One evening, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and came across a post that asked travelers what their worst travel moment was.
Comment after comment, travelers reiterated tales of uncontrolled body functions on a plane that included descriptive words like “explosive” and “projectile.” One woman got dysentery (she’s okay now, though). My jaw dropped in horror. In many of these tales, the passenger was wheeled away by medics as soon as they landed.
“I even ruined my favorite pair of jeans :(,” one woman added as a secondary thought — with the obligatory sad face emoji for emphasis.
I don’t usually believe in karma, but you’d have to be quite a terrible human to have something so horrific happen on an airplane of all places.
The morning before my afternoon flight from Bali to Fiji, I woke up feeling feverish. Did I forget to wear sunscreen yesterday? Did I get enough sleep?
Over the next few hours, I could barely stand feeling clothes against my skin. I had shivers down my spine and my stomach started to churn. I remembered last night’s dinner — a sandwich with uncooked vegetables.
Oh no. I can’t have food poisoning on this flight. I needed to be home on time for a variety of reasons, the main one being cat related.
I went to the airport early and ran into a distant friend. We decided to go to a cafe just outside the airport before our flights.
He told me about how earlier that month, he’d fainted at work.
“Have you ever fainted before?” He asked.
“No.” I answered. I felt woozy.
We sat down for a quick meal but I couldn’t stomach the thought of food. There mere sight of his orange-tinted chicken noodles made me ill.
As soon as we parted ways, I ran and vomited into a nearby trash can. Since we were outside the airport, the ever-persistent taxi drivers still had the nerve to ask me, “Transport? You need transport, miss?” seconds after I lifted my head out of the bin.
Between the parking lot and the check-in counter, I vomited twice more in airport trash cans.
I texted my nurse friends for help — how can I make this stop? They advised ibuprofen for the swelling, charcoal to soak up the bad stuff, and an electrolyte mix to combat dehydration.
“You can’t fly like this,” they said.
I gathered all three items at the airport convenience store and stood in line. Of course, the woman in front of me took fifteen minutes to serve due to a misunderstanding over a cup of noodles.
I curled up into the fetal position and waited for my life to end or for the boarding announcement — whichever came first.
On the six-hour flight from Denpasar to Sydney, I spent no less than four hours of the flight in the bathroom. I became friendly with one of the flight attendants who offered me a cup of ice and a cup of water with electrolytes, both of which came back within minutes of downing them.
Welcome to Dante’s ninth circle of hell. It is, indeed, toilet bowl shaped.
One woman knocked aggressively on the bathroom door and yelled, “What are you doing in there?!”
“What do you think people do in bathrooms?” I yelled back.
I don’t know how this woman survived long enough to make it well into her fifties with these type of self-preservation skills. I know one thing for certain. If someone spends a long time in a bathroom, it sure as hell won’t be a room I’ll be banging doors down to get into. It wasn’t the only bathroom on the plane. Did they not teach germ theory to students in the 1960s?
With nothing left to lose, I crawled back to my seat. The thought crossed my mind that if I died on the plane, everyone would simply think I was asleep until we landed. I set my phone alarm to go off in an hour. That way, someone would have to wake me to shut it off. If I didn’t wake up, at least people would know I was dead while the plane was in the air rather than on the ground. I wouldn’t want my corpse to be shoved aside in the melee of passengers scrambling for their luggage from the overhead bins. That’s so tacky.
Fortunately, I didn’t need to use this plan. It wouldn’t have worked anyways, though, because I’d left my headphones plugged in — making the “Hey guys! I’m dead!” alarm inaudible to outsiders.
After the first of my three flights, I had a long layover in Sydney International Airport. I found my way to an empty gate strategically located near a restroom and fell asleep on the floor. I woke to a flight attendant for United Airlines nudging me with her foot.
“You can’t sleep here. This gate is for a United flight bound for Los Angeles and we’re about to be setting up a secondary security screening.”
God bless the USA.
At this point, it’d been over 24 hours since I’d eaten or been able to keep down any liquids. For reference, the longest I’ve ever gone without eating is probably 12 hours and I was asleep for most of it.
My next two flights and layover were spent sitting semi-unconsciously. I remembered the people on Facebook and their tales of sky-high combustion. I concluded that maybe terrible things don’t just happen to terrible people. Maybe karma doesn’t exist.
If I thought any deeper about it, I would’ve arrived at uncomfortable conclusions. And in that moment, emotional discomfort on top of physical discomfort would’ve been too much to bear.