Thursday, July 24, 2014

Poor Planning on Your Part Constituted an Emergency for Me

For a long time I’ve been able to manage my ADHD and SPD.  Over the winter I went through a long dark teatime of the soul in which all the worst aspects of my maladies dominated my existence.  For a few months I’ve enjoyed a reprieve from being overstimulated.

What follows is the chronicle of my near collapse into panic at the ESRI User Conference night at Balboa Park.  I don’t have panic attacks, but there have been a few instances where I nearly have had them.  Being rational and pretty even keeled it almost always horrifies me when I find myself regressing to survival instincts.

The final hurrah of the ESRI User Conference consisted of a massive scale party at Balboa Park on Thursday night.  On my beach run at Coronado I wished I had enough time to swim in the ocean one more time, but if I went to the sessions I wanted and also went to the park I just wouldn't be able to squeeze in another frolic in the surf.

I made the first mistake of agreeing to meet up with my Kentucky contemporaries for the bus ride from the convention center to the park.  I like them okay, but once we got to the shindig I realized they expected us all to stay together.  I had my own agenda at the affair and immediately I felt constrained when they stopped to wait as I took photos and as they moved slowly and indecisively through the mad throng that was in the process of gathering as we arrived.  I overheard someone say there were 16,000 of "us" at the conference and it seemed like more than 50% of us were at the park.

The promise of free food at Balboa had me make the journey on an empty belly.  After fighting my way inside a dark music hall where a weird Latino rock band was playing at Guns N Roses levels the strong odeur of seafood overtook me.  My sensory overload was complete in the loud, dark, and smelly room.    

I have an aversion to crowds.  I don't like seafood and am sensitive to smells, particularly smells I don't like.  I'm also sensory defensive when it comes to loud noises.  Needless to say my fight-or-flight response kicked in and nearly ran through a wall to get out.

I was still hungry.

I found a less crowded food line and was disappointed with the "expressive" finger foods.  I was more than disappointed when I discovered that "complimentary drinks" meant water or lemonade in a paper cone cup.  A can of Coke was two bucks.  You know how dumbass it is to expect someone to try and eat while holding one of those flimsy warercooler cups?  No, they didn't expect anyone to drink out of those; they expected everyone to pay two effing dollars for a Coke.  The effect it had on me was pissing me off.  Honestly, my foul mood had originated in my initial sensory mugging.  My anger and annoyance only grew from that point.

The one place I wanted to visit at the park was the Museum of Photographic Arts.  Most of the museums at Balboa were free for the event.  I made my way to the museum only to find it jam packed with a herd of ESRI Users.  I found myself frantically trying to escape the crowd.  I made it into the relatively uncrowded gift shop and was unable to look at anything.  I paced like a wild cat in a cage.  Finally I felt conspicuous so I tried once again to wade through the crowd around the food to get into the gallery. 

Success!  But after only a few minutes my frustrations grew again as people kept crowding me away from photos I tried to look at.  I couldn’t move out of one person’s way without moving into the path of another.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I plowed through the crowd heading for the door.  At one point the clot of people was so thick it took all of my willpower not to push people out of my way.

 A brief lull in the madness

Once free of the museum I beelined straight for the bus back to the convention center.  I was somewhat relieved to be away from the crowd, but being my last night in the city I realized I needed to go out and get a couple of things to take back to the family.  I wandered around the Gaslamp Quarter dodging crowds and trying to enjoy being in the city as much as I could before I left.

Finally I retreated to my hotel room and lay on the bed under the air conditioner until my abused senses recovered somewhat. 

Overall I had a great trip.  But Thursday night was a sober reminder to me that I sometimes things fall apart.  I was fine on Friday as  I made my way home, but I was looking forward to retreating to the Red River Regional Bikeport where I could take refuge and write all of these blog posts in peace, quiet, and solitude.   

From the photos you might think I was somewhat overreacting, but I assure you, inside the buildings it was a mad press of flesh and a truly horrid congealment of humanity.


  1. So sorry to hear that the event was over attended and under planned. I can imagine myself reacting in a near approximation of how you did. Glad you made it out without a severe incident. There is a lot to be said about solitude and the comfort of small groups of friends.

    1. Small groups are good! I hate crowds.