(warning: graphic post. BTW anonymous comments are now allowed because apparently some of my older reader's can't figure out how to use the complicated user name/password feature:)
What's a guy to do when he's asked to ring in the New Year 17 hours ahead of friends and family? Why contract painful vomiting and explosive diarrhea of course.
On New Year's Eve-Eve, Yuna's brother, Sung Jin, came over. He's a 24 year old college student that is studying to becoming a teacher here in Korea. As part of the entrance exam, he must answer some questions in English in front of an interviewer. As much as I want to tell him to do something else, anything else, as a profession, I have no choice to be impressed by his youthful enthusiasm. Though, at the same time, it's highly annoying to be in the presence of someone that thinks they will like their future job. The only thing worse is knowing someone that actually enjoys their job. The absolute Sisyphusian drudgery of the situation is knowing that I'll never enjoy my job. I know this because the very nature of pimping oneself out for arbitrarily worthed pieces of paper goes against the grain of happiness itself. Exacerbating my anger is I'm not a big fan of being told what to do either. With that said, can you tell I've rewatched Fight Club within the last week?
While I might not be the beaming ray of sunshine that the world huddles around for warmth and inspiration, who am I to rain on someone else's parade? As such, since Yuna is my handler, and a fine handler at that, I feel a slight obligation to repay a debt. It helps that Sung Jin typically brings over a small gift in the form of an edible consumable. And since I'm lazy to a fault, being fed in exchange for helping a friend out is small penance.
On tap was roasted chicken, or that's what I requested. Actually my original request was a chicken salad. It's quite easy. Chicken plus lettuce plus some sort of dressing equals chicken salad. I've had more rice and meat than I'd care to recall and was looking to bombard the colon with copious amounts of fiber. With that said, when the delivery guy showed up at my apartment, and dropped off a box of fried chicken wings, I was pretty disappointed.
Not one to say no to free food, free booze, or free sex (ok, anything less than 20 dollars), I happily feasted on the greasy wings. Sung Jin and I had a couple of my home brews, and to my surprise, not only does he really enjoy the beer, he drank one of my IPA's at room temperature!
At about 9:15, he left my apartment and I nestled into bed for an early evening in preparation for the following day's "work."
Work would never come, or at least the version I've come to know and dread within the last couple of months here. I was awoken by gut wrenching stomach cramps at 3 a.m, and by 7 a.m, it became clear something from some orifice of mine was about to be expulsed from my body. I've always enjoyed stories of travelers that speak of malaria or food poisoning because, while I've never been in that situation, I have only their words to base certain assumptions on. "Coming out of me from both ends," is the term used most prevalently. Those words always made me laugh ... at least until today.
I stood up from my bed and it became clear that forces beyond my control were working WWF tag team style feverishly within me. I dizzily made it to the toilet and assumed seated lock down position. Seriously, in crisis, sitting on the pot seems to be the de facto stance that replaces the fetal position long after you've outgrown being a fetus. There is something extremely comforting about mounting the thrown, placing your elbows on your thighs just after you've thrown out the "Sign of the Cross" just in case. Some call it resigning yourself to your impending fate. I like to look at it like enjoying the calm before the storm.
As I sat there, wondering where my foe would attack from first, I had to chuckle as the the layout of my bathroom. I thought about those poor malaria stricken folks marooned in Ding-Fuck no where, grinding it out over some squatter toilet, or even worse, some fecal filled shallow hole in the ground. It was brief, but I had a moment. A moment of clarity. A moment of utter appreciation. The fact that I had a tiled bathroom, with a storm drain, and a movable shower head made me feel suddenly at peace. Clean up would be a cinch assuming I survived this El Nino. But leave it up to mother nature to deke me forehand then backhand. The 2nd position within the travelers play book is on his knees, enjoying his own reflection within the murky waters of an American, ahem, Korean Standard. My moment of peace was over.
With an upward thrust and twist, I reacted to mother natures one-on-one deke and made it to my knees just in time to let out a violent yak of vomit. And then I yacked some more. If that weren't enough, I yacked a little bit more. The rock gods say that John Bonham would have been proud but this performance wasn't yet near a first encore. As I marveled at the spiral that was making its way down the flushing toilet, I felt a tickle in my belly that manifested its way into a freight train speeding down the tracks that was my colon. This was 7 a.m. This was round one of a heavyweight battle I had no chance at winning.
After another go around some 45 minutes later, I felt the need to contact Yuna. I told her that I wasn't coming in today because I could literally cough, vomit, or shit at any moment. "You have to come in," she said. Really? Potentially shitting myself at the drop of a won isn't reason enough to stay home?
Sung Jin said he would take me to the hospital at 9 a.m and then we would walk to the school at 10 a.m. It was kind of implied that once the principal saw me in the condition my condition was was in, he'd take pity on me and send me back to my sweat box of an apartment.
Outside Lotte Mart at 9 a.m precisely, Sung Jin came running up. "I'm so anxious about your situation," he said to me obviously concerned. We walked towards the hospital past the stinky fish markets and street side food vendors. The smell of the food emanating from nearly every nook and cranny made me almost junk twice. But that was nothing compared to the smell of stale fried chicken still pungent on my fingers I took in when I tried to plug my nose.
I managed to contain my stomach contents as we arrived at the hospital a mere few minutes later. Sung Jin made the appointment and sussed out the details with the receptionist. While sitting, I spotted a garbage can in the corner of the room that could be reached in a matter of steps if need be. Sung Jin picked up on the fact that I was sizing the place up in regards to potential places to spew. This made him nervous which then thrust him into million question mode. He began asking me questions like, "do you think it was the chicken? I wasn't sick from the chicken. The chicken tasted ok, right?" It was then I looked him straight in the eye, vomit threatening up my throat, eyes sunken back into my sockets and said to him as squarely and as sharply as anyone can, "Dude, don't say THAT word again."
We walked into the examination room and I laid down on the table (for those keeping track at home, this is the 4th time I've been to the hospital in a week and a half). The doctor began asking questions to Sung Jin in Korean all the while pressing and probing my stomach. After 30 seconds, he looked at me and said to me, exactly the way Ramathorne says "Reefer" when he discovers the weed in the semi truck in Super Troopers, "food poisoning." He then led me into an attached room. The women in that room motioned for me to expose my ass. Not one for being shy to expose my ass, I granted the woman her request and the only word uttered from her mouth was "pain" as she stuck me in the can with a diminutive needle. Sung Jin and I picked up some medication and made our way to the school.
Yuna rushed over when she saw me hunkered down at my desk and sympathetically worded to me in a motherly tone, "I'm so sorry about your condition. Do you think you can teach today?"
I predictably said, "I don't think so. I've had diarrhea three times, I've vomited 3 times. I think would get sick again. If I have to, then I will need a bucket in the classroom." I believe the bucket line was the clincher as it was then she said, "I think Mr. Kim wants to speak with you about your condition"
Mr. Kim was surprisingly sympathetic about the whole thing. I mean, homeboy is pushing 60 years old and has seen more involving poverty and disease than he'd probably care to regale me with. In fact, growing up in poor Korea in the 1950's, he may have actually had to walk uphill both ways to school. "My son, I've heard you are sick. Please drink this tea. Please go to your accommodations and rest. If I have time, I will check on you," he said with generous amounts of sincerity.
At home, the stomach pains brewed and brewed until mother nature hit the bleeder valve at will. Vomit, shit, shit, vomit. It didn't matter. Then I made perhaps the biggest mistake of all. When you are sick, much like in hockey, it's important to always play the body. Don't look away. Don't become mesmerized with what you think is going to happen. While I laid in bed, I let me guard down, and let past what I THOUGHT was a small amount of gas. Needless to say, I sharted about a tablespoons worth of whatever, and in one fell swoop, ended 20+ years of shart-free living.