Sunday, July 08, 2007

Puking on Public Transport

After reading (and enjoying, despite her suffering), Redcap's recounting of her joyous journey on public transport; meeting ships crew who called her 'Sir' and being lost in the darkness at Port Adelaide, I thought I'd share my own travel experience.

Many many blue moons ago, I was still living in Melbourne and suffering the effects of morning sickness when Sapphire was a mere 10-week-old embryo. In the space of only three weeks, 7:18am from Heidelberg to Swanston street was fast becoming an olfactory nightmare and the lowest point of my day. I would feel queasy when my eyelids first reluctantly opened and all the well-meaning advice about eating a cracker before getting out of bed (no doubt making for itchy sheets) didn't appeal and didn't work.

Instead, what was normally a ‘refreshing’ one-and-a-half kilometre walk from our house to the train station became a march of straining, sweaty agony, vainly chain-sucking boiled sweets the entire journey. I’d be on my fifth by the time I shoved my ticket into the validating machine. Each colour and flavour was carefully selected before I left home - orange or raspberry ones today?

It was at the first second the train doors slid opened that I realised that morning sickness produced an ultra-sensitivity to smells and, as we all know, train carriages aren't exactly up there with fields of lavender and red rose petals. Even so, the pervading BO, morning breath, smelly feet and general unsavoury ponginess almost took on an active physical presence - so much so that it seemed as though the carriage had a vague brownish fog of odour inside.

I tended to rely rather heavily on the air sickness bags that I’d been prophetic enough to take from previous plane trips, and had even asked Love Chunks to grab a few on his work travels. Alas, by the ten-week mark, this precious stash had now gone. The closest thing I could find (apart from a sealed Tupperware container) were those clear plastic snap lock sandwich bags.

On one particularly cold-morning the over-heated carriage was stifling hot with condensation dripping from the window and the unwashed funk of wool jackets brushing up against my legs. The rocking motion as we chugga-chugged our way into the city was encouraging my stomach to do some unwelcome chugga-glugging of its own. Sweat formed on my upper lip as I forced myself to focus on the station signs - only six stops to go.... I was determined to last the distance and heave somewhere on the platform or in the station toilets - the blue lights installed there to deter drug users would make my pallid face look particularly attractive.

Drops of perspiration ran down my temples and the backs of my knees and the glugging in my tummy began to develop an even faster, more bilious beat. Slowly and reluctantly, I reached into my back pack and felt for my plastic bag. It was there - good. I prayed that the comforting act of touching it would prevent any further evictions from my digestive system. Another stop went past. Another milestone of non-vomit. I touched the bag again for good luck, fingers sweating against the plastic.

Eventually I counted only three more stops to go. My stomach had become a set of internal bellows, hellishly determined to pump out its contents ASAP. Panicking, I hastily unsealed the top of the bag. No time for prayers or to wait for doors to open now -

BWWAAAAH! - straight in, no spillage. This would have been something to have been proud of if I had been in any mood to care. I hurled three more times, wiped my mouth with my hankie, and sealed the top of the bag again. It was then I looked up from my lap and noticed the stares of my fellow passengers.

The blush I experienced was so deep and so red that I felt as though my internal organs were on fire. I muttered my explanation to the passenger on my left, “morning sickness,” but the look he returned was so devoid of sympathy I pretended to rummage for something in my back pack - my dignity had a good chance of being in there, next to my work shoes, buttered vegemite crackers and spare sick bags. I could not look anywhere or meet the stares of anyone. The entire carriage was disgusted and their collective opinion of me seemed to be the derisive judgment of ‘Alcoholic.’

It was then that I longed to have a big belly and be hugely and obviously pregnant. My size 12 trousers still fit me and no-one offered me a seat when all were taken because I still looked like everybody else. At least, like everybody else when they had their first real hangover after a night on the Blackberry Nip, St Agnes brandy, chewing three bird's eye chillies and drawing back on a cigar......

The remaining five minutes of the journey stretched out before me like the space-time divide still to be travelled by Dr Who's Tardis. I forced a vacant (but hopefully contented) smile on my burning red face and primly clutched the sick bag in my lap. I could hear a faint ‘sloosh sloosh’ of my vomit each time the train entered a tunnel, and only then had the wit to realise that, perhaps, clear plastic wasn’t the best way to hide the ‘ol regurgitated peas and carrots from my fellow travellers.

That demented smile remained on my face for the longest five minutes of my life. Never again did I take the 7:18 - it was worth getting out of bed fifteen minutes earlier to preserve some of my anonymity on the 7:03.

Probably no surprise to you, dear reader when you consider the intelligent frame of mind I'd obviously shown from very early on in life (see above, circa 1970)


julie said...

Morning sickness is not easy to forget even 9 years after the experience. In my case it lasted for 8 months of my pregnancy and everything stank, including my fridge and my husband. The minute Leo popped into the world my appetite returned, my nose switched off and the above mentioned no longer sent me running for a sick bag. The irony of it all was I had plenty of bags. I was doing an exhibition called 'small packages' about travel and global contamination. I had collected lots of sick bags because I thought they were funny, beautiful and symbolic. My friends were sending them to me from around the world just to boost the supply. Some of them didn't make it into the show!!
You can see the collection..

River said...

Love that 70's photo, brings back memories. Your very apt description of general unsavoury ponginess etc. also describes my daily encounter with a few of my early morning customers, and some of the "environmentally friendly" shopping bags have to be smelled (smelt?) to be believed.

TOM said...

The things that funky smells can bring up...what a harrowing tale...Love your archival photo!!

SouthOzBloke said...

Ah yes, the joys of travelling on public transport. I long ago stopped calling mine a bus and more appropriately refer to mine as "the petri dish". It's about the only thing I remember from my science class.
Between, crazy people having arguments with themselves, drunk people trying to be your best friend and sick people coughing up "lung butter" it's never boring.
Love the story.