There are several phrases you hope never to hear on a four-hour flight:

“Prepare for a water landing.”

“There’s mother*ckin’ snakes on the plane!”

“Today’s movie stars Robin Williams.”

But earlier this year, I heard the five words that struck more terror into my heart than all the others combined, as they were uttered in a hushed tone by the mother of the 8-year old boy seated next to me:

“Does your tummy still hurt?”

When his immediate response was, “Yeah – real bad,” and she handed him an air-sick bag, I knew I was in for the ride of my life.

The plane hadn’t even taken off yet when he began squirming in his seat. The second the seat belt sign was turned off, his father rushed him to the bathroom, but not before he threw up in the aisle opposite me.

After about a half hour, he returned to his seat, smelling of an acrid combination of vomit and airplane soap. Given that I am highly susceptible to stomach bugs, I focused all my energy on becoming as small and as light as a feather so as not to come into contact with his disease. My body floated above the armrests. My lungs would only inhale 100 molecules of air at a time. Eventually, he fell asleep and I allowed my body to land.

Midway through the flight, he began to stir. His mother was occupied with her infant daughter in the seat next to her, as the boy weakly said, “Mom? Mom?”

I immediately reached over and yanked her sleeve, pointing down at her now sweaty son. He sat up and searched for a bag, which I took as my cue to leap up, grab my book, kick my purse as far under the seat as it would go and make my escape.

I went to the galley up by first class and saw a stack of garbage bags, so I grabbed one and brought it back to the mom, ensuring that the boy had as large a target as possible. From there, it was just a waiting game. We had over two hours left in the flight, so I ran some quick mental calculations and determined that at his rate of vomiting every 30 minutes, and his estimated maximum stomach volume, I needed to stay in the galley for at least another 90 minutes.

As I stood there reading my book, one of the flight attendants – Joakim – asked if he could get me anything. I told him I was fine, and that I was just avoiding my seat-mate who was vomiting.

“Oh god, are you next to that little boy? Is he getting sick again? His dad tried to hand me the bag of vomit while I was delivering food service!”

I told him my story, and he apologized and said that unfortunately it was a totally full flight so there was nowhere for me to go. I said I was fine in the galley, far from the sounds and smells of my neighbor.

On his next galley run, he asked again if he could get me anything, “Bloody Mary? Screwdriver? Glass of wine?”

It was 10:00am. I hadn’t eaten anything other than a piece of toast four hours earlier. So I said hell yeah bring me some wine, and that’s when it became one of the best flights ever. Leaning up against the counter, sipping my wine and reading my book, I started to chat up everyone as they waited in line for the bathrooms. They would ask if I was in line, and I would say no, I was just trying to avoid getting vomit on me. Then we would talk, they would hang out in the galley for a while, some more people would join us – it was like a house party.

Every so often, Joakim would come back and hang out with me. He shared vomit and diaper horror stories from previous flights. He was my favorite flight attendant ever, and not just because he brought me two more glasses of wine during the two hours I stood there.

When the seat belt sign came on as we began our descent, I flashed Joakim a sad look and he shook his head. “Not yet,” he said. I could stay back there a few more minutes. Once it was truly time for me to take my seat, he handed me another garbage bag, “Just in case.”

The boy was again sleeping and my seat did not appear to be contaminated, so I quietly slid in, buckled my seat belt and closed my eyes. When I arrived in San Francisco, the text I sent my friend simply said, “Plane here. So drunk.” When life hands you lemons, sometimes you have to make Cabernet.

10 Responses to “Baggage”

  1. brandon Says:

    great story. hey, by chance did you happen to save about 40 of those air sickness bags? just curious.

  2. Average Jane Says:

    Sounds like you played it just right!

  3. sizzle Says:

    This is the second post I am reading today involving puke. I’m telling my stomach not to get any bright ideas.

    Love the last line of this post. :-)

    See you soon!

  4. Angella Says:

    That is awesome. I mean, not the puke, of course. Now I want a glass of wine…at 10 am. ;)

  5. Dave2 Says:

    Welcome to my life. I had a number of vomiting passenger stories, but my favorite was this girl dressed as Paris Hilton… bottle-blonde hair, tight jeans, cowboy hat, bedazzled cling-shirt, pouty pink lipstick, and those stupid gigantic over-sized sunglasses in pink. She not only wanted to LOOK like Paris Hilton, she ACTED like Paris Hilton (which is sad and kind of pathetic when you don’t have the money to back it up).

    So anyway, Trailer Trash Paris and her boyfriend get on the small plane where she makes this major production over everything she says and does. I’m across the aisle and am forced to listen to her stupid crap and cabin steward abuse. THEN… without warning… she PROJECTILE VOMITS. She’s in the front row, so the vomit hits the partition and covers her and her boyfriend in spewage. This causes a chain reaction (as it usually does) and soon two other people were vomiting when they got a whiff of the hurl.

    Trailer Trash Paris cried for the entire remaining 20 minutes of the flight. Not because she was sick. Not because she made other people vomit. Not because she redecorated the plane with vomit. She was crying because the vomit got on her suede Paris Hilton impostor boots.

    I sneaked an iPhone picture of her when we first got on the plane (not after, eww!) because I think posers are hilarious… remind me to show it to you because she really DOES kind of look like Paris Hilton if you’re drunk and squinting a bit. Hey, it may actually BE Paris Hilton! Except I can’t imagine Paris Hilton crying over a pair of boots.

  6. Cheryl Says:

    I think you should get some “When life gives you lemons, make Cabernet” T-shirts printed up. You will be an eBay billionaire in no time.

    Dave2: Actually, I think it’s saddest to act like Paris Hilton when you ARE Paris and do have the money to back it up. I mean, she could buy herself an education, right? Theoretically? All airplane girl had were her boots.

  7. Don Says:

    As always, an outstanding story that made me laugh out loud.

    T-shirt ideas are running through my head but I feel like I’m stealing so will stop.

    I am so sad I won’t be there! Was gonna fly to Seattle, rent a car, the whole bit but NO. WAH.

  8. shari Says:

    Sorry about vomit-boy! For that matter, I’m sorry FOR vomit-boy. And his parents too, because I can totally imagine how mortified I’d be in their place. Anyway, I love when you tell stories, Jenny! First, because you always pick awesome stories to tell; and next, because you just tell them so damn well. Now then… where’s my “lemons-to-cabernet” t-shirt?!

  9. Evangeline Says:

    Oh my gosh I am so, so, sorry for you! I practically have a pathological fear of the flu and vomiting. You definitely deserve some sort of award for going through that.

  10. Norma Says:

    Great story! Made me really feel (even more) for my co-travelers over the Atlantic as I vomited for hours, was hustled quickly through customs. continued on the connecting van, and lay on the floor in the airport.

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