The life and times of an ethnically ambiguous little lady.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Seeing Red Peppers at 10,000 Feet

“Ah, excuse me, I ordered the vegetarian meal,” I said to the airline stewardess or flight attendant or air transit worker, or whatever they’re called nowadays.

“Not according to this list,” she said, smiling condescendingly. “But I’ll see what I can do.”

“Bless your heart. I appreciate it.” I replied, smiling back cartoonishly. A few friends and myself were on our way to Europe, first stop Amersterdam, for the customary find-myself-blow-any-savings-before-growing-up-get-some-culture-and-kiss-a-few-foreigners tour. It was an eight hour flight and I was going to be very hungry without a meal.

Eventually, the airplane waitress made her way back to my seat. “I had to fight for it, but here ya go,” she said.

“I’m sure you really had to wrestle for it,” I said smiling. “Put that meal in a half nelson, didn’t ya?” She laughed uncomfortably and I think she rolled her eyes. I’m sure it was just the way she had “wrestled for a single pillow for me at the beginning of the flight.” Doesn’t every seat get one? I’m not asking for the moon here. (Note to self: I think bitchiness rubs off. Kind of like meningitis.)

I looked down at my meal. An unassuming stuffed red pepper, probably filled with something impossible to determine, a phallic bread roll, a cookie that looked like it had been around since the Carter administration, and some long dead canned pears. Yes, this was worth fighting for.

I took a bite of my stuffed pepper. Although I couldn’t tell exactly what the substance was inside of it, it was definitely vegetarian. And it was then, roughly a minute and a half later, that I felt a little tingling of my lip. And then my throat.

“Shit,” I said, spitting the pepper into my napkin.

“I told you not to get the vegetarian, Emily,” Allie, my seatmate and one of my vacation partners in crime, said. “They’re gross. Even if you don’t eat meat. You should eat chicken. That’s not meat.”

“Ah, yeah. I think I have a problem,” I said, trying not to hyperventilate. “I think there might have been nuts in there.”

“Oh, shit,” Allie said.

“Fuck,” I exclaimed.

“Crap,” Allie continued.

“Mother fucking slut,” I said as the woman in the row across from me glared at me while covering her young daughter’s ears.

“The one time I don’t ask if there are nuts. I think this is going to be bad,” I said, both to Allie and apologetically to the woman who had overheard my outburst.

I am deathly allergic to nuts. Putting Superman near some kryptonite is exactly like forcing a macadamia nut cookie down my throat. The end result? There is no way we are fighting crime after that.

It all started when I was five years old at a wedding and decided to enjoy some delicious candy-covered nuts. Then there was the pesto incident of 1992. Or the time I learned the word for nuts so I could ask the waiters when I was in Brazil. When I asked, the waiter looked at me like I was crazy. Turns out porcas means nuts, but the nuts and bolts kind, not the food kind.

But back to the issue at hand. I called my favorite high altitude hussy over while trying to stay calm. “Ah, do you happen to know if there were nuts in the red pepper? I’m really allergic. There was actually a note about it in the order you guys lost.” (Passive aggressive? Maybe.)

“That’s a good question,” Susie Sunshine said. “John?” she said to the nearby manttendant.

“Any ideas? Seems our friend here has a little allergy.”

“No, I’m really not sure,” John said, shrugging.

“Okay,” I said, trying to stay calm. “Well, is there a doctor onboard because this ‘little allergy’ could get really bad.”

“Yeah, really not sure. But I’ll let you know if I find one,” she said, easing away from my area.

“Could you? Because I really don’t think you want to end up with a dead body on this plane,” I said, using all the angry sarcasm I could muster.

Oh god. This was bad. Maybe not Snakes on a Plane bad, but pretty awful for me. My throat was starting to get really scratchy and my stomach was becoming very angry. And it was getting hard to breathe. Stay calm. Stay calm. Try and watch Mel Gibson, pre-anti-semite in crappy movie “What Women Want” I muttered to myself in a mantra over and over.

Meanwhile, Allie was beginning to get concerned. “Don’t you have a what-do-you-call it? An Epsteinpen? An Emilymarker? Isn’t it called something like that?”

She was right. I had my Eppypen, my shot of epinephrine that was supposed to do the job. Only problem is that I am almost as afraid of needles as I am of nuts.

“Seriously, Em. Do you need me to stab you with it? In the heart, right?”

That helped me to stop panicking for a moment and focus. “Ah, no, Allie, it’s not Pulp Fiction.
You inject it into the thigh, but I don’t know…”

And my reasoning at this moment in time? Well, I only had one needle. What if something happened when I was traveling? Then I’d really be screwed.

(My mother later shared with me an important sidenote to this theory. “If you died on the plane, you wouldn’t need the needle later. Oh mothers. And another sidenote: how come you never hear about kids in third world countries having food allergies?)

So I came up with another plan. I would drink. I would drink and take Dramamine, the motion sickness pill, and if I had enough of both of those, I would either pass out or die, but somehow I’d soon feel sweet, sweet relief. So I called my favorite hostess with the mediocre mostest.

“So, how are you feeling,” she asked. At this point, I was starting to turn a nice shade of green.

“Not good. Did you find out if there were any doctors around?” I said, trying to stay calm.

“I totally forgot. It’s so busy around here, you know? Let me check.”

“No!” I exclaimed, grabbing her polyester-cuffed lapels, while trying to refrain from punching her in the face. “I have another idea. Can I have some of those little bottles of alcohol? I think that will really help. Like as many as you can give me.”

“Okay,” she said, probably more to get rid of me then anything, because I was starting to look a little wild-eyed.

God bless international flights. No laws there about getting liquored up. I began to drink. And took a few Dramamine. And then I’d go throw up as the nuts were fully in my system. And then I’d force down another drink. And a pill, and wheeze and heave and go throw up again. Wash, rinse, repeat. It got to the point that I looked so miserable, that the lines for the bathroom would part like Moses working his magic on the red sea. I even heard a mother trying to turn my plight into a counting lesson for son, “And how many times did the lady go to the bathroom? Let’s count. One, two, three, four, five! That’s right!” And then I’d go back to my seat and sweat, and wheeze, and cry a little, and drink some more.

In between, to try and stay calm, I’d ask Allie questions like, “is your inner ear itching or is it just me?” Or “listen, I think I can wheeze ‘Blister in the Sun” or “please tell my parents I love them.”

And finally, 7 hours into the flight, an hour before we landed, I passed out. I was drunk, I had enough Dramamine in me to kill a horse, and I had thrown up exactly 6 times. Allie looked like she wanted to throw me out of the plane, just to get some peace. But we landed in Amsterdam and I managed to both wake up and be alive, which was pretty impressive.

And then it was time to get stoned. So stoned that I didn’t remember my name or the experience I had just lived through. I was happy, our other friend seemed to fall in love with ‘how pretty the weed is. it’s so green! Who’s so green? (yes, she talked to the weed)’, and for some reason, Allie couldn’t stop writing postcards. Drugs do funny things. And then it was time for food. We all got chocolate covered waffles. I, of course, checked with the guy three times before taking a bite.

“This is delicious,” one of our friends exclaimed. “The chocolate tastes just like nutella.”

“What?” I said, spitting it out in my hand immediately. This was going to be a long trip.

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