Warning: Parts of this post may trigger anxiety or distress. Reader discretion is advised
On 26th March 2018, The National Autistic Society launched their latest short film entitled ‘Diverted.’ It was released as part of their ‘Too Much Information’ campaign that was launched in 2016. ‘Diverted’ depicts a woman who is gazing in the mirror in her hallway at home and fidgeting. She imagines herself on the train where there is a display that says the train is delayed. The woman is surrounded by people who eat noisily, laugh and appear to be staring at her. She continues to fidget, the train is diverted and a man brushes past her but he apologises. While she still fidgets people seem to be judging her. The woman is back in her hallway at home. She says she’s autistic and her fear of change can make it impossible for her to leave the house.
I think the film was made in an effective, powerful and thought-provoking way like the other films The NAS have made for their TMI campaign. Like with another NAS film called ‘Make it Stop,’ I like how a female was chosen as the lead role because I believe that females with autism are often underrepresented in the media so in my opinion ‘Diverted’ and ‘Make it Stop’ are the most refreshing NAS films for featuring females on the spectrum.
For me using public transport is a mixed bag. While I have some excellent transport links where I live and I get to go on the bus and the Tube for free due to owning a Freedom Pass (I know the elderly would normally use them but younger people who have hearing impairments, visual impairments and autism for example can also have them), I sometimes find things such as people talking on their phones loudly, playing their music without headphones and buses terminating unexpectedly hard to deal with. I have already written some blog posts where I mentioned some of these things (see below for links) as well as a time when another passenger accused me of ignoring him when he asked me a question (he even insulted me) but I actually didn’t hear him because I was listening to music on my headphones. I can even recall moments on public transport where I found myself moving away from people I didn’t know because they’d randomly start talking to me or I was worried that one of them would steal my bag when they touched it to tell me the zip was undone so in these cases it was hard for me to see that those people were either being friendly or trying to help me. Looking back I realised I moved away from these people to be on the safe side because I could never predict their next move or what they’d say next.
Unfortunately going through train, Tube or bus stations can be just as challenging as travelling on public transport itself. One night I was at Euston Underground Station after a friend’s birthday party when I was on the escalator and a lady stood so close to me that she touched me so I moved up one step. When I got off the escalator I ended up screaming because I thought I was having a panic attack but a member of London Underground staff asked me if I needed any help but I told her I didn’t. Despite this she appeared to follow me past the barriers, down another escalator and to my platform. This made me feel very uncomfortable because I was worried she’d get on the Tube with me but she didn’t. Instead she remained on the platform as the train departed. I have even complained to TFL about the member of Tube staff who followed me but I received no response from them. Whilst waiting for the train on my way to my friend’s party it seemed to be held on the platform for a while and not allow any passengers on board because the driver was running late. During a game at my friend’s party I became anxious because I was worried about missing a train home but her husband very kindly kept track of the train on his phone so he knew when to drive me back to his and my friend’s local train station. I found this very reassuring but it’s a shame that it led to the difficulties I would face at the other end.
More recently I was on the coach from London to Newport to stay with my family and towards the end of the journey the lady sitting behind me was talking and swearing on the phone quite loudly. This made me concerned for the child sitting in front of me because I was worried the child would pick up the swearing but for the most part the child was playing games and watching online videos on a tablet.
Ways I make my public transport journeys more pleasant are by listening to music through my headphones, checking my e-mails, text messages and social media on my phone and sometimes watching videos on YouTube. I even played a word search game on my mother’s phone on our way to a recent trip to Cardiff.
Overall while I do find ‘Diverted’ effective and refreshing due to its use of a female lead, I have my ups and downs of using public transport but I have a few coping strategies to make my journeys more enjoyable.
NAS online article about the film: http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/tmi/film.aspx
Other blog posts where I have mentioned my public transport struggles: