Back in 2008 I wrote about how everyone should have a good vomit story. I thought I had one because I had puked in a foreign country, but that was kid stuff. Now I have a vomit story to put all other vom stories to shame. I won't be too graphic, so if you're a little queasy about these things, don't worry. You can still read.
I was flying home to NYC from Frankfurt and all was peachy keen. Flight left on time. Bulk head row window seat with no one next to me. Life on airplanes doesn't get much better than that these days! I was flying Lufthansa- a great airline- and I was going home. All around great. They served the before-dinner drink and I had a beer and a water. They served the meal and I chose beef stew and had a glass of wine. Nothing unusual, nothing I haven't done on a bajillion other flights. But 2 hours after the meal I started feeling nauseous. No turbulence. I've never been airsick. So this was very strange indeed.
I decided that it would be less than desirable to be nauseous for 6 more hours so I went to the bathroom to see if I could make myself throw up. I did a little bit, but I still felt gross. Also unusual. I can usually get myself to throw up immediately, and then I feel better. So then I walked to the back of the plane to ask if they had any medicine. I was in bad shape and just sat down on the floor in the "kitchen" area. Not. Good.
The flight attendant told me he'd bring me some herbal tea. I managed to gather myself and hobble back to my seat. He brought the herbal tea after a few minutes and I sipped on it for awhile. I have no idea how, but I managed to spill it all. Thankfully I had a blanket on my lap, so that absorbed the majority of the liquid. But then I had to ask for ANOTHER cup of tea. Check-mark for Annoying Sick Girl. Not. Good.
I managed to dose on and off, but I just didn't feel well. However, it was manageable. The flight attendants checked on my every so often, bless their hearts. About 45 minutes to landing I just started feeling really terrible again. At this point we had to be in our seats, seat-belts fastened. Each little movement and shift of the plane just sent a fresh wave of nausea through my body. I knew I wouldn't make it, and I knew I still had quite a large quantity of food in my stomach and the airsick bag was NOT going to cut it. So at 30 minutes to ing I braved getting out of my seat to go to the bathroom. Thankfully no one thought I was a terrorist, so I was able to puke in peace.
The last 25 minutes of the flight were awful. Though I didn't have much of anything in my stomach, my body retched with every move of the plane, and I was gagging into an airsick bag every few minutes. I was more thankful for my bulk head solo seating than I ever thought was possible. I also mused to myself in between pukings that I never could have imagined how quiet I could force myself to be while gagging and puking. Cause seriously, I was NOT going to be The Puking and Gagging Girl in addition to everything else. Bright clear sunny skies and no turbulence and some chick is puking? That's just weak sauce.
The adventure continued after deplaning. While I hoped the puking would stop once I was on the ground, I was unpleasantly surprised to find out that I was still just as nauseous. In addition, I was all emotional and excited to be home, and the simple American "Welcome Home" spoken by the customs official to the person ahead of me was enough to bring me almost to tears. Melodramatic much? In my mind I imagined what the customs officials would think about a pale, teary, pukey girl coming from eastern Europe and the hours of interrogation I would face if they suspected any number of crazy things. I managed to pull it together enough to wipe my eyes, smile at the nice man and make my way to baggage claim.
At baggage claim I could feel that I was about to lose it. Both my stomach and my mind. All I could think was, "How am I going to make it on the train into the city and the subway up to my friend's apartment??" I no longer have a functioning US phone, and even with the best attitude, asking strangers to use their phone is a bit daunting. But I knew that I would have to call a friend to meet me at Penn Station. Meanwhile my luggage came. So I had a large travel backpack weighing about 30 pounds, a carryon suitcase weighing about 15 pounds, and a tote bag. All of which I left sitting in the middle of the floor so I could run to a garbage can to heave yet again. My mind crumbled about 5 seconds later and I burst into tears.
Having no other option but to press onward, I took a deep breath and made my way to the AirTrain, a short train that connects the Newark airport to the NJ Transit train stop where you get a train to the city. I asked a man if I could borrow his phone and tried to call my dear friend Bridgette. She didn't answer. When I got to the NJ Transit stop I sat in the waiting room, as the next train wasn't coming for 10-15 minutes. Which was more than enough time for my body to work itself up again and for me to puke in another public place. You know you've hit rock bottom when you're puking at a train station in New Jersey. Fortunately a woman came over and asked if I was alright. Hm, let me think... Yea, not so much. She offered me a cough drop. I thanked her and asked her if I could also use her phone. This time Bridgette picked up. She wholeheartedly agreed to meet me at Penn Station.
Unfortunately the worst was yet to come. Because you know what's worse than puking in a garbage can at a train station in New Jersey? Puking on a rush hour train in New Jersey. No, not puking. Heaving, gagging, and retching. Next to a stranger. Literally 10 inches away. Yep, that's got to be worse. Thankfully I was sitting smack dab next to a really nice woman who had a ton of sympathy for me and chatted with me in between my retching episodes. She suggested I drink some bay leaf tea for the nausea and focus on my breathing (yoga instructor). She volunteered to help me get my bags out of the train and up into the station. Anyone who has come into Penn Station at rush hour knows how absurd an ordeal that can be even without luggage. She even made sure someone was coming to get me and said she would go with me wherever I was going if no one was helping me. What a blessing!
But I still had more. I had told Bridgette to meet me at the Krispy Kreme because it made the most sense in my mind. But it did not make the most sense to my hyper-sensitive stomach. Fried dough smells while violently nauseous? Yea, not so much. But I literally just sat down on the floor in Penn Station in front of Krispy Kreme, bags strewn about me. Homeless people looking worriedly at me. New. Lows.
I decided to try to call Bridgette again, but I literally could not get anyone to let me use their phone. It was the classic stereotype NYC Hustle and Bustle No-Time-For-Anything playing out at my expense. Not even the 3 women at the info desk would help me. I started to say, "Do you have a phone I can..." NO. No. NO. They were literally sitting doing nothing. Finally I managed to find a man standing alone eating an Auntie Anne's pretzel who let me use his phone. I called Bridgette and she met me there.
The last leg of this crazy crazy adventure was the taxi ride uptown. She told me there was no way we were taking the subway with how motion was affecting me, and while I questioned whether a taxi would be any better in rush hour traffic, I just went into Let Bridgette Take Care Of Me mode. Because she's an expert in that department, and I was Pukey McPukerson. Maybe not thinking too rationally. I basically retched the entire seemingly-30-but-probably-only-10-minute ride home. The cabbie was really concerned about his car. Not so much about me. But B assured him I had a barf bag.
At long last we arrived at the wonderful fabulous amazing homey not-public apartment of Bridgette and 3 of my other friends. I was not in such excellent shape, but I was home. My body managed to find a reason to retch for a few more hours, but it somehow mattered way less. I was 10 feet from a clean toilet, in sweats, and surrounded by friends. If my body hadn't been exhausted from all the absurdity, the travel and time change would have been enough to make me zonk out.
The next morning I woke up feeling fine. I have absolutely no clue why it happened or what caused it, but dang, that was crazy. I would say food, but it started only 2 hours after I ate, which seems too quick. I would say alcohol, but I've had alcohol on a flight before. Who knows. At least it's over. I sincerely wish that I had the presence of mind to photograph all the places where I vomited to mark the "journey". But that would just have been sick.