What Vomiting On A Plane Taught Me. Again.
If you’re anything like me, you are super impatient. It’s one of my character flaws, and I sympathize with you. The moral to this story is towards the end of this blog entry, so if you can’t wait, feel free to scroll down, but you’ll be missing some nuggets along the way. You’ve been warned.
So my family and I just wrapped up our 2018 Spring Break Disney World Vacation, and believe you me it wasn’t a vacation. It was a non stop 7AM to Midnight marathon of walking, eating, waiting, crying, fighting, laughing, smiling, kissing, and hugging. It was absolutely exhausting, but worth every moment of it.
The reason I love Disney World vacations is because it forces us as a family to deal with each other on a level that we aren’t used to. This level of interaction is difficult to replicate and I’ve only experienced it on long road trips or camping. Here’s the thing, I hate road trips, I’d rather fly, and our family doesn’t do well camping. We glamp in hotels.
We’ve taken other family vacations to international resorts, cruises, family wilderness camps, and while I appreciate the day care and teen clubs, it allows me and my wife the luxury of escaping our kids. Now I know that the whole idea of a vacation is to relax, but If I’m going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a family trip, I want us to build memories together. I’m not knocking anybody or their parenting. This is just how things are done in our household. My wife and I usually take 3-4 mini weekend trips a year to unwind and enjoy each other and save the 7-10 day trips for the family.
Last year we did a Club Med Ixtapa trip for 10 days. Once my eldest son figured out that he could roam all day with the other teenage boys and girls on the resort grounds we only saw him for breakfast, dinner and his curfew. On one occasion he disappeared during an impromptu sunset family portrait which really upset me, and how could I blame him? At 18 years of age I didn’t want to spend time with my parents. “They were boring,” I thought. “What do they know?” I asked myself frequently, and now my son was treat us the same way. It’s the circle of life.
Now that our 2 eldest children are college bound, it become more of a reality to my wife and I that this year might be our last family vacation together. Tami & I have decided that every year we will have one family vacaton where all our children are expected to come, but with college and teenage part time jobs, we aren’t sure how that will play out. This is a very scary chapter in our life as our family dynamic is changing. We are used to being 7 and with 2 slowly leaving the nest it will be 5.
That is why we elected to go to Disneyworld for our Spring Break 2018 vacation. Because we knew that it would force us to be with one another for almost 18 hours a day for 7 days straight, and let me tell you, it didn’t come without it’s share of drama. 7 people having their own opinion. 7 people fighting over who was going to sit with who on what rides and who would be the odd wo/man out sitting alone. 7 people blaming each other for missing a fast pass. 7 people complaining over the time it was taking to ride the Frozen Ever After ride in Epcot. 7 people being absolutey blown away by the Avatar: Flight of Passage ride. 7 people worrying about Maverick’s fever. 7 people praying together before every single meal. 7 people laughing at each other’s expressions on the photos taken while on Thunder Mountain. 7 people wishing the vacation was longer. 7 people who for 7 days became one. You can’t put a price tag on that.
I wish I had these experiences with my mother, father, brother, and sister when I was growing up. My parents did the best they could with what they had, and vacations were not a priority. Don’t get me wrong, my mother did the occasional beach day, trips to the park, and every 2-3 years a Disneyland day or Magic Mountain Day, but my siblings and I could have surely benefited from a week long camping trip or road trip together. We are close, but I believe we would be even closer.
Here’s where I bring it back full circle.
Our 8 day vacation was over. None of us really wanted it to end, but we were all a little exhausted and homesick. We had a 9 PM flight back from MCO Orlando, FL to LAX. Just before boarding we had Chipotle mexican food in the airport lounge. Everything was as expected. I spent the majority of the flight working on my laptop and my wife and children slept or watched videos on their devices.
30 minutes before landing, my eldest son Sebas, who was sitting behind me, hits me on the arm to get my attention and lets me know, “Paul is throwing up!” I turn around to find my 12 year old son Paul “PJ” Jr projecting vomit into his row and into the aisle, he had an aisle sear. His attempt at covering his mouth with his sweater and throwing up into his sweater had failed. Miserably. Although, by the look and smell of the sweater you wouldn’t know it. One of my worst nightmares was just realized. Paul was seated next to his sister Bryannah, who had luckily been in the bathroom during all the chaos, and his little brother Maverick who slept in his window seat not realizing what was taking place. I jumped up, grabbed PJ and his sweater, and escorted him to the bathroom. As we walked down the narrow, dimly lit, aisle of shame I could see people whispering, tsking, and using the collars of their shirts or t-shirts to cover their noses. It was a very humbling experience to say the least. Once I got him in the airplace bathroom stall I gave PJ very specific instructions.
“Don’t leave this room. I’ll handle the rest.”
I informed the flight attendants that my son had just vomited, as if they didn’t already know. The grumbling in the cabin was getting louder and the passengers were starting to get unruly. One flight attendant began walking up and down the aisle with air freshner trying to neutralize the odor. Bryannah arrived only to discover the mayhem. I instructed her to take my seat next to her mother. One male passenger jumped out of his seat and made a beeline to the bathroom. I thought he was going to lose it. He shut the bathroom door and started to hurl-loudly. In fact he was screaming as he vomited. “Oh. We’ve got a screamer.” the nearest flight attended said to me as she handed me some black latex gloves and a small package that felt like powder. “I need you to pour this powder over the area covered with vomit.” It was absorant powder. I had heard about this product, but this was the first time I had ever used it. So picture, if you will, a six foot 240 pound Me on my hands and knees in the middle of aisle in relative darnkess pouring absorbing poder over a puddle of vomit in the aisle and in the seat row. One package of absorbing powder wasn’t enough. I went back to ask the stewardess for another package. She gladly obliged and tried to comfort me be saying, “Don’t worry. So far only one person has lost it. We’ve been on flights where there is a chain of people vomiting from the odor.” It didn’t make me feel better.
During this second round I discovered that PJ had vomited all over the carry ons under the seat, on Bryannah’s brand new Dourney & Burke Disney handbag, and my new Beats headphones. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to disinfect all our stuff, so I went back to the stewardess and asked for a trash bag. I stuffed everything in a trash bag. Maverick lied asleep in his window seat oblivious to everthing that was going on. Bryannh took my seat. PJ remained in the bathroom. I sat in PJ’s seat avoiding vomit puddles covered in powder. I got up one last time to check in on Paul Jr. The plane had begun its descent and the stewardess asked that both PJ and I return to our seats. I advised them, that he was going to stay in the bathroom. I wasn’t going to subject him to anymore embarassment and that would be his seat for the remainder of the flight. The stewardess said she needed to check with a supervisor. I told her, “Go right ahead. He’s not going anywhere.” I knocked on the door to the bathroom stall my son sat in and told him, “Everything is going to be all right. Stay in here until I bring you extra clothes.” Fortunately, his carry on was stowed away in the overhead compartment, so I knew that once everyone exited the plane I would be able to get him some fresh clothes and throw his soiled clothes into the trash bag that had all our other vomit soaked stuff. I returned back to my seat, in a daze, and waited. Paul sat in the bathroom stall until we landed. Once everyone left, I pulled down his luggage, gave him some replacement clothes, and we were off the plane. Crises neutralized.
When I first realized Paul had vomited, I was upset-embarassed even. I wasn’t mad at PJ. I was upset at the situation. The poor kid didn’t intentionally vomit his brains out. It was an accident, and my initial response of rushing him to the bathroom was more to appease the people around us, instead of taking care of him. In other words, I was initially more concerned with making everyone else on the plane comfortable, instead of my own son. That was wrong. Very wrong-and I caught myself. I should have spent a little more time consoling him, and upon realizing this, I made he sure understood just how much I loved him and that everything was fine. How often do we worry about the convenience of others instead of guarding the feelings of those who really matter in our lives? I’ve been guilty of this more than I’d care to admit. Hell, I’ve made this mistake even in my own marriage. I own a real estate company with 150 agents, and there were times where I’d be in my office having a conversation with my wife, and someone would be need my attention, and I’d abruptly exit the discussion because I thought I was obligated to. What kind of message did that send to my spouse? The wrong one, and it eventually took it’s toll on our marriage until I had to wake up. I dont bat 1.000, but these days, I am much more protective of my family and their feelings. This doesn’t mean my clients, my staff, or my agents aren’t a priority to me, it just means I won’t place their needs above the needs of my own family, and quite honestly, how would that make me look if I did? Is that the type of person you’d want representing or mentoring you? Not I. Not these days anyway.
We had a shuttle scheduled to pick us up at 11:00 PM at LAX. I received one confirmation email the day we ordered the shuttle, but hadn’t received any correspondence on the day we landed. At 11:10 I started to get nervous that it wouldn’t arrive. At 11:15 I got a call from our driver letting me know that, “All the shuttles were out for the night and that the company was forced to upgrade us from a shuttle to a stretch limo.” My family and I were picked up and taken home in a limo. The kids were impressed and Daddy scored some brownie points that day. In the end, despite all the drama, everything worked out okay. God works in mysterious ways. I’ve learned to just trust in him. Amen.