The Joys of Puking at 30,000 Feet


by Leah Peterson
© 2004 Leah Peterson
All Rights Reserved
Originally published on Writer’s Monthly

Words Overheard on a plane somewhere over the west coast:

Mrs. 27A to the attendant: ‘Do you think you could get her to shut that door? It’s just not a nice sound…that vomiting.’

Holidays are wonderful. People are on their nicest, friendliest behavior. And it’s the perfect time to fly. I went to see my sister in the Seattle area. She picked me up from the airport about 10am. When we got to her house, I went straight to bed since I hadn’t slept in 24 hours or so and I totally missed the big holiday dinner but I hear it was quite a party. Next time, I’m hoping to not get sick.

My sister saved me some leftovers, which are the best part anyway, and they tasted great since I was completely over the airsickness by that point. My ankle was only swollen a little. It had been hours since I tripped over the guy seated next to me on the plane, as I tried to vault over him to reach the blue-watered, stainless steel potty. Next time, I’ll get an aisle seat.

Yes, my ankle was looking much better. The redness and swelling had really gone down. Of course, choosing to wear high-heels on a flight was a decision I might think twice about next time. And the great news is that only the two back rows next to the bathroom had to listen to me retch because the sound of the engine drowned out the sounds for the rest of the passengers.

You may wish I wasn’t telling you so much detail, but I seem to have made a habit of getting sick every single dang Christmas or/and Thanksgiving. I’ve tried to keep it a secret from family and friends so they will still invite me to their parties which has only resulted in it happening over and over again. This year, in hope that the incident will not be repeated in 2004 or ever, I’m going to tell you all about it.

Hurdling over the man on my left, in my high-heels, my only thought after the jolt of excruciating pain in my ankle, was to make it into the lavatory. I didn’t have enough time to shut the door behind me if I wanted to make most of the vomit hit in the toilet. I opted to gross out the back-of-the-airplane target group and make the babies wake up and cry from the up-chuck noise. The carpet between rows 17-35 was saved from the stench of fresh vomit. I was clean out of any pop-up air fresheners to stick on the walls. Next time, I’ll take some with me. And I’m still pretty sure that I made the right decision, at least for rows 1-16.

Enough about vomit…let’s talk about my hair.

When I returned to my seat, limping, slightly clammy, exhausted and shaking, (this time, the guy got up and moved to let me in…) I immediately fell to sleep with my head banging against the window. The airline was out of pillows and blankets, but quite frankly, I don’t know that it made any difference. I was too tired to notice.

I don’t know what else happened during the rest of the flight. I imagine they played a B movie of some kind that no one really watched. I had strange dreams of flying (minus the plane) through clouds of pink cotton candy with a giant shoe chasing me. Off in the distance I heard children crying. There was a bear wearing my winter coat along with a knapsack of water bottles that I had to bring with me. I’m pretty sure there was vomit somewhere in the dream, but I can’t be sure.

But I do know that for two hours my hair was stuck in a most peculiar position. How do I know? Let me tell you.

The flight ended. The plane jolted. I spasmodically came to an upright position, still more than half asleep. My sweet reverie ended when the man next to me said, ‘Hey. Lady. We’re here.’ And he poked me in the arm. I’m sure he meant it in the nicest way possible.

I wiped the drool off my face, grabbed my bags that, what do you know, had moved slightly during flight, and set all my strength on getting off the plane and to the bathroom where I could clean up a bit.

I limped and shuffled, limped and shuffled my way to the exit where the stewardess shook her head slightly and told me she hoped I could enjoy my vacation. I smiled at her. She ruffled my hair. I stepped back and then hurried forward as fast as I could past her. Ruffling my hair was never something I enjoyed. Not even when I was of hair-ruffling age. Being a grown-up gives me the right to just say no to all further hair ruffling episodes, I think.

I rode the little train to the main terminal, walked a mile or so and then finally found a bathroom. I looked in the mirror. The first thing I noticed was that I was very pale and my mascara was smeared on one side all the way down my cheek. The second thing I noticed was that my hair was sticking straight up pretty much all over, not altogether unattractive if you’re a punker with a Mohawk going to OZ Fest, but I wasn’t used to it and scared myself. Then I understood the little shrugs and muffled laughing. It was a pretty impressive hair-do.

Using some water from the bathroom sink, a paper towel and my hands, I did what I could to get my hair under control. In 30-seconds or less, I gave up and realized I just didn’t care that much. Next time I’ll wear a hat.

It did turn out to be a nice holiday and the return trip from my sister’s home was uneventful in comparison. I just sat there and the plane flew me home. A little boring, actually.

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