The worst part is that I didn’t tell the bus driver that anything bad had happened in the restroom.
Wait, I’ll back up a bit.
I went out to Chilliwack for Christmas this year, not to see my only blood relation there but to see my near-blood relations there, mainly the Woodseses. When I was a teenager and in my early 20’s living in Chilliwack I spent many a Christmas at the house of Jean, Norman & Chris Woods, who were sort of a surrogate family to me (sorry Mom – you know I love you). Since the senior Woods are selling their house and moving out this would be the last Christmas there and I thought it would be the best opportunity to make good on my promise to come and spend some time with Jean and all the rest, and of course make sure I was well fed over the holidays! Aw yeah.
When I arrived at Chris & Angie’s place Chris was recovering from a flu bug. We had Chinese takeout at the Fugger’s but otherwise took it easy. That night Angie started her own puke-fest and spent most of Christmas Day flat out while the rest of us were enjoying butter tarts at the parental household. There was talk that I’d catch the bug too but I claimed immunity.
The next morning I was supposed to go out on the early bus from Chilliwack while Chris attended a mandatory brunch with sister-in-law, but turns out that Pam & son also got the bug, which meant that Chris & I had time to ride into Abbotsford with his sister Stephie and I cashed in one of my many giftcards to pick up The Tick Season 1 DVD. I didn’t feel at my prime all morning but I refused to believe that I would be as sick as the others.
Chris faithfully dropped me off at the bus depot but because of the holiday crowds four buses to Vancouver passed through before there was room for me to board one. I gather they had a lot of ‘special charter’ buses hired for the extra passengers, as the one I boarded was not the usual Greyhound. They didn’t have mini garbage bags on the walls, or radio/tv headphone jacks, and there was a little table in the back instead of the usual amount of seats. The bonus was it was slightly more roomy and comfortable than a typical coach.
Now, some Chilliwack-Vancouver Greyhound schedules are “express” which means they go Vancouver-Coquitlam-Abbotsford-Chilliwack and beyond (or the reverse in this case), whereas most stop in Langley in between Abbotsford and Coquitlam. This roundly sucks because it adds a half hour to the trip because for some reason the depot is way, WAY off the highway. The schedule I got on was not the express.
So after waiting in line for an hour out in the cold listening to inane conversations and having an old man cut in front of me, I had to endure the long bus ride as my belly tightened and my complexion no doubt began to match that of Val Kilmer in Tombstone. I always scoff at references to the triumph of will over disease and injury because I was highly in denial even as I asked the lady on the outside seat to excuse me so I could get up and go to the restroom just, in my mind, as a precaution. I managed to get the door to the bathroom closed – but not to completely take in my new environs – as the second coming of my breakfast jetted out of my mouth. Because of this I didn’t entirely get the stream into the bowl – if one may call it that – and the puke lay just as much on the flat metal shelf that the bowl was inset as the bowl itself. The second purge came moments later and this one was more fairly aimed. I guess the bowl has some kind of sensor that tells it how full of…mass…it is as it flushed itself while I stood over it. The volume of vomit on the shelf, and the poor design of the shelf itself made it inevitable that the liquid seeped down onto the floor, and this was exacerbated as the bus pulled into the depot – reminding me of Newton’s law of motion as the braking of the bus pulled the puke on the shelf forward in a tsunami of bile and onto the cramped bathroom floor, which had no lip to speak of to prevent the puke from lapping out into the bus proper. Feeling the rush of adrenaline in that “I just puked and I won’t need to for a while at least” kind of way, I looked desperately for something to stop the flow.
Now, how many squares of toilet paper do you suppose were in the bathroom of the bus at my disposal? Well I didn’t have time to count them as I was skating around in my own sick, but I would guess 7-10. Certainly not enough to cope with what came out of my stomach. I used them all. Then I used the paper tube. Then I shudder to say I used all of the ‘used’ t.p. from the garbage which were probably full of snot or worse. I even used the flat of my hands and then “washed” them with the toilet “water” that swirled down from the top of the toilet bowl. Was this liquid water, some kind of sanitation liquid, recycled pee, or a mix of some or all of the above? I tried not to think of it. In that short time my brain even allowed me to calculate that my toque only cost $2 at Daiso and I could probably get another easily enough, but in the end I decided against using it as an impromptu Bounty the quicker picker-upper. I figured I’d done all that I could and more than most would expect considering the resources at hand.
At this point I was beginning to have some hard feelings about the Greyhound service, enough so that I dried my hands on the restroom curtains, which I felt served no purpose since the small window in there was not transparent. That’ll teach ’em to put in a table rather than a decently-sized and -stocked bathroom! I also was rather amused by the absurdity of the situation. I thought that I had best swagger triumphantly out of the tiny door and proclaim “DO NOT GO IN THIS RESTROOM” but as it went down all I could mutter to the couple closest to the door was a sheepish “sorry.”
Thank Cthulhu the woman sitting next to me had gotten off while this fiasco was going down. I wondered how much I smelled of puke from whatever splashback may have gotten on my coat or sleeves and shoes. How many people on the bus knew – or were shortly going to know – that I had defiled their only source of bowel relief for the next half hour? But I managed to reassure myself that nobody would be able to use it anyway because there’s no toilet paper, and I’m sure they’d rather get home sooner with some unpleasant vomitesque memories than for the bus driver to delay the coach for who-knows-how-long while they hose down the john. So for the rest of the drive I kept my head down and avoided putting my hands anywhere that would come in contact with any orifices and sensitive membranes (for a change). As the trip continued the feeling of queasiness began to creep back upon me. Knowing that the restroom really wasn’t an option anymore my mind raced to come up with other plans should worse come to worst. Damn this charter coach not having the usual plastic garbage bags conveniently to my right! Would I command the driver to make an illegal stop on the highway so I could get off and be sick, leaving me stranded in Surrey somewhere? Should I get off in Coquitlam just to be safe, and then try to find transit back to Shaughnessy? Or should I just ride it out and pray for luck? I really started to feel nauseous as we were getting close to the Vancouver depot and I kept telling myself “you can make it, you can make it” even as we pulled in and I was getting off the bus. My shoes were still wet from the bathroom experience that I slipped on the stairs off the bus and almost fell on my coccyx. I bolted for the bathroom in the depot but the stalls were full. At least I was able to thoroughly wash my hands. As I waited for the stalls about a half dozen more guys came in so I just left.
The worst part is that I didn’t tell the bus driver that anything bad had happened in the restroom.
One ridiculous thing about my new place is that it’s quicker to take the skytrain all the way downtown and then catch the 98 B-line back south than to take any buses that seem to go in a southwesterly direction. As I was considering this I noticed the omnipresent line of cabs outside and thought “here’s my best Christmas present to myself.” Immediately the cabbie wanted to make small talk. Now I’m not a fan of small talk under the best of circumstances and I’m sure none of you will judge me too harshly when I tell you that the cabbie stopped his attempts after but two questions. Another ridiculous thing about my place is that trying to get across Granville in between 16th and 25th can take several minutes, so I actually had the cab drop me off a couple blocks from home. This had the bonus service of washing my shoes off in the snow.
I staggered into the house and tried to get my bearings. I sat down for a minute. I decided it was finally time to have a shower after more than 48 hours without. My shower is annoying because everything – the curtain, the shower head – is jury-rigged and quirky, but once I got in there it was a huge relief. I felt so sick that I even sat down in the tub with the shower going (I can’t have a bath without reworking the tubing) for probably about five minutes. One good thing about my place is that it takes an awful long time to use up the hot water. And then I puked again, probably about five or six surges. Glad I can’t have a bath. The shower is probably the best place to be sick – even more so than outside – because as soon as the badness comes out of your body it is immediately washed out of sight.
Again I felt relieved, but still too sick to properly dry myself off. I brought a couple of spare towels to put on the bed and pillow as I lay down. It’s funny how every minor inconvenience that you force yourself to get accustomed to when everything is well and good – like the fact that my bed is not the most comfortable in the world – become insurmountable oppressions when you’re sick as a dog. I tossed and turned for an hour or more and then went back into the bathroom for a couple more surges (no need to make use of my faithful crock pot which I had put by the bed just in case). I had taken one of my migraine pills – Tylenol with codeine – on the bus but considering I threw up my stomach contents I didn’t know how much I’d been able to absorb. I took two more and it helped immensely. I had gotten home at around 4pm and I slept until about 10. I got up, watched some DVDs on the couch and then returned to bed at around 3 or 4 am and slept until after noon. I ate for the first time in 24 hours. I washed the sick clothes but now the dryer is broken so I had to hang-dry everything.
And that is the tale of my gruesome ordeal. I think that next Christmas I will avoid the Greyhound.