Friday, August 03, 2012


Rhymes with Comet

This is not something I expected to be writing, but it’s on my mind, so better out than in.

Which incidentally, is what my mom used to say whenever my Big Brother or I were sick, and indeed it’s the same mantra I’ve been employing for the past three or four hours, when the Éclair awoke some time after midnight and was extravagantly sick. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say it was like the aftermath of a natural disaster in her bedroom. She had not called out to her parents for assistance; it was pure Daddy Sense (well, and probably my nose) that woke me. I found her trying to mop up the mess herself. With Kleenex.

“Why didn’t you yell for help?” I asked.

“I don’t know!” she cried, as I rolled in her into a couple of towels and carried her at arm’s length to the shower. “I thought I would get in trouble,” she said. Oh yeah, no parental guilt there. “I just don’t know the rules for throw up!” she added. And then she threw up some more.

I suppose that’s a fair point. When it comes to some of the less glamorous bodily functions, there’s all kinds of self-help literature out there, but most of it’s focused on potty training, or voiding your bowels. When Everyone Poops dominates the market, it’s hard for vomit to make a splash, as it were.

And, on reflection, I guess there isn’t as much need for rules and guidelines for something that we don’t—or at least shouldn’t—do every day. But as I sit here—it’s about 3 in the morning, and the Éclair can’t lie down because her tummy hurts, so we’re propped up in bed, watching Looney Tunes on DVD—it occurs to me that I have evolved a few simple rules, which I was inclined to share with my youngest child, but right now she’s more interested in the antics of Wile E. Coyote than she is in Daddy’s sleep-deprived ruminations, so I shall store them here for posterity.

Embarrassment? Forget it. To paraphrase that popular excretory tome, Everyone Pukes. It’s nothing that most people in the modern era do for fun, but sooner or later it’s going to happen, and when it does, you might as well own the experience. You might even write about it. Many times. Perhaps too many times.

Pick a euphemism. Your first step to owning the experience. Naming the act gives you a sense of control over what is, to a large degree, an uncontrollable act. The word “vomit” just isn’t enough, and “throw up,” well, that just sounds defeatist, doesn’t it? I think we as a species know this, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many colorful synonyms for the act of emesis. Barf, puke, yak, yark, hurl, ralph (and his girlfriend edna). My people have always eschewed the longer metaphorical forms—making the Technicolor yawn, driving the big white schoolbus, parking the tiger (parking the tiger?)—they try too hard. Brevity is the soul of ‘mit, and I have tended to favor short, emphatic onomatopoeic forms. My brother and I never lost our lunches nor tossed our cookies, not when we could “blurp” or even, occasionally, “mump” (the sound our cat Stanley made, repeatedly, to announce the arrival of a hairball).

Go loud. I’ve known too many people—Her Lovely Self in younger days, to pick one shining example—who came to the inevitable act with a certain amount of timidity. To this day, if I happen to hear her coughing in the bathroom, I have no way of knowing—not without visual confirmation, and my interest only goes so far—if she’s clearing her throat or her whole upper digestive tract. I realize this is not a biological event most people look forward to, but if it’s going to happen anyway, you might as well get what you can out of it. Go for the Oscar, I say. Open wide and roar. (As a practical matter, the more the mouth is engaged, the less likely it is that the nose will be called into play as an avenue of egress. And that’s a good thing. Nasal vomiting is an act against God, I’m sure. Also, it changes forever your relationship with chicken noodle soup.) Live like the Romans. They had vomitoriums, you know, and I imagine they were built to maximize sound effects. If I have to give my food the old heave-ho, I’d just as soon everyone know it. No coughing or throat-clearing for me, boy. I roar, head as deep in the bowl (or sink or tub or garbage can) as anatomy will allow, for maximum acoustical effect.

(Incidentally, I sneeze the same way. No namby-pamby little “achoo” for me. I want people in the next room to think I’m Bruce Lee, about to split a stack of bricks with his bare hand.)  

Know your place. In my experience, there are two types of vomiters: sprinters and sprayers. At first, everyone starts out as a sprayer. When you feel sick to your stomach, wherever you are—in bed, in a high chair, standing in a park, staring at your shoes—that’s where it happens. But when you get a little older, you have to make a choice: stand and spray, or sprint and spew. This may require a bit of soul-searching, and an honest appraisal of how long you can delay the inevitable in hopes that you can reach a proper receptacle. My Big Brother realized early on that his size and general disinclination to physical activity marked him for a sprayer. And spray he did, sports fans--couch, bed, school desk, even right at the supper table, a moment during Thanksgiving 1977 that will live in infamy for all who were present (except the dogs).

It almost goes without saying that I was a sprinter—as much to show my brother up as anything else. I have a 35-year unbroken record as a bombardier who always reached his target before releasing the payload. During one particularly bad flu season, I remember beaming with pride when my harried mother remarked with a whoosh of relief that she never once had to clean up after me.

What you want to avoid, of course, is trying to be a sprinter if you’re a sprayer. I myself think it’s next-to-impossible to cross over. In my experience, shame can be the only result. I’m thinking in particular of an unfortunate fellow named Wyatt, a friend of my college roommate. Wyatt was clearly a sprayer, which my roommate found to his dismay after one night of hard drinking in which Wyatt ended up crashing back at our place. On my bed. (I was sleeping elsewhere). Some time during the night, Wyatt apparently awoke and decided that maybe, just maybe, he could be a sprinter too. He was wrong. I wasn’t there, but I imagine the look on my roommate’s face when he encountered the meandering trail—a trail of tears (and beers!)—leading out of my bedroom, down the hall and to the bathroom must have been one of the great all-time looks. To their credit, they cleaned up the mess by the time I got home. Wyatt never showed his face at the apartment again, but he lingered on in infamy, initially as an unpleasant smell of malt and disinfectant, and more enduringly as the man we came to call Wyatt Urp.

There are more rules. But it’s rounding on four in the morning and I think we’ve both had enough of the subject.

Besides, my daughter is asking for the bucket. Better out than in.

I too am a super sneezer. The truly epic ones leave me covered with goosebumps and wanting a cigarette! The whole office knows who that sneeze belongs to and my inbox will be filled with "bless you!"
I was equal parts disgusted and highly entertained by this post. The "Technicolor yawn" nearly made me choke on my coffee! I hope the little bug feels better soon!
I could tell you a few stories about vomiting, but you really don't want that, do you? No, I thought not. Good rules, though.
Should have waited until after lunch to read this. :)
My first reaction? Time flies when I realize the Eclair is speaking in big sentences now!

I fortunately don't get the pukes often, but when I do in recent times, I've been a sprinter rather a sprayer.
My personal preference, as expressions go, would probably be "Selling buicks." And on a worst possible case scenario, it has to be when you are prepping for a lovely bit of medical technology testing -a colonoscopy to be precise -and the effects of the junk you have to ingest decides to hit the colon for a fast exit and the stomach too -simultaneously -thus leaving a person trying to make a fast decision of whether to sit and get relief (of some sort) or to kneel or lean over the bathroom vanity and well, sort of just let it all go where it all wants to go -which is OUT! And I confess I laughed just about the whole way through this post! But not at Eclair's problems -just your eloquent descriptions!
I'm a bucket by the bed person. For the most part this works out pretty well.
And I just have to read this after my lunch. I feel a heave coming.
Very happy to see you are back, hope the story gets some traction and congratulations on it.

On the topic at hand, I myself make myself heard when sneezing and (rare occasions) vomiting. I once tried to hold a sneeze in and only good fortune prevented me from cracking all my ribs.

So glad to see you posting again! Welcome back! I'd love to read your book. You should sell it on the Amazon kindle service thingy. I'd buy one!
I know a guy who HAS to spew on grass, he won't do it anywhere else. He's married to a lady who will only throw up in the toilet.

So HE will run straight past a bathroom to get to the lawn, and SHE will race all the way inside to reach a loo.

Man, I know some weird people...
I'm a sprinter, while my sister was a sprayer, at least when we were young. I was another kid who took some pride in not making a mess of puke for anyone to clean up. So far, my kids rarely ralph, but when they do, they nearly always hit the bucket. I hadn't thought about it before, but now, that characteristic is going on the list of things I love about them. :)
...of all times to decide to read the best writer blog from Suldogs list.

I admit, I skimmed through the reading and hope to come back when it's all mopped up. So to speak. But if he said you're good then okay.
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