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Jessie Raymond: ‘Friendly skies’ tough on stomach

During a layover in the Newark airport on the way back to Burlington Monday, I had one thought: “Stop the world, I wanna get off.”
I didn’t mean it in a metaphorical sense. I meant the world before me was literally spinning, the result of several consecutive days of carsickness, capped off by a rambunctious flight during which the attendants spent most of the time strapped into their jump seats, praying.
We had taken a brief trip to see family in Oklahoma. And it had all started there, riding in their car. I tend to forget how sensitive my inner ears (and stomach) get when I’m a passenger rather than the driver. I have to grit my teeth and will my last meal to stay in place until we arrive at our destination — and even then, the wooziness lingers for hours.
I’ve suffered from motion sickness since I was little. Bus trips, carnival rides and even the playground nauseated me. I used to have to lie down after swinging.
Eventually, I learned to steer clear of any contraption that made sudden, unexpected changes in direction or speed. And once I got my license, I found I didn’t get sick behind the wheel. So all I had to do to avoid motion-induced nausea was to stay away from boats and amusement parks, and never ride in a car that someone else was driving.
As an adult, my vestibular system is still so wimpy that I can’t even look at a merry-go-round — much less ride on one — without turning into a dead ringer for the “Mr. Yuk” poison warning sticker.
In cars, I have to sit in front and never, under any circumstances, look down. If I so much as glance at my phone at the moment the driver turns sharply into a parking space, I’ll be grimacing and fighting the spins for the rest of the day.
It only takes one unexpected lurch to send me from “stable” to “just shy of hurling.” To my dismay, that’s the state I maintained for much of our recent trip. Each day, we’d hop in the car for a new adventure, and my stomach would be flip-flopping before we even made it out of the neighborhood.
I survived. But I groaned every time a stoplight turned red.
Monday morning, my stepson dropped us off at the airport before dawn, and I congratulated myself on making the hour-and-a-half ride with only a mild flutter in my tummy and a dull pain behind my eyes. Things would get better from there.
I wasn’t worried about the flying, since planes generally don’t swerve or — one hopes — make sudden stops. The pilot, however, warned of heavy turbulence, and he wasn’t exaggerating. It was the first time I had ever seriously considered using the paper bag in the seat pocket in front of me.
I powered through it by closing my eyes, clutching my armrests and remembering that once we landed, I’d feel sick all evening, but at least things would get better from there.
Wrong again.
The second flight was, in fact, even more turbulent than the first. When we landed in Burlington, I staggered off the plane to baggage claim. Seeing the suitcases parading by on the carousel made me queasy, so I turned my back. I had come so far; I couldn’t throw up now. At least things would get better from there. (Would I never learn?)
As we stepped out of the terminal, a traveler brushed past us, exhaling a cloud of cigarette smoke directly in our path. My stomach clenched. At the same time, we walked through a miasma of hot exhaust from a nearby idling motor coach.
Oh, no.
I could see the parking garage. Soon I’d be behind the wheel and no longer at the mercy of my fragile vestibular system. But this final, foul-smelling double-whammy was just too much. That busload of passengers had no idea how close I came to dropping to my knees and showing them what the grand finale to five straight days of motion sickness looked like.
We’re home now, and I’m mostly better, although I feel like I’m wearing someone else’s prescription glasses.
For those of you who can take your children on the tilt-a-whirl, who have never embarrassed yourself on a whale watch, who can read while riding in the back seat, congratulations. I’m green with envy.
Of course, I’m still a little green from the trip, so it may be hard to tell.

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