Good for what ails ya: Projectile vomiting and the strawberry icecream cone

July 29, 2007

You just never know what will make you feel better when you’re ill.

And the things that make you feel better are not always things to be proud of.

Take motion sickness, for example. There was a time when I was a boy that I’d get sick every time my family went on a long trip by car.

It may have had something to do with the seating arrangements in the family car, a two-tone bronze 1958 Dodge Sierra, a station wagon only a little smaller than our house.

The one really cool thing about this beast, or so I thought at the time, was the foldable third seat, which faced backward. I liked to sit in it with the big back window cranked down and watch the road reel away from me. Somehow, that was more appealing, as thought it was better to see where I had been than where I was going.

That’s still true, but probably a topic for another column.

Anyway, that was my favorite way to travel, at least, getting a ride to school or going places around town with my folks.

That all changed when we took the car on a trip from our home in Georgia to visit family in Pennsylvania. It was about 700 miles, in the days before Interstates. That meant hundreds of miles of two-lane highways winding through every ‘burg and city between hither and yon, stopping at innumerable stop signs and traffic signals. If we were lucky, Dad would stop at some little string of cottages somewhere in Virginia on the way north and south. If not, we just drove straight through, 16 or 18 hours.

We were in South Carolina when I started to feel a little bit queasy. Just a touch. I had sprawled out on that big rear seat, reading and watching the road fall away from me. The car had no A/C, so the window was open, and the hot air whipped around the pages of my comic book. I couldn’t figure out why I was starting to feel so lousy. Now I know that the open window was sucking in exhaust fumes, a design flaw that explains why you don’t see that kind of windows any more.

By the time we stopped for lunch, I was sick as a dog, with a splitting headache as a bonus.

We had stopped at a Howard Johnson’s, a now nearly defunct restaurant chain that was famous for its 28 flavors of ice cream and for its fried clams. I still say nobody makes fried clams as well as HoJo did.

Anyway, my parents and brother went in to eat. I said I was too sick to even look at food, which should have worried them because I would, and will, claw my way through a locked door for a good hamburger.

It was hot. I leaned out the back window of the station wagon, reeling with nausea and nearly blind from the headache. I thought I was gonna die. No, I hoped I would die. Soon. Please.

The door of the restaurant opened, the fierce summer sun flaring off the pivoting glass and into my face. I jolted at the pain from the light and glared toward the door.

A kid walked out. He was my own age, about 11, but really fat. I mean, he wore stripes so his parents could tell if he was walking or rolling. He jiggled, from just below his bristly flat-top haircut to where his ankles squidged out over the tops of his canvas sneakers.

In his pudgy hand he held HoJo’s biggest ice cream cone, about the size of a dunce cap, with what looked like about 20 scoops of ice cream in it.

It was strawberry ice cream. I could smell it. It was soft and runny on the outside and the kid, through either clumsiness or enthusiasm, had a solid smear of the stuff all over the lower half of his face.

Did I mention that, at the time, I HATED strawberry ice cream? I mean, hated in the way only an 11-year-old boy can hate; hated it like I did Brussels sprouts and spinach and visits to the dentist.

Fat boy looked at me, an obese, strawberry sneer forming on his half-acre face.

I looked at the pink goo oozing over his dimpled knuckles toward the ground. I looked at the frothy pink dripping from his lips, and doing roller-coaster maneuvers down his several chins.

Something happened, way down deep inside me. Something profound, even life-changing. All that unhappy, brewing, heaving stuff that made up my inside, all that nauseated, bubbling, belching mass, stood up on its hind legs, thought for a moment, and said “That does it. I’m outta here!”

There was not a thing I could do, any more than a mountain can stop a train that is heading for the mouth of the tunnel that runs through it. Whatever was in there – breakfast, supper from the night before, the insoles of my shoes and, for all I know, ancient scraps of baby formula, all rushed from the very center of my being, up my gullet, and out, damned near taking my teeth with them. I think that if they hadn’t been strapped in by my braces, I would have lost them, then and there.

Mathematically speaking, it was a beautiful thing, describing as it did a perfect arc from my rattling teeth to a brightly lit square of sidewalk right at Moby Pink’s feet, sloshing up all over his sparking white Keds.

The rosy sneer hesitated, uncertain, and then dissolved into an unhappy-if-cheerfully-pink O. The little sausage fingers sprang away from the HoJo megacone. The glistening rosy mass above the cone turned gracefully as it dropped to splashdown in the lumpy greenish mass on the sidewalk.

Namu the Boy Whale squealed like a boar only just that moment neutered, turned, and churned his way back into the HoJo, hollering “Mammmmaaaaa!” at the top of his lungs.

The parking lot seemed eerily quiet. Other than a really bad taste in my mouth, I realized that I felt pretty good. I climbed the rest of the way through the window, and, carefully avoiding the mess on the sidewalk, walked into the cool depths of the restaurant. I found Mom, Dad, and David at a table, ready to order.

“You feeling better?” my Mom asked. “Yes Ma’am,” I said. “I’m hungry.”


© 2007 Marsh Creek Media,

Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.



3 Responses to “Good for what ails ya: Projectile vomiting and the strawberry icecream cone”

  1. Well said. I would be happy to read anything else you might contribute on this subject.

  2. It’s fantastic that you are getting thoughts from this post
    as well as from our dialogue made here.

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