Today I had to make my biannual trip to see my gastroenterologist for my IBS. I know some people have cheered at not needing to wear masks and that mask mandates have been lifted, but I wore mine and needed it for a special reason. Well, several.

One, my masks are made in Japan, and like many autistic people who want our sensory items, my mask is soft and Japan is a special interest of mine. Secondly, I had to do a bit of a drive, and part of the drive involves having to pass through an electorate of a politician I despise. That politician sends me into meltdown and sends my blood pressure soaring. Having the Japanese made mask on, I could relax in peace and think, “Okay, you’ve got your Japanese face mask on, and your Japanese spectacles, and your watch. That will keep you calm.” And, three, it just felt comfortable.

My gastroenterologist asked me if I drank coffee and I said that I couldn’t stomach it, but I love tea. She asked me how much I drink and I said a few cups of ice tea with dinner and around a cup a day. She suggested I go to one tea shop that sells loose leaf tea.

On my way home, I stopped at the rest area and bought myself a cup of English Breakfast Tea with two sugars and sat in the quiet, slightly darkened area, and drank it. There is a two-hour time limit to park there, and I was there for about half an hour. In this section, the windows are slightly tinted, there aren’t a lot of kids, the tables are clean. I heard the soft whirr of the coffee machine, as other patrons came in and bought sandwiches, cakes and other snacks, and cups of tea or coffee. I could just sit and watch the cars and trucks pass by. All that shattered the peace was a call over the PA System for a customer to come in and pay. The last time I was there, I was about to head in and pay for my petrol when a young guy was standing near the pumps filming with his phone and I mentioned this to the attendant who called out over the PA that he couldn’t do it. The signs were up on every pump, “No mobile phones.”

I was amazed that the attendant who served me remembered me after six months. She said that she didn’t have a life as she was always at work.

I then felt revived a bit for the next leg of my trip home. It’s always a nice ritual to be able to just sit and relax with a cup of tea on a journey and just watch the world go by for a while.

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.