Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, a little girl, who loved to travel, got car sick.
In fact, the sweet little girl spent much of her youth sitting beside her mother, the driver, fending off bouts of the stomach whoopsies.
Her mother acquired her first car when the little girl was nine and from then on they spent much of their free time traveling the roads of New England. Together they drove to the ocean, the White Mountains and the Mohawk Trail. And together they learned about new places, people, foods and fun. But the little girl still got green a lot. To this day she can remember many of the landmarks where she yelped, "Stop the car!" The mother always obliged, especially when it was apparent that her convertible was in imminent danger of a yak attack.
By now you've probably realized that I was the little barfer, and I must add that it has taken a lifetime of concentration to overcome this unfortunate state. I would never have dreamed back then that one day I would be able to knit or read in a car. In those early days, I stared straight ahead, scanning the landscape only if the road remained straight and smooth.
What didn't help was being the daughter of a thrill seeker. There was a particular wavy road that we traveled twice a year on regular visits to Canterbury, New Hampshire. In addition to its curves this road was a washboard of twenty-foot hills up and down, up and down. My Mom thought it was great fun to accelerate up, and float down the other side up and down, up and down. The result was often "Stop the car!" I always arrived on those trips in the Vomit Comet, with either a freshly emptied stomach or sweaty and pale, gulping the cool air. I threw it up or kept it down, up or down. On my most recent visit to Canterbury, I drove slowly over those hills and turned up the air-conditioning. Some memories die hard.
I have never been seasick, but I am comfortable only in the front of a bus or car. A long trek in the back seat of any vehicle is risky, although I eventually overcame my airsickness.
What, you say? Airsick? Weren't you a stewardess? Yeah, well, I never claimed it was easy. And besides, I was only sick for the first three years.
During the first year I did some flying in prop planes which didn't fly high enough to get above the bumpy weather. I quickly decided that jets were my best bet. First class, in the front of the plane, was also better than coach, after learning from dire experience how much the tail swayed. Often, the only way I was able to successfully bid for the first class cabin was to work the purser position, the one who assumes more responsibility . . . including making all the announcements. It was worth it to me except for the Dallas flights.
Back in those days, I flew to the west coast from New York through Dallas. There was no way to get to Dallas without flying over Oklahoma, and in the summer Oklahoma has some of the hottest, most turbulent skies in the country. I was often in trouble when I'd activate the microphone button to announce, "The Captain has turned on the seat belt sign for our descent into Dallas. Please return to your seats and fasten your seat belts." Unclick the mic.
Breathe deeply. Turn on the cool air blower. Breathe, breathe.
Oh no. Here it comes. Unclick the mic. Quick, open the lavatory door. Upchuck into the sink. Grab a paper towel. Click open the mic. "The temperature on the ground is 94 degrees . . . " Unclick. Barf again, into the hopper. Click. "The captain has asked that you remain in your seats with your seatbelt fastened until he has brought the aircraft to a complete stop at the gate. . ." Unclick. Back to the sink.
Then, finally, I clicked it on for the last time to thank them for traveling with American Airlines, and hoping they would choose us again. Hanging up the mic, I went back into the lav to clean and spray it, rinse my mouth and pop in a Rolaid. On went the fresh lipstick and the white gloves so I could join my flying partner at the door and say goodbye to our departing passengers with that big American Airlines smile. All in a day's work. As I said, the first few years weren't easy.
Today, the only vehicles I really can't manage exist in amusement parks. Years ago, there was that one foolhardy attempt at a roller coaster when I decided that it was mind over matter. My entire family spent the few hours that followed bringing cups of cold water to the bench I occupied, prostrate and ashen. Nevertheless, my kids love roller coasters, even traveling distances to try new ones. Their daredevil gene came partly from me, but only from my mind, not my stomach.
Fortunately, their van has leather seats and he loved being hosed off back home in the driveway. He is carrying on the family tradition in back seats and on airplanes everywhere, and I not only sympathize with him, I'm proud. I mean, every family has to be known for something.
Some advice for Malcolm: Don't let that pack of adventurers talk you into a roller coaster before you're ready, stay out of the Twirling Teacups, and come to Gogo if you need Rolaids . . . I have a lifetime supply.
Marcy O'Brien can be reached for quips or comments at Moby.firstname.lastname@example.org.