Last night, I hurled all over myself in the car. And since I drive a stick shift and was on a busy one-lane road, there was nothing I could do but puke and keep driving.
I made it home, pulled into the garage, peeled myself from the car seat and gingerly made my way to the shower to hose myself off. The inside of my car was a disaster. Even though I got most of it, part of me wants to go through the car wash with the windows down.
I remember those few moments before the nausea gripped me: My hairline was suddenly sweating and I was wondering what was wrong. Then my stomach turned and I knew what was about to happen. But I couldn’t pull off to the side of the road, or even slow down, what with the parade of cars I was in. My eyes scanned the inside of the dark car looking for something to hurl into, maybe I could reach the trash can? I have to keep my eyes on the road. Can I reach back and — no. By then my stomach seized and my dinner was in my lap, on the steering wheel, on the speedometer, everywhere.
After I’d had a hot shower, I went back out to the garage armed with paper towels to assess the damage. I would clean a little, run inside to pray to the porcelain god and then back out to keep cleaning.
Could I put sunglasses in the dishwasher? Would the handheld steam cleaner get the barf out of the car seat? Aren’t kids all over the world getting sick inside their parents’ cars on a regular basis? How do parents deal with this kind of mess? Should I just give up and take the car out to a cliff and push it off?
Today, as my belly gurgles on the tiniest whispers of Gatorade and nothing else, I’m finding the whole incident a little funny. And since this stomach bug required me canceling work and a trip to the ballet, I’ve been telling people what happened. They don’t seem to agree that barfing on yourself is funny. Some openly admit they’re grossed out by the visuals, but most of them just say, “Hope you feel better,” and find something else to talk about.
Why is that? I haven’t barfed on myself since I was a little kid, and never while going 50 mph. It feels pretty notable.
The only person who seems to think barfing on yourself while driving is funny is my friend who lives two miles away and is also missing work and fun plans because she, too, has the stomach bug. But why is everyone else not finding this a tiny bit funny? Is it because stories of being human and frail are patently met with dismay? We don’t want to be reminded of illness and vulnerability? Maybe it’s because Chunk from “The Goonies” was right: If you vom, other people will too.