A few weeks ago I spent two days driving a U-Haul truck from Texas to Colorado. Somewhere on the outskirts of Fort Worth I got stuck in a snarl of traffic about two in the afternoon. Certainly not what I thought of as rush hour, but I was so out of the groove on rush hour I didn’t know anymore. I got jumpy sitting and waiting and having people cut in front of me as I inched forward in a really large vehicle with poor visibility.
A few minutes later I spotted a WalMart and immediately started fighting to exit the highway. By the time I found a parking place and walked around the truck, made sure nothing weird was poking out of the back, I was so ready to get into WalMart that I practically ran in the door. Pavlov has nothing on these people. I hustled in and noticed they had a McDonald’s (don’t they all), and I had to get one of those McCoffee drinks with a couple of extra shots.
This trip to WalMart was more than a respite from the highway. My youngest child was about to have a birthday, and she wanted a “big girl” bicycle. I knew WalMart in the city was going to have a much better selection than WalMart in the boonies. I was right but not entirely. Then I had to wait quite a while for someone to help me after I hit the pole buzzer. I always feel like a crumb when I have to ring a bell or buzzer to get service, and I had to stand there for a while before I overcame my self-consciousness about looking like I think I’m someone important.
A teen boy finally appeared. He was very polite but didn’t know much about the bikes. Thankfully, the boy and I muddled through it together, and once I made my choice, he easily took it down from the rack and even offered to get me a few bucks knocked off the price. He and I decided to take the bike through Lawn and Garden, which usually doesn’t have a long customer line. Plus, I could park the truck right outside the door and load it without blocking traffic.
While I was waiting in line with the boy, I kept trying to look outside to see if the traffic on the highway had cleared and wondering whether I would make New Mexico before it got really late. I didn’t want to come over Raton Pass late at night. It’s not usually a terrible pass. But it still has a treacherous feel, and I’m always relieved when I’m over the state line in Colorado even though home is another eight hours.
When it was my turn, the cashier smiled at me and a young man in his 20s stepped up to the end of the counter near her and nodded his head at the bike and asked in almost a musical tone, “Is that a birthday present?”
I looked at him out of the corner of my eye and said, “Uh, yes, it is.”
Then he asked, “Is it for a girl or boy?”
I was a little irritated ’cause I was in a hurry. I could see the traffic had cleared and some people in the store had told me rush hour usually starts around 3:00 pm, but I answered his question.
Then he grinned and asked, “When’s her birthday?”
I answered as I was putting my credit card away and nodding at the cashier, and he said, “And what year was she born?” I was really getting perturbed at the incessant questioning, but I was polite and told him. Before the date was barely out of my mouth, he said, “Oh, she was born on a Tuesday!”
I finally looked at him fully and said, “Why yes, she was.”
He grinned and said, “I’m autistic, but I’m good with birthdays. Yep, yep. yep.”
“Yes, you are,” I said.
“Want me to do another one?”
I smiled and said, “Sure.”
“Just be sure to tell me the year.”
“Okay,” and then I asked him about my son’s birthday.
Again, before I barely finished, he said, “He was born on a Tuesday too!”
I laughed and said, “You’re right!”
I asked him several more dates and he was always right, and we could have played this game all day with the cashier and the boy as audience. But I knew they needed to get back to work. I quickly introduced myself to the young man and he told me his name was Kevin. I said, “Do you work here at WalMart, Kevin?”
“Well, yeah, I guess. I’m not sure what I do, but they pay me.”
“I know what you do. You cheer up people like me and these people you work with.” I noticed as I spoke the cashier and the boy were smiling and nodding their heads.
Kevin kind of ducked his head, and I shook his hand and said, “I’m glad I stopped, and I’m glad I got to meet you!” He pumped my hand vigorously and grinned and I grinned back.
I could not stop smiling as I walked to the truck, loaded it and then crept onto the highway. I was halfway home before I stopped. That was almost three weeks ago, and every time I think of Kevin, I grin.
Kevin, wherever you are, God Bless you! and I know He does.
note: I don’t know a lot about autism and certainly don’t know if Kevin is really autistic or if someone just told him that.