ADHD at the Bike Shop: Looking in the Mirror

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • Last week I had a very unusual experience on a very typical kind of day. The sun was out; the spring air stirred a re-birth of my senses which had been deadened by six long months of one of Michigan's worst winters in history.


    If I hadn't had ADHD myself or a deep understanding of ADHD in general, then I probably would have thought I was having a nightmare...or worse...when I visited the local bicycle shop with my daughter that day. I had promised her a new set of wheels when she graduated high school (last year, mind you), and I finally got around to keeping my promise. Spring does that sort of thing to you.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    The experience was torturous, especially for someone who hates shopping. And had I not understood ADHD and talked myself down the ladder of hysteria, I probably would have turned around and ran out of that bike shop screaming, because never had I experienced such commotion, confusion, disorganization and insanity. When such experiences happen to me, I try and stop and analyze the situation in order to make sense of things, but also to try and make it into a learning opportunity. Plus, lately I'm finding that such incidents give me fodder for SharePost ideas. This is what happened:


    We entered the shop and before I could even go into sensory overload from the huge variety of bicycles blocking my vision, a woman shouted to me from across the room that she needed to talk to me "right away" and she was "so excited to see me."


    Well of course I stared and stared at her with that horrified ADHD-obsessive fear: "How DO I know her? She does look familiar. What IS her name? Wait- does she live next door? Is she my doctor? I know I've seen her...somewhere." I knew I was about to experience yet another ADHD embarrassment of a lifetime, for like many people with ADHD, I have a horrible time remembering familiar faces and the names that go with them.


    I'll call her Jane. And hope that isn't her real name, because though it's only been a week, I have already forgotten her name, though we had spent the next two hours together talking in that shop and had given me her business card (which I promptly lost).


    As it turns out, Jane was not my neighbor, relative or gynecologist. She introduced herself as an employee at the shop who recognized me from having attended some of my ADHD workshops and who had read and enjoyed my book. I can't begin to express how relieved I was that I hadn't made a complete fool of myself, thinking I should have known immediately who she was. Her warm friendliness made me think I'd just had dinner with her the night before.


    After her kind words about my work, we got on course and began discussing the project at hand: which bike to choose for my daughter. Within five minutes, my head began to spin and I quickly recognized the source of the dizziness. Having ADHD myself and being surrounded by folks with ADHD (my husband calls me an "ADHD magnet"), I'd entered what I call the ADHD dance of conversation; an activity I'm more than familiar with.  Our discussion leap- frogged from bike models to ADHD medications, to bike colors, ADHD books, bike accessories, restaurants, marital status, bike dimensions, career history, helmets, and about 100 other things before my daughter finally grabbed the prettiest bike in the shop and took it outside for a test drive. I breathed a sigh of relief and was grateful for the verbal vacation.


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    The trial was a success and my daughter decided this was the perfect bike for her. I was more than ecstatic, as this had been the easiest and fastest purchase I'd ever made with her. We turned back to enter the store headed to the cash register to pay for the bike. Until my daughter became completely distracted with picking out the helmet, basket and 300 other accessories to go with the bike: my payback for waiting a year to buy her a graduation present.


    By then, Jane had disappeared into an ocean of customers, so I grabbed another clerk who agreed to ring me up. The final tally nearly gave me a stroke, as the bike alone was $100 more than Jane had initially quoted me. I ran back to find her; she realized she had originally given me a quote for the basic bike, not the super duper model my daughter was salivating over. She apologized and offered to see if the basic model was available on the floor and then she...disappeared again.


    I grabbed another clerk who checked the computer and found the basic didn't come in the color my daughter had chosen. By now, it was already 45 minutes into our shopping excursion and I was getting weary. So I told this fellow to ring us up; we'd take it. He ran to get our itemized list of accessories that Jane had written up, but then he, too disappeared.


    I was on my 3rd clerk, begging him to please help me get out of the store, when clerk #4 grabbed the bike and offered to get it prepped while I was paying for our purchases.


    By this time, not only had Jane disappeared from the floor, but so did clerks #2-4. As I was about to fall to my knees weeping, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a 4 year old who ran over my toes while test driving a pink two wheeler with training wheels. Another hour would pass before I could escape the madness, at which time I was prepared to pay $5,000 for a Caribbean vacation to sooth my frayed nerves.


    Clerk #6 swung by and took pity on me and began, thankfully to ring me up. It then dawned on me: the entire store was run by adults who most likely had ADHD. When I suggested to the young clerk that ADHD might part of the reason for the store's chaos (noting there were only two other customers besides me) he winked at me and said, "Yep, and it starts from the top- our boss" and pointed to clerk #2 who had ducked into the back to gobble down a slice of pizza, oblivious to the pandemonium that was unfolding before his eyes.


    It then hit me like a ton of bricks. What I was experiencing was simply a typical day living with ADHD, but from the inside out!  All the chaos, disorganization and stress were what we with ADHD live and breathe on a daily basis. Here, I was watching it all unfold in front of my own eyes as if I were watching the workings of one huge ADHD brain.


    In the end, we left with a gorgeous new pristine white bike, with all the bells and more than enough whistles. I couldn't help but wonder how many of the folks working there had ADHD and whether any were getting the appropriate treatment for it. Want to take bets?

Published On: April 28, 2008