The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

An embarrassing illness

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I can picture clearly my father yelling it was impossible to stop the car and my mother telling me to wind the window down and stick my head out.

I was 9 years old.

I still shudder to think what the car behind us must have thought as I emptied the contents of my stomach at 60 mph.

I used to get terribly carsick as a child, much to the irritation of my parents and my siblings. As one of three children I was supposed to take it in turns to sit in the middle of the back seat, but I would make such a fuss, my brother and sister had to share it, all the time thinking I was just faking.

I never got airsick, seasick, train-sick, or even carsick if I was in the front passenger seat; but stick me in the back of a car for more than 15 minutes and I would be overcome with nausea.

As an adult, the sole driver in the family and more than 22 years experience of sitting behind the steering wheel, I’d all but forgotten this childhood illness.

However, I’ve discovered it’s not a sickness I can confine to the dustbin of memories. It seems I still suffer from it.

And it’s embarrassing.

If I’m travelling anywhere with more than one friend I will always offer to drive, just so as to avoid having to mention it. Sometimes, however, people want to repay what they see as my generosity for shouldering the fuel costs and insist they drive.

Sooner or later I end up in a situation where I have to mumble, “er… do you mind if I sit in the front as I, er… get, er… sickintheback… ”

And I swear, other passengers give me a look like they think I’m faking it, and are swithering as to whether they should challenge what they see as this outrageous claim.

The other night I was given a lift to an event by a couple I’ve only met a few times. The husband was driving and there was no way I could possibly ask the wife to sit in the back.

I took a pair of travel bands – wristbands with a knobbly bit on them that presses into a point on the wrist, which apparently helps with motion sickness – and desperately hoped there wouldn’t be any delays in the 20-minute drive each way.

I managed to just hold out on the way there, but the drive back was appalling.

The road meanders up and down, and round sharp bends, this way and that and with the wild weather the drive took even longer.

My hosts weren’t talking quite loud enough so I had to keep leaning forward to join in the conversation.

No one else ever has the heating set at a temperature I’m comfortable with.

Had the journey taken 5 minutes longer, history would no doubt have repeated itself. Fortunately it was dark, so I think my forced nonchalance wasn’t scrutinized too closely as I climbed out the car and insisted next time I’d be more than happy to drive.

I’ve never understood the desire for a chauffeur. I know if I come into a whole pile of money, I’m buying a 2-seater sports car and it won’t just be a mid-life crisis purchase.
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36 comments

Sini said...

I don't thorw up in a 20 minute drive, at least. :)

But I do get carsick in long drives. In the back seat. yep, quite embarassing...

Fat Lazy Guy said...

Interesting. I've never been carsick or seasick. I used to get airsick and bus-sick (the big coaches, not regular old busses), but that was due to the recirculated air and I'm not sure if I'd react the same way now.

Honestly, I wouldn't mind if one of my mates got carsick and had to sit up the front. Currently I'm the one who always has to sit up the front because I'm the tallest/biggest, and thus require the extra legroom :D It does suck to have to point this out to people who don't know, though, but it's better than getting multiple leg, side and sometimes neck cramps from being stuffed in a space too small for me.

OH! Btw, at the doctor's the other day I saw a guy who was the spitting image of you, beard and all.

debra said...

I've been seasick and airsick once, and carsick when, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to read while sitting in the back seat.

Attila The Mom said...

I hear you! I usually have a cast-iron stomach, but not in a car. I can't sit in the back of a taxi either---always have to sit in the front!

For some reason though, buses don't bother me that much.

Kanani said...

You're right, it doesn't go away. I have a good friend who suffers from this. It's very VERY difficult as he is 75 and a terror behind the wheel! He's almost gotten a carload of us killed a few times.

I don't know --is there medication for this? I know when I was on the ocean on a schooner through rough weathers I took a cocktail of drugs. It worked like a charm:
Simethicone, Sudafed and Xanax (for anxiety). The Claritin was to keep my eustachian tubes open, the simethecone for rumblies in the tummy.

Jane Dearie said...

Oh dear, this reminds me of travelling with friends in April on twisty roads. 'Are you alright in the back?' 'Yeah fine,' I said then, after 30 miles, all of a sudden it hit me ......the result in the car wasn't pleasant and I was utterly mortified. Last night the very same brave couple offered me a lift and I said first, "would you like me to bring my own bucket?" A sharp reply was, "No Jane, you will be sitting in the front." I was fine. His wife and my carer were relegated to the back.
Seems car sickness doesn't go away when you're a big kid. Really feel for you Kim on that journey.

Have your tried cocculus, a homoeopathic remedy for travel sickness? I was given that as a kid and thought that had me cured, ....until April this year!

datri said...

I get carsick in the back seat within 5 minutes. And I also forgot about it until my father in law had to drive me and my then 3 year old for a sedated EEG at a hospital 2 hours away.

The plan was for me to amuse my daughter in the back seat to keep her awake. But as soon as we pulled out of our driveway, I grabbed the plastic bags for poopy diaper disposal out of my daughters diaper bag and was puking. It was a brand new car, too, so the new car smell didn't help.

This lasted for 30 minutes until we could reach a drugstore for some Dramaine. And then a lot of retching the rest of the way to the hospital. And then the gift shop was closed so I couldn't even purchase another shirt when I got there. Ick.

At least the EEG went well, so I guess it was worth it.

Carole said...

I get motion sickness often. Have had it since I was a child. And it is terribly embarrasing to mention it so I carry Dramamine in my purse at all times.

It dries up the sinuses and makes me sleepy, so my companions often think I am on drugs(which I am) as I speak and think in slow motion. Still it saves me the hassle of upchucking.

I would be happy to send you some if you can't get it in Scotland.

Mrs Pouncer said...

Hello, Kim. We have a mutual friend in Dr Maroon.

I have more children than strictly necessary, but only one suffers in the way you do. She was in despair, and I had tried everything, but one day the man who de-ticks our fox terriers told me of a foolproof cure: sit on some sheets of newspaper. Always works for me, he said. So I tried it, and on the worst journey in the world, too (Calella to Cadaques) and she didn't even feel nauseous. Result. I used El Pais, but I'm sure the Guardian would suffice, or even the Galloway News.
Best wishes, CLdeMP

Kim Ayres said...

Sini - I'm not alone then!

FLG - short, middle-aged, overweight guy with a beard - we're a type - you see people like me all over the place

Debra - I definitely can't read in the back. Instant upchuck

Attila - buses are OK and coaches are not too bad, but I can't read on them so a long journey gets really boring

Kanani - I'd rather avoid mediaction if at all possible. Most of these things make you drowsy & foggy headed. I feel like that too much of the time already :(

Jane Dearie - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment.

I'm impressed your friends let you back in the car :)

Datri - welcome to my rambings too! When I was a kid, there was a particular car-smell combination of old leather and petrol which was a killer.

Carole - the journey the other evening was to "The Storyteller's Cafe", which is a once a month thing where people gather to keep the storytelling traditions alive. I had a tale about the viking god, Thor, lined up so needed to be sharper brained.

Most of the time I'm driving, so this is a rare occurence. If it was happening all the time I probably wouldn't bother blogging about it :)

Mrs Pouncer - welcome to my ramblings! I have indeed read your comments over at the good Doctor's place. It seems you have him in a coquettish twitter much of the time. Very impressive :)

I shall certainly take a copy of the Galloway News with me next time I have to sit in the back of a car. Mind you, is newsprint on your clothes much of a problem? It could be just as embarrassing having people staring at my arse wondering why I have Tesco protests written in reverse.

PI said...

Mum used to swear by brown paper round your stomach. You must NEVER be driven on the road betwixt Minehead and Bridgwater.
My friend Margaret had the same trouble.
Having crossed to France in a small boat I inexplicably threw up passing by Alderney on the way back. I was 4 months preggers I suppose.
How funny! the word whatsit is 'intide.'

PI said...

Debra: never, ever, under any circs, read in a car.

The Birdwatcher said...

I get the same problem. I am not actualy sick I just go pale and start to sweat. The only time I have to travel in the back of a car is when we are going to away matches and that's quite rare because being a prop I'm a bit wide so I tend to get stuck on the front.

Angie in Texas said...

8 years old, girl scout/brownies field trip. the entire van had to be stopped so i could make sick on the side of a VERY busy highway.

as an adult, i still get car sick whilst sitting in the back, too. just reading about the ride back made me feel sick . . .

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - I think you can be forgiven for throwing up when you're pregnant :)

Brown paper round the stomach, eh?

Birdwatcher - does it affect your game? It takes me quite a long time to stop feeling sick afterwards.

Angie - strangely I started to feel a bit queasy as I was writing it too.

Are you ever going to list your blog on your profile? It would be much easier to find you and comment on yours :)

Mary Witzl said...

I know at least three people with the same problem, and it has been scientifically proven, I believe, that sitting in the front of the car and watching the road reduces the problem. I would never mind if you wanted to sit in the front seat; I'd far prefer that to being puked on! And I do know what you mean about the temperature. It's always too cold or too hot for me too...

Mary Witzl said...

Wow -- I can't believe I managed to post that! This computer keeps flipping out on me and losing everything I've typed!

Archivalist said...

Never, ever been carsick, airsick, etc. I can read, sleep, turn around, etc, in cars/planes with no problem. I had no idea how fortunate I was.

My wife, on the other hand, used to get sick EVERY DAY on the bus ride to school as a kid. She still gets sick if in the back seat, or if she tries reading (no maps for her!) or looks away from the road while we're moving. For flying, what works for her is either Dramamine (or Bonime) or chewing on some crystallized ginger.

Hadn't heard about the newspaper cure, tho...

Conan Drumm said...

What was the Latin phrase... 'sick transit etc etc'?


Never suffered this on any form of transport myself, nor does anyone in my family... is there a genetic pre-disposition?

Kim Ayres said...

Mary - your skills are improving... ;)

Archivalist - my wife and maps don't mix particularly well either...

Restaurant Gal said...

I can drive, sail, ride just about anywhere in any type of weather. No problems. But get me climbing above 9000 feet in altitude and.... This is why I live at the beach.

Kim Ayres said...

I'm not entirely sure I've been above 9,000 feet, apart from in an aeroplane

Charlie said...

After reading all of these comments I am amazed that getting sick in the back seat of an auto is of pandemic proportions.

Does the same thing happen, Kim, when you sit anywhere but in the front seat of a roller coaster?

Kim Ayres said...

OK Charlie, I know you can trump me with stories of far more embarrassing illnesses and medical situations.

But I did think my opening 3 lines were quite good

freakazojd said...

I'm just about 6' tall, so if there's an option to sit in the front seat when I'm a passenger, I will always take it. Unless I am riding with my sister-in-law, that is, because she has the exact same thing as you. Don't feel bad to tell people about it - if they're rational people they will understand. What's one ride in the backseat for them?! (Unless, of course, they have the same problem.) If they DO think you're faking, that's their problem. :)

problemchildbride said...

Oh Kim, me too.

Flying on the wee plane over to Stornoway with the kids last time, it was really windy adn the plane was lurching about the place. People kept looking back to see of the kids were all right. They were. It was me who was throwing up into the sick bag.

The Birdwatcher said...

Not that you would notice. Slow, ponderous and wandering aimlessly around who could tell the difference. Anyway it unsettles the opposition if you throw up at teh first scrum.

Kim Ayres said...

Freakazojd - When I used to be 90lbs heavier I always got to sit in the front as there wasn't enough room for me in the back. I think that's partly why I went for so many years not thinking about it

Sam - Strangly enough, air & sea don't cause problems for me, just backs of cars - but you have my heartfelt sympathies

Birdwatcher - So does trhis become a tactic? Throw up over the feet of the other side and then, even if they don't recoil in horror, their grip won't be what it was.

Anonymous said...

I'm another one that must sit in the front. I thought it was a visual thing tho. I'll get sick in a friends living room if they are playing racing games on the big screen tv. Try telling someone you got motion sick sitting on the couch!

Mia

Kim Ayres said...

Now that's worth blogging about, Mia. Do you have your own blog?

Canadian Girl said...

Funny - just yesterday I tried reading in the car while a friend drove. I, too, haven't grown out of being carsick. I avoided the actual unpleasant physical event, but felt so awful I actually turned down the opportunity to have a gooey, rich chocolate brownie. (For me: absolutely unheard of!)

Kim Ayres said...

No chocolate brownie??? My goodness, it must have been bad!

Brave Astronaut said...

My family used to travel to Maine every summer. In a car (a four-door sedan) were my parents, my three siblings, a dog, and at least one cat. The cats had a litter box on the floor on the back seat. The dog was given tranquilizers to keep him from puking on my siblings in the back seat - but they would always wear off five minutes from my grandmother's house on an extremely hilly road.

I was able to survive this for several years - so I manage to hold it together in the car - but I do have to sit on a train facing in the same direction as the train is traveling.

Now Mrs. BA, that's another story. Weak constitution that one. Particularly in stop and go traffic. She gets a little green about the gills in those situations.

Kim Ayres said...

On trains I prefer to have my back to the direction it's travelling - it's something like 150 times safer in the event of a train crash

KL said...

I totally can relate Kim. I have had carsickness problems since I was a kid too. I do not have it as bad as I used to, but still suffer now and then. Of course, I am single and I drive myself, so I don't have to fight about getting the front seat too often.

I have also heard that the best place for those with carsickness is in the front seat, or in the middle of the back seat but raised up to have a clear view out the windshield. Probably where the 'sitting on papers' idea came from.

Don't be shy to tell people you have a history of getting car sick in the back. If they really don't believe you, tell them you understand, but that you will not be held liable for any cleaning bills that occur, and the proceed to aim carefully in their direction when you do get sick ;)

Yes, I can be purely evil at times.

Kim Ayres said...

Hi KL - welcome to my ramblings and thanks for taking the time to comment :)

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