[433/441] Joy and obsession of mundane

When thinking about a blog post for today, I was skimming the Chicago Tribune website, looking for an article about the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament.  Though I did not find much about it (women’s sports don’t get a lot of media coverage), I did find an excellent article, which I would like to summarize and reflect on.  After all, it relates to MY story!  In this post, I both summarize the article which I read, and then reflect on it.

Article summary

O’Grady, the author of that article, has a son who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4.  Initially, she thought it was a punishment and a curse.  However, the blessing came with joy of the mundane.

A common characteristic of people on the spectrum is intense focus on one specific area.  For O’Grady’s son Casey, this was about buses. He memorized bus schedules and routes, and his first words included “articulated bus,” “transfer,” and “bus pass.” This led to an intense fantasy world for Casey, filled with “playing bus.”  His conversations included perseveration of bus-related questions and answers.

In the imaginary play, it included creating a labyrinth of bus-related material inside the house, and a fake bus stop outside the house.  And there was one day that a city’s articulated bus had taken a wrong turn, and stopped at this fake bus stop sign! It was almost as if his imagination had come into fruition, and it wasn’t the doing of parents or friends–but rather an inadvertent appearance on the street due to a rerouted bus.

Personal reflection

I have mentioned previously on my blog that I love public transportation, although I think I am more of a train person than a bus person. Even so, the roads and being “out there” hold a lot of appeal to me.

Although I didn’t have much experience with buses when I was younger, I had obsessions with garage doors, and to a lesser extent, the Interstate system.  Here are a few stories from when I was younger, related to the latter:

Road construction

When I used to live in Fort Dodge, Iowa, our most frequent family vacations were to Omaha and/or Lincoln.  Frequently, on these trips, there would be stretches of road construction, and I was always fascinated.  Mom had gotten me a video called “Road Construction Ahead” which detailed the process of road construction, and I watched it on repeat several times. Perseveration, part one!

Interstate highways, part one

Once again, this is related to Fort Dodge-to-Nebraska trips. The Interstate highways were a novelty to me, since in Fort Dodge, the closest Interstate was I-35 toward Des Moines. I loved looking at the signs, and as mentioned in the previous paragraph, road construction too. I always asked Mom and Dad something to the effect of, “Let me know if there is road construction,” because even if I was watching out the windows, I may not have been able to see it due to my… slight stature back then!

Besides the road construction, I loved the cloverleaf intersections. My favorite one was the continuation of Interstate 680 onto Interstate 29-North just east of Omaha. From there, we took either Interstate 80 or Missouri Valley toward Highway 30, and then a few other highways to get to Highway 20, and to Fort Dodge.

Well, when I was at Cooper Elementary School, although I would sometimes do “normal” recess activities like playing on the playground equipment, four-square, basketball, or tetherball, other times I would wander the playground, “playing Interstate.” With the exits in mind, I would treat the playground like an Interstate highway system, and my favorite part was on the north end of the playground, turning off as if it were the cloverleaf, five kilometers from the Mormon Bridge!

The exit that continues Interstate 680 in Iowa onto I-29.

Courtesy Google Earth Streetview

Interstate highways, part two

In addition to the enjoyment in RIDING in the car on these highways, I had a fascination with maps. I’m not sure where it came from, but for some reason, there was a song which aroused the cartographer’s spirit inside me. That would be Wooly Bully.

This obsession with drawing maps came about in art class during elementary school. My art teacher had told my parents with concern that I had ignored the assignment. What I was supposed to do was to draw a barn or animals therein. Instead, I drew a detailed map of an Interstate highway system! I don’t recall the details on this, but I assume that the physical evidence is somewhere in the recesses of the basement. It’s something I should seek out the next time I’m back in Nebraska!


I still enjoy maps and Interstate highways to this day. Maybe not quite as much as I used to, or at least not to the obsessive level. Road signs still trip my trigger, and I have mentioned on previous blogs that I enjoy applying one type of infrastructure (e.g. Interstate highways or train systems) to others (i.e. bike trails).

Quick analysis

I loved the story of Casey and the imaginary bus stop becoming a real one. It is a heartening story of someone on the spectrum, and I think it really shows that everyone has a place somewhere and can make a difference. For non-verbal members of the spectrum, they have some sort of passion that may or may not be obvious. Because the autism is part of the person, it is our mission to try and find a way to unlock the powers of each person’s unique interests!


Today is the four-hundred and thirty-third day of Mission 441. Eight days remain.


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