The Dixie Classic is one of George's favorite things ever. He loves the unabashed garishness of the attractions, the fare that makes no pretense of healthiness, the showmanship of the performers -- all of it.
And yet nothing ramps up his OCD quite like the fair. Confronted by rides that whirl, speed, bobble, whip, spin, and flip, George inevitably begins to panic. There's just too much risk-taking going on, even if the risk isn't his.
Today his first defense was to tell me that he would only go on the kiddie swings, the carousel, and the giant slide. Then, still tense, he set personal rules for each ride as we approached it in turn --- only the lone yellow swing among the reds and blues, only the one brown horse with purple on the saddle, only the purple track on the slide. He's pretty good about sharing these seemingly arbitrary restrictions so I'm aware of them, but he is never able to specify the why of them, only that they are and he would very much prefer them to remain inviolate.
Unfortunately the general populace is aware of neither George's OCD nor the very specific rules that he has because of it. And so when George reached the top of the giant slide today and was told by the young lady up there that he was to go down the yellow track, he said, "But I need to go down purple," in his strangly, panicky voice that he uses when he is sure the world is going to end because something is not going how he believes it must. And then because she was slow to respond, he promptly dissolved into tears and fled back down the stairs as quickly as he could, bursting out the entrance into my arms, his cries full of of frustration and sorrow.
I hugged him and held him while he buried his face in my shirt, and all the while, the woman at the entrance to the slide, whom I now know to be one Ms. Josephine McDonald, called out to me with a face full of concern, "What happened? What happened?" When George began to cry, "That's it, we're going," (fight or flight, he will always pick flight) I sort of sway-walked over to her, still holding George, and told her he would be fine, nothing awful had happened, nobody's fault, but that George had OCD and unfortunately felt like the purple slidepath was the only way to go. She looked devastated as I moved toward the barns, taking George away, which is the first step in getting him calm enough to talk it out.
The second step is to say OK, the third is to change the subject entirely, the fourth is to be agreeable when he reintroduces the subject, the fifth is to distract him again, and then the sixth is to slowly introduce an alternative. In this case there was a grape snowcone involved in Step Three and a trip to the German-themed funhouse in Step Five.
After George had run through said funhouse so many times so that his forehead felt sweaty under my kiss, I casually remarked, "You know, you could say, 'I really need to wait for the purple slide. I hope that's OK.'" And George tilted his head to think about it, then casually replied, "I kind of want to try that firetruck ride."
For those not in the know, the firetruck ride is quite close to the giant slide.
So we moseyed on over and rode the fire truck. When we got off, we casually moseyed even nearer the giant slide. And here is where something amazing and wonderful happened: Ms. Josephine McDonald saw us.
And she gave the biggest smile ever and called to George, "Come! I'm going to make sure you get that purple!" I felt George's hand in mine tense for half a second, and then it was gone as he galloped those last four steps to Ms. Josephine McDonald. As I stepped up behind him, she reached past him and gave me a quick, fierce hug. "I'm so glad you came back! So glad."
And she followed George up the stairs herself to tell the worker at the top that this young man was George and he needed purple.
I went to the Strates office onsite to tell them what a wonderful employee they had. They told me she is an onsite worker, not one who travels with them. That means she's from here, y'all!
She didn't look behind her when she walked George up those stairs, but if she had, she would have seen that I had tears in my eyes.
I want her to know what a blessing I think she is. Will you please help me by passing this along in whatever way you can? I feel like eventually it will reach her.