Friday, May 17, 2002

When I was a kid I used to get car sick. This was not helped by semi-annual visits to grandparents who lived eight hours away by car. Nor was it helped by an older brother and sister who delighted in watching me hurl. All three of us would sit in the back seat of the 1968 Buck LaSabre (later, the '73). I would get stuck in the middle and once my parents were involved in conversation, brother and sister would start pumping their arms in circles and moving back and forth. Like life-size pistons.

I'd usually throw up after just a few minutes of this. Just typing this memory is making me queasy.

My Mother, being second generation Italian, tried a variety of old world remedies. There was garlic rubbed behind my ears. A paper bag placed over my stomach. Some sort of oil swallowed pre-trip. Nothing helped. Nor did modern pills. I was a vomit machine. Show me rolling hills, my brother and sister tag-team of pistons and the back seat of our Buick and I'd show everyone my breakfast.

Eventually, the folks gave up on trying to stop me from puking in car. Instead, they focused their energies on handling the output. Various bags were tried to capture the flood. All failed. One failed "in flight" as Dad attempted to walk it to a roadside garbage can. Not pretty. Dad was pissed.

Finally, a coffee can was brought into the fray. An empty coffee can with a plastic, re-sealable lid. It was the perfect vomit catcher. I could throw up one, two, even three times, wipe off my mouth, seal the can and our trip could continue non-stop. But there was a downside - ever hear of sense memory? Every time I got sick to my stomach in the car, I'd open that empty coffee can and lean my head forward. Inhaling deeply, I got a snoot full of ground coffee aroma. I remember looking in the can and seeing little dark brown flakes clinging to the sides. And then I'd vomit.

So here's the sequence we established:
1) Get sick
2) Inhale ground coffee aroma
3) Throw up

It didn't take long for that routine to stick. In a matter of months, just a whiff of coffee aroma could turn my stomach. Coffee machines had to be avoided. Kissing anyone who recently drank coffee was a distasteful chore. I almost avoided living in Hoboken NJ because of the stench of those caffeine breezes coming from the Maxwell House plant in town. Needless to say, swallowing the stuff myself - no matter how frothy or full of milk - never happened. It's not so bad anymore. But even so, Starbucks for me means a steamed milk with a shot of vanilla - and nabbing a seat upwind from all those coffee drinkers.

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