Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Not-So Secret Service:

     An incident the other day made me think of my time in Florida as a stagehand.
Dave and I were walking a new (to us) mall. I was there because it was getting to be my usual Christmas Shopping Time, (2 weeks before the day) and, while I had a somewhat limited budget, I really wanted to get something cool and unusual for Suzi,(phrenology bank, Galileo thermometer, as this was our first Christmas together. As far as Dude was concerned this was just another opportunity to ride the elevators and scout a new GameStop location. Don't get me wrong, he really likes Suzi, but c'mon! 'It's the new elevators at the mall!' (that's a direct quote) He also seemed to be very concerned that the outlets in the Food Court had waaaay too much product laying around and we should, as concerned citizens, you know... help them out.
     To make his point more clearly, Dave was walking slightly ahead, but turned back toward me, so that he was walking 3/4 backwards and not paying any attention to where he was going, or which of the lucky citizens he would wipe out while he tried to make his point. So... we're in one of the larger malls in the KC Metro area, two weeks before Christmas and my none-to coordinated son is walking backwards with even less of a care for public safety than his usual 'none at all'. Nope. No chance of disaster there. So, as many of you might already have figured out, in the midst of trying to convince me of our desperate need for fast food David was inches away from 4-wheeling right over a young lady and her son. Her tiny, pink, 6 month old, cute as a button son. Baby stroller and all. I desperately grabbed the front of Dude's jacket and manually hauled him out of the way. The young lady, froze for a second and then went on about her way with a huge sigh of relief. Completely oblivious to the fact that he almost wiped out 2/3 of a family, Dave paused briefly in irritation and then continued with 'He has to get the pizza at the Food Court.' 'The Food Court is open, remember?' I was very slightly shaken with the implications of the near miss and started in on Dave, 'Dude you have to watch.... forget it.' Because, seriously, this sort of thing happens about every 34 seconds whenever we're out and there's no way he'd understand why mowing down an infant would be any worse than bouncing off the wall. I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get my point.
     While I was thinking about this incident, I realized that my Dude-training had actually been going on longer than I thought.
     When I lived in Florida I worked for a Stagehand labor company. We supplied willing crazy people ( I was pretty mild for that group. Which should tell you something) to the Entertainment industry for all sorts of events; Indoor and Outdoor Concerts, Arena conversions, general stage-equipment set up and removal, conventions of all types and once, cleaning up after Warner Brothers Cartoon Characters on a cruise ship. (I'm not kidding) One of the events we handled was The Herbalife, I Have More Money Than You Do, Pyramid Scheme Millionaire's Convention. (Okay... I was the one that called it that) I don't know how many of you have participated in a Convention before, but they're fairly predictable. Lot's of snoozable Corporate rah-rah, some stirring speeches by the most famous people your company could afford, followed by the best music they could afford with whatever was left over from the Motivational Speakers. Despite being called 'Amway Nazis' by someone that will remain beyond prosecution (probably just who you're thinking) had, at the time, quite a bankroll and quite the need to prop their image up just as high as it could go. Their Entertainment was Ray Charles, and 2 of their 3 Motivational Speakers were (Stormin) Norman  Schwarzkopf, and Barbara Bush.
    The thing about working Entertainment is that, despite their profligate use of money, if you're not actually working the show, they aren't going to feed you so much as a PB&J sammich. So if you've been up since, say 6am and it's now 6pm and you're feeling a mite peckish you are entirely on your own. My friend Tim (Flash) (Don't ask) and I, coincidentally enough, had experienced that very dilemma and were just returning to the Convention Center at the rear of the building from obtaining the necessary grease, carbs and carbonated caffeine to sustain our will to live. Tim was, rather excitedly telling me about... something, to the point that he was walking backwards in front of me to maintain eye contact. So I was the one who noticed that Barbara Bush and her Secret Service escort of 5 walk out of the doors and toward us on the very same walkway. Three things you need to know, 1: Secret Service guys are bad-asses who would die for their charges, but would rather you did instead. 2: They are bad-asses that carry guns that you'd never even know where there until they want you to. And 3: The primary accessory for any well-dressed Stagehand is a backpack of indeterminate origins. Strikingly similar to the standard-issue backpack for, oh... say your average, everyday suicide bomber. Needless to say we had 5 pairs of identical Ray-Ban sunglasses pointed in our direction.
Tim, we hardly knew ya.
     As the two groups drew closer to each other on parallel paths, I kept trying to gain Tim's attention to warn him of the Brooks Brothers-clad danger, but he was not about to be diverted. The Secret Service detail was in 'standard diamond formation' which is, directly in front, behind and off either shoulder of their charge, with the 5th guy behind and to the side, (He's the one with the Uzi) where he has the best view and can see the rest (or, in front and to the side where he can lead the group). As our groups converged the formation began to tighten a bit and the right hands all seemed to settle on their jacket buttons in a synchronized fashion. I'm sure the panicked look rising on my face was interpreted in the worst possible way by the Armed Federal Agents (I can't emphasize that armed part enough) because now the button-hands were, ever so slightly, under the lapels of the suit jackets they all wore. Tim continued on, oblivious to my ever more frantic attempts to warn him of his (and my) growing peril. For a brief second I frantically imagined that Tim was actually part of a plot to kill the former First Lady and I was his unwitting, soon to be tragically dead, unwitting dupe. (I had been reading a lot of Ian Fleming at the time) Naturally, Tim chose the time when the two groups were about to intersect to veer toward 'Babs' and Company. The Secret Service agents didn't like that. No sir, they didn't like that one bit. Hands completely disappeared under jacket flaps, and the 'rover' had his wrist up to his mouth in perfect 'TV FBI guy' fashion. That would be his left wrist, as his right hand was reaching for his Uzi. That's how I know he had one. Not good. As a matter of fact, we were about 3 seconds away from being part of an After Action Report at the local Field Office.
     Luckily for all of us I avoided all that paperwork by grabbing Tim by his backpack strap and physically throwing him about 6 feet to the side, away from the itchy trigger fingers. I quickly spread my arms, hands open, and said, 'Sorry! He's not an assassin! He's just an idiot!' Mrs. Bush actually smiled at that. The Secret Service guys didn't. They evidently practiced not-smiling a lot, because they were very good at it. Their little group never broke stride and they were soon far enough away for me to start breathing again. Tim the Oblivious had missed the whole thing, and had no idea that I'd just saved him from becoming Lead-lined Swiss Cheese and concentrated on the fact that in my adrenaline-fueled panic I'd nearly thrown him completely off the loading dock. (Hey Rocky! Sometimes I don't know my own strength) So, instead of thanking me for not letting him be just another Domestic Terrorist statistic he started after me about his impromptu flight. And naturally, he didn't believe me when I told him that I'd just saved his life and, depending on which Cultural Model we were using, I either owned him, was responsible for anything he did in the future, he had to follow me around until he saved my life or we were now married and I was really hoping that I got to pick which one. Luckily neither of us actually belonged to any of those Cultures and a truck driver walked up and said that Tim should be thanking me for saving his life and I should probably cut down on the Wheaties if I were going to continue saving smaller people's lives by throwing them.
     So, evidently I've been training for this Dude-guard position for longer than I thought. I've always said, kind of flippantly, that he's a Rockstar. Perhaps that wasn't the big joke I always thought it was. Actually, it probably was. And, as usual around Dude when a joke is involved, the joke is on me.
     That's okay, I'm pretty used to that. The only question that remains is: Am I protecting Dude from Everyone Else, or Everyone Else from Dude? If it's the latter, I really need to talk to y'all about a raise. Seriously. I put my life on the line for you guys every day. I think that's worth a little something extra in the pay envelope. Or even just something in a pay envelope. Or any envelope, box, package, or dump truck you care to send to the house...
     Well... it was worth a shot.

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