People will tell you when we travel getting to where we’re going is supposed to be half the fun. On my way to visit my little brother in Toronto I spent close to five hours in the public bathroom of a moving bus dry heaving into a tiny hole filled with all the chemicals they couldn’t find in Iraq.
Everything that happened after that was kind of mixed.
I’ll write about my brother’s wedding and the week leading up to it later, this post is about the lessons I learned in transit.
The plan was to sleep the trip away on the bus. It’s generally a five-hour ride, and thanks to everyone in the world (except me) owning an MP3 player I don’t feel guilty about snoring in public as much as I used to, so I stayed up around the clock the night before leaving. I put together a post, packed and put together phone numbers I’d need while in Toronto.
I knew at the time the lack of sleep thing would probably come back to kick me in the nuts later on, but it has been so long since I travelled anywhere I forgot how survivable a five hour bus trip is, and decided the best way to manage the trip was to sleep it away.
Plus, in order to get to the bus station for 9.30am meant leaving my apartment at 6am. I got a ride with my step-father, and because of a transit strike in Ottawa getting into the city meant leaving an extra hour or two early. And that’s actually when the fun started.
I take Metformin to control my Type-Two Diabetes. Once I take the pill I generally have thirty minutes to eat something before I start to feel nauseous.
Since I started taking the pill four months ago the nausea has become my signal to make porridge or fry up some bacon. It’s not perfect, but it’s a system. And since the furthest I normally travel is to the convenience store and back my system normally works because I’m always five minutes from my fridge.
I take three doses of Metformin every day — one before each meal, and I take the first one of the day when I brush my teeth. On the Friday I left for Toronto this was twenty minutes before my step-father showed up, and like clockwork ten minutes into the trip to Ottawa I started to feel sick.
I generally get messed up when I try to live on other people’s schedules. If I have to be in the city it means relying on my step-father for a ride, which means being awake between 5am and 6am. This means I’m either forcing myself to sleep hours before I’m used to, or to stay awake much longer than normal.
Generally a one day trip to the city means preparing two days in advance, or a two day recovery.
I knew right away I wouldn’t survive the first leg of my journey to Toronto without eating something, so I suggested stopping at a McDonald’s but travelling with my step-father is a tutorial in “as the crow flies” geography — he drives very fast and in as straight a line as possible
People in my family are just getting used to the fact I have certain dietary and lifestyle requirements based on the symptoms of manic depression… and I was diagnosed almost twenty-years ago. I was diagnosed with Type-Two Diabetes a year ago and they’re still asking me if I want cake or pie for dessert.
So after gently pushing my step-father to stop, he finally did… but not for another thirty-minutes.
We stopped at a truck stop where I managed to grab a couple of “breakfast sandwiches” and some milk. But the first rule of the Diabetes Diet is no processed foods. And scarfing down two greasy sausage and egg patties surrounded by a half-pound of white-flour in a moving car after being awake for twenty-two hours is probably in the diabetic handbook under “don’t”.
…I haven’t actually finished reading it yet.
So by the time we were entering Ottawa my window was down and my head was laying against the door trying to suck in as much cold air as possible. I was completely prepared to lean out the window and start the puking while we were moving in rush hour traffic. I don’t think anyone else would’ve been prepared, but I was.
Thankfully for us all traffic was moving quickly. From the outskirts to the downtown bus terminal was only a few minutes, but during the city-bus strike it could take up to two hours.
Unfortunately this meant I was two hours early for my bus to Toronto.
I spent the first forty-five minutes sitting very still trying to not throw up until it occurred to me orange juice and Tylenol might help me feel better. I have no idea why it didn’t occur to me that Gravol and a muffin might work better, but the juice did take the nausea away. At least until the bus turned on to the highway.
I started coughing almost right away… basically that annoying cough that sounds exactly like you’re asking “am I or aren’t I going to puke?”. And I didn’t stop until we pulled into the truck stop at the halfway marker.
It’s roughly five hours from Ottawa to Toronto on the express bus. One of the interesting things I learned from my hour kneeling in front of the public toilet is the chemical tank has an outside vent, so when you’re kneeling over the toilet hole there’s actually a very pleasant cool breeze.
One of the other interesting things I learned is, thanks mostly to the popularity of MP3 players, no one notices when the guy in the far back seat sounds like he’s giving birth to his stomach through his throat.
The first thing I did at the halfway truck stop is get some Gravol. But it was like a giant green candy I was supposed to let dissolve in my mouth. Which just made me want to gag and throw up. So I just swallowed three of them with an orange juice chaser.
Again, no food. By this time it was after 1pm and I just couldn’t bring myself to eat a sandwich. I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking.
The Gravol kicked in an hour later, but now the muscles in my back, stomach and sides were just a pulpy mess. And because the suitcase with my Metformin was packed under the bus I think at that point I was getting into a serious period of low sugar.
So when the bus finally got to the Toronto terminal I hadn’t slept in over thirty hours, in the past sixteen hours I had only a couple of greasy sandwiches to eat, I had been dry-heaving constantly for seven to eight hours, I was stoned on Gravol and Extra Strength Tylenol and I had a wicked case of motion sickness.
This is the shape I was in when I met Patient Anonymous for the first time — which I’ll write about later.
It took me two full days to recover from the bus ride, including one night in a hotel. Then, on Monday night, my little brother got violently ill… which spread to me so that I spent another two days dry heaving over his bathtub — if you’ve got an option I always prefer the tub. The cold water is very relaxing.
So I ended up spending Tuesday on my brother’s couch in pain, then Wednesday and Thursday nights in hotels and cancelling plans with friends.
Friday night I moved into the hotel where my brother’s wedding reception would be, meanwhile his fiancée got sick from stress and barely made it through the wedding rehearsal.
The wedding and reception where fantastic, and the only person who got sick was little eighteen-month old Michael who ate way too much cake and ice cream and tried to keep up with the older kids. Then puked 90% of his body mass in front of the main table.
Good times were had by all. Eventually.