A joke going the rounds during my university days went something like this:
A student gets into a taxi and asks the driver if there’s room for a pizza and a case of 24. When the driver answers “yes,” the student vomits all over the back seat.
Such was the base level of humour in the neoproterozoic age, when some of my cohort were pursuing higher knowledge and others were mostly pursuing highs.
Even then it barely qualified as a joke. We had more sophisticated and intellectual jokes, but after a few beers we no longer understood them.
Perhaps university students tell a similar joke today, although it now involves shooters, nachos and Uber.
Anyway, that tasteless humour serves the purpose of introducing the topic of this musing, which is vomit.
Although I am a sensitive soul, I hardly ever vomit myself and have a surprising tolerance for the vomit of others.
Indeed, when my roommate during my freshman year mistook our bedroom and bathroom for a taxi, a housemate and I cleaned up what seemed to be a whole term’s worth of partially digested junk food and alcohol.
The housemate and I became journalists. My roommate might have become an engineer, had he not flunked out for spending more time at the racetrack than in the classroom. I’ll leave it to you to decide if those career choices are at all metaphoric.
I don’t think my friends and I ever vomit after a night of drinking any more. That’s not because we’re more mature. It’s because people of our age can’t stay awake long enough to get that drunk.
But for decades now I’ve cleaned up after puking little pukes and sat beside airsick strangers, barely coughing up a sympathetic gagging sound in response.
I put my stomach to the test a few years ago by taking a high-speed ferry from Crete to another Greek Island.
Until then I had imagined the Mediterranean to be a kind and gentle sea. That day it felt closer to conditions during the final voyage of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
My first clue that our trip would have a persistent “bleaaghh” soundtrack was when the crew handed out extra barf bags to supplement the supply already in seat backs in front of us.
I sat beside a travelling companion who assured me his stomach was cast iron because he had been a merchant marine during his youth.
He spent most of the trip doubled over casting his stomach contents into barf bags.
As we waited to disembark he sent a text to his son. Then he broke out in as much laughter as he could muster in his weakened condition.
“Look at the typo I just made,” he said, showing me the text.
It read, “Just got off the high-spewed ferry from Crete.”