Autism and Hotel Fire Alarms
Pre-pandemic, my husband, son, and I had a visit to the bay area.
We stayed at a fairly nice hotel in downtown Oakland.
We had an unusual experience in this hotel, and I learned something about my son.
The hotel has twenty-one floors.
Our room was on the twentieth floor.
Why so high?
Well, we often enjoy the views at certain hotels. This hotel in Oakland provides a spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay.
Why not get a high floor?
For this weekend, my husband and I were going to tour Berkley and see family and friends. My son was going to stay at the hotel/convention center and game while having access to our hotel room.
Plus, my son always likes to have a high floor room, he likes the views, too.
Well, maybe not sure much anymore.
Why did he change his mind?
Because on the second morning, the hotel fire alarm went off at 5am.
And, everyone had to make their way to the stairwell.
That means, when you attend a gaming tournament—one of the major tournaments—the number of attendees range in the hundreds, sometimes over a thousand.
And, these gamers have a tendency to share rooms…Which means 3-6 people per room.
So, when you’re on the twentieth floor and a fire alarm goes off and you have to evacuate because it may very well be an emergency, you have to get outside. Quickly.
Is that what happened?
No, it took seventeen minutes to get out of that hotel.
How did my son do?
He panicked. He was upset, scared, and wanted out.
My son couldn’t understand why the line wasn’t moving so he could get out of the building.
His autism was out… he saw only himself and not others around him.
Those others, a couple hundred of them, were packed in that stairwell blocking his way to the outside. In other words, in his head, this could be very bad for him.
How did we react?
Internally, I felt the same way. I had a child and a husband and I wanted out because I knew that this wasn’t typical. This could be very bad.
Did I show it outwardly? No.
Typically, I don’t panic. I also realized that I had an upset son who was panicking, and there were a lot of people packed into that stairwell.
Every time the line STOPPED (for a very long minute or two), my son’s panic got bad.
And, he said it.
“I don’t like this.” “Why aren’t we moving?” “We need to get out of here.”
I had no choice but to remain calm. So did my husband.
Therefore, if we were calm, we could talk to him. Together, we would get our son through this.
One guy asked if my son wanted to step into a hallway to take a breather for a few seconds, but he refused. My son was ultra-focused on the moving part. The getting out part.
Whenever we were moving, he was better.
However, whenever we stopped, the anxiety went up a notch.
What did I learn from this experience?
I know I have a tendency to remain calm in most situations, and this was yet another example. Turned out, it was a good thing for me to remain calm.
My son sometimes plays off my emotions. When he verbally got upset, so that others could hear him, I calmly hugged him and reassured him that everything would be okay.
Turns out, it was. Apparently, it was a false alarm.
However, I learned that my son does have some anxiety, he does have a tendency to panic. Okay, nothing too terribly wrong with that, especially now that I know it.
I’ll be prepared the next time we’re in some kind of unexpected situation.
And, hopefully, all of them will have a similar result…a false alarm.
In conclusion, I don’t wish to have another situation like this at all, but, if it does happen, I have learned something. Knowledge is a power, especially when the tricky situations occur.
BTW, our post-pandemic vacation, eight different hotels, all worked out fine.
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