Monday, February 04, 2008

DWV: Driving While Vomiting

During the 2 years I lived in Chicago, I had many temp jobs. The longest-lasting of these (3 months) was a data entry gig in the burbs, which required me to commute in my parents' 1992 Buick LeSabre. One morning toward the end of my tenure (early December 2001), I woke up somewhat nauseous, strange for me but not a red flag at that point. I still ate my usual microwaved oatmeal breakfast. That week I experimented by sprinkling craisins into the mix. They didn't help the taste much.

I trudged out of my dreary garden apartment to my parents' car, usually parked less than 3 blocks away. (Chicago parking, huh? Whatta ya gonna do? At least I never got ticketed for lacking the supposedly obligatory city parking sticker.) As I drove through the neighborhoods and corporate campuses of Morton Grove and Glenview, my nausea increased, so I stopped at a drug store and picked up some Pepto-Bismol chewable pills. I popped a few of those and made it to work an hour late, per usual. (Our supervision was extremely lax.)

Now, though, my stomach was on the verge of rebellion. One of my fellow temps, a married woman in her 30's (?), suggested herbal tea. I made a cup and took some sips, but the tide of sickness could not be held back any longer. I tracked down our supervisor (no mean feat) and told her I was ill and homeward bound. "Go," she insisted. "See ya later." It sounded like she was afraid I was gonna puke on her shoes right then and there. Later I learned that the stomach flu had been going around the office.

I was tempted to go straight to the restroom, but, as much as I hate throwing up, I hate the embarrassment of doing so at work even more. So I began the drive home. But I didn't make it. While cruising down an unusually serene freeway, the alarm went off and I knew I had to find a restroom. On the exit ramp is when it began. I just had to point my mouth toward the passenger side and hope that I would miss the dashboard. A fountain of vomitus gushed onto the floor. I was able to take a few breaths and keep the car on the road before the next deluge. A few passing drivers seemed to be aware of a problem. Their confused stares conveyed a certain disgust, but no real concern as far as I could tell. Maybe I'd just been living in Chicago too long to expect total strangers to show any kind of sympathy for me. I turned into a mall parking lot, unleashing another torrent before I was finally able to bring the car (and my stomach) to a state of rest.

There were no more outbursts the rest of the way, thankfully. I pulled into the alley behind my apt. building and somehow cleaned up the mess. (The only part of the cleaning process I remember is the last step: Febreze, Febreze, Febreze.) Due to the craisins, the light blue upholstery of the passenger-side floor and the space between the driver and passenger seats retained a magenta-spotted scheme thereafter. (I'm glad I was able to sanitize that image for you. I was afraid it might get too graphic.)

That evening I was enveloped in a waking fever dream as I tried (and failed) to watch The Sound of Music on TV. (Didn't they used to show that at Easter?) The flu subsided considerably the next day (which was, mercifully, a Saturday). But, when my college friend Courtney called, I still wasn't quite up to hanging out at her new pad. What makes it really sad is that was the last time I spoke with her. In my last 7 months in the Windy City, I left her several messages but never heard back. That had a lot to do with my departure from Chi-town.

Hm. That's a pretty depressing way to end what was supposed to be a whimsical anecdote. I'll have to work on that.

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