team building and talking out our issues face to face. A couple of quick stories from ttonight, travel day 1, now that I’ve settled down for the night.

First, I decided a day or two earlier that I would try out the Sunflower Lanyard program for at least getting through the airport and see what that was all about. I don’t know how widely this is known, and I’m not aware of the history, but apparently at PDX, you can go to any ticketing counter and ask for a sunflower lanyard with a card at the bottom to let people know that you have an invisible/hidden disability. In theory, people will give you a little more space, time, patience, consideration or ask if you need help if you appear to be struggling with anything. I did not exactly experience anything I deemed to be special treatment, but my time at the airport was really lovely. I wasn’t exactly hungry, per se, but I got a burrito anyway because anything wrapped in a tortilla is comfort food. I asked at the boarding area if my center seat could be changed for a window and that request was fulfilled and I did take the opportunity to board early because I wanted the extra time with my somewhat unwieldy carry-on bags and I was not questioned, likely because of the lanyard.

Two other things I must say about PDX… while I did not get to check out the sensory room, due to my flight leaving from a different concourse, I did notice it was actually quite quiet and not extremely brightly lit. I’m not sure if this is related to the construction/redesign of the airport, but it felt very intentional, as though the space was designed to calm rather than to agitate. As someone who is sensitive to their surroundings and sensory input, this was noticeable and appreciated.

The other is that the staff was also quite engaged, calming and pleasant. Again, I can’t say whether or not the lanyard had anything to do with it because I just witnessed a lot of kindness all around, but who knows. My absolute favorite was the TSA guy at the scanning machine who told me “the screen tells me you are AMAZING!” Now who wouldn’t feel JUST a little bit better after that?

So far, first solo travel post diagnosis, post pandemic is going alright, after the obligatory week of restless sleep, stomach/food issues and other random anxiety-based symptoms, all of which tend to vanish for me once I get to my assigned gate on time.

Now for the bad part… the near meltdown-inducing part. Once the plane lands in Burbank around 9:15 pm, I start heading out on foot, following signs to the rental cars, until I got outside and the signs for rental cars disappeared. Fortunately, I ran into someone who looked like he was familiar with the place and he pointed me in the right direction, again, with much kindness. Lanyard? 🤷‍♀️ I walked across the road, up an escalator and what seemed like nearly a half mile to get to the Budget counter. I had a PREPAID reservation made through a travel agent, so no problem, right? WRONG!

Because my ODL had expired, and I had just renewed it the week before, the DMV had issued me a paper temporary license and punched a hold in my expired license and had assured me I would have no trouble traveling. But Budget has this policy, you see… the agent told me in no uncertain terms that, despite what the State of Oregon says, they recently got a new upgraded system and could not accept any temporary documents of any kind. He called his manager, but to no avail, my PREPAID RESERVATION was not going to be fulfilled. I felt all the feels… crying and unable to speak clearly any longer, I slid down the counter and gathered myself for a bit. Nobody was lined up at the Enterprise counter so I headed that direction. They looked at my docs and said they thought they could help me out, if they had a car on the lot to rent to me. The manager was actually at the location so he stepped up and made an exception for me. The cost ended up being only about $27 more for the whole week, so NOTE TO SELF (and all of you): Enterprise > Budget. Not that you probably didn’t know that already, but in this case, it REALLY fucking mattered. This girl’s updating her car rental preferences for life. Done and done.

Alright, so I get walked out to the lot with another gentleman to choose from a Malibu, a Soul, a Compass or one of two Mazda3s, one sedan, one hatch. I went with the Mazda3 hatchback, with a sunroof, even! It’s a pretty dark blue color that’s gonna sparkle in the sunshine and I’m pretty the ladies won’t mind being chauffeured around in it. Also, fun and easy to drive, handles well, good turning radius, good fuel economy, and my phone paired seamlessly for podcasts and navigation. We’ll be set.

Let me just take a second to reiterate here; Jack from the Burbank Airport Enterprise Rental Car desk single-handedly saved my entire week.

Now, 2 hours later I have made it to my West LA hotel for the night, got checked into my room on the 9th floor, had a shower with excellent water pressure and have finally laid down with my emotional support quokka to sleep, hopefully more restfully than the last week or so. Tomorrow morning I have a brunch date with a LinkedIn friend before I pick up one of my co-conspirators at LAX in the afternoon and the second from her home a little further south and settle at a condo in San Diego for a few nights.

I’m gonna try to keep writing trip highlights here, so follow along if you can. It should be an adventure, for sure.

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