Years ago, and I mean years. I was in fourth grade. My parents took my sister and I to Hawaii during spring break. I have a number of memories from that trip. Pearl Harbor, penguins at Sea Life Park, I remember hiking up Diamond Head, and we took a day trip to Maui where our picnic at the Seven Sacred Falls was ruined by extremely aggressive ants.
But the one memory that remains the most pertinent through my life is something that happened on the flight back. It was an overnight flight. My sister and I were right behind our mom and dad. I was sitting in the middle seat, my sister next to the window and there was a man sitting next to me. We were served breakfast by the flight crew. The short dish that the airlines once served food in, you know, the kind that has a bit of a high edge so juices don’t spill out. When I took off my lid the grease had congealed and was level with the top of the plate. You could see the egg and maybe hash browns, I can’t remember, I just remember the smell and the grease. It made my 11 year old stomach crawl. My sister took one bite and started to gag. She reached for the vomit bag and successfully survived her first hurl on a plane. The guy sitting next to me said, “Don’t look at her, it will make you puke.” So naturally I turned and looked at her tossing her cookies.
Interesting side note: Inventor Gilmore Schjeldahl created the plastic-lined airsickness bag for Northwest Orient Airlines in 1949.
Although I still hadn’t taken a bite, I turned green like a sick character in an old cartoon and started to upchuck too. Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean I reached for my barf bag. Started to open it, it would not open. I spewed all over my shirt and pants. The crew and my mom tried their best to clean me up, but the rest of the flight was miserable. I eventually got the nerve up to look at the impenetrable sick sack. It was stuck shut. Someone else had used it to spit up or maybe just a little retching, but the dried yuck acted as a glue that kept the bag from opening.
To this day, more than forty years later, I still check to make sure the emesis bag opens properly on every flight I take.