Sea, Sick.

boatrideThe sea was angry that night, my friends.

A chartered bus had taken us from Grantham, England, all the way down to the western edge of Wales to the ferry that would take us to Ireland. We’d set out in the afternoon so we arrived at the ferry dock at around ten p.m. It had been raining all day and the wind had picked up. High waves rocked the ferry. As soon as we got onboard we all headed to the lounge for drinks. One of our adult chaperones sat down with his pint of Guinness then grabbed a trash bin and threw up in it. He walked out.

The ferry boat continued rocking and others followed him. There were open cabins with bunk beds and I guess they thought lying down would help.

By the time the ferry was well under way there were only three of us left in the lounge: me, Drew, and Eric Ian. Drew, Eric, and I had all had a few drinks by that time. I was laughing about everyone else being seasick because I’m a terrible person. Then I announced I wanted to explore the ship and Drew and Eric came along with me. We found the cabins and the duty free shop, which wasn’t open, and there didn’t seem to be much else so we decided to check the deck. The ferry was still heaving up and down, the wind was blowing, and the deck was slick with rain or seawater so we held tight to the railing and walked all around the deck. The blackness of sea and sky blended together with only the occasional whitecap lit by the ship to show us where the water was. Waves lapped up onto the deck. I heard a rushing sound and looked to my right. A huge wave had hit the side of the ship and was now sliding along the deck toward us. Drew and I tripped over the bulkhead getting back inside. We turned around to see Eric, still holding the railing, look to his right just in time to get splashed in the face and nearly swept away.

Drew and I lay on the floor laughing because we were terrible people.

I remembered this while listening to a Fresh Air interview with neuroscientist Dean Burnett, author of Idiot Brain, explaining why people get seasick.

So what’s happening there is the brain’s getting mixed messages. It’s getting signals from the muscles and the eyes saying we are still and signals from the balance sensors saying we’re in motion. Both of these cannot be correct. There’s a sensory mismatch there. And in evolutionary terms, the only thing that can cause a sensory mismatch like that is a neurotoxin or poison. So the brain thinks, essentially, it’s been being poisoned. When it’s been poisoned, the first thing it does is get rid of the poison, aka throwing up.

Do you ever get seasick? I seem to be one of those lucky few who’s never had a problem with motion sickness. Well, I used to think it was luck. Now I think my brain is even more of an idiot than most and just ignores the mixed signals. Maybe it has something to do with being a terrible person.

boat

17 Comments

  1. Michelle

    I never used to get motion sickness! I could sail on rough seas, read a book in the backseat, ride rollercoasters all day, all fine. Then when I was 25 I got my Open Water Dive Ticket and our first dive was out on a small boat on a rough day and I got overheated in my wetsuit. jumped overboard to cool down, puked anyway, and suddenly had hundreds of little fish around me eating it and asking me to puke some more. Then I got too cold and had mild hypothermia.
    I was still fine with everything else, or so I thought. A couple of months ago I was on the swing with Rory and suddenly realised I was feeling queasy. On a goddamn SWING! So now of course I’m worried I won’t be able to ride a rollercoaster without hurling off it. Maybe I messed up my inner ear somehow…

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It could be that your brain has now made an association between motion and sickness. It might be possible to break the habit, though. Ginger is a good treatment for nausea–at least everyone swears by it, and in my experience it’s worked well. Get on a swing and swig a ginger beer. You’ll get your old inner ear back in no time.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    I must be a terrible person, too. I feel much better after reading this.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      There’s something incredibly good about being a terrible person.

      Reply
  3. halfa1000miles

    Heck yeah, I get seasick. I get carsick. But the funniest sick I got was when I rode a Segway. I did not expect that, but when we were just standing still and rocking, I got sick as hell 🙂 My brain must be really smart. And I am a terrible person, BTW.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Hey, I’m impressed that you were able to ride a damn Segway. I haven’t got the balance to manage one. Figure that out: I have no problem with seasickness, carsickness, or any mind of motion sickness, but I’ve got no sense of balance whatsoever. Can’t roller skate, ski, ride a surfboard, or walk a tightrope.
      Wait, maybe that explains why I have no motion sickness. My brain is in a constant state of imbalance.

      Reply
  4. Arionis

    Since I was in the Navy and work for them now as a civilian for a combined 29 years, it’s a good thing I don’t get sea sick. I talked my sister-in-law who “doesn’t like boats!” into going on a casino cruise out of Myrtle Beach, SC. The first hour of the trip is along the intercostal waterway which was flat as glass. You can’t gamble until you get so far off the coast so they served dinner during that time. MY SIL declared that she was not feeling bad at all and stuffed herself at the buffet. Then came the “real” ocean. Let’s just say the only slot machine she played that night was the one armed bandit in the bathroom. She’s never let me forget that one.

    Reply
    1. halfa1000miles

      I was JUST there and went out on that boat. Not my first time, so I was all Dramamined up, and STILL felt bad.

      Reply
    2. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I want to feel bad for your SIL but I just can’t manage it. Something about seasickness just hits my funny bone, although I do feel kind of bad for the casino owners that they didn’t make any money off her that night. At least the bathroom’s one-armed bandit isn’t as disturbing as the one from that Twilight Zone episode where a guy gets hooked on gambling.

      Reply
      1. Arionis

        Hell, they didn’t make money off of anybody that night except for the wife and I.

        Yea she was feeling sick but at least she didn’t have the “fever”. Don’t give me credit for that. I had to look it up. 🙂

        Reply
  5. Arionis

    Wow! Small world. That time we went out it was really bad. Everyone was laying on the floor in the casino, even some of the crew. Didn’t phase the wife or I. We had our pick of machines to play on.

    Reply
  6. Jay

    Terrible people are the best.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Yes! It’s so wrong but so right to be one of the terrible people.

      Reply
  7. Gilly Maddison

    Oh my goodness yes – got seasick on a catamaran off Tenerife a few years ago – it was like an epidemic – people were throwing up all over the boat. Even people who were not sea sick were getting sick from the stench of puke! Had to turn back and head for dry land. That boat was FULL of terrible people!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That sounds like a miserable experience. I may laugh about my imperviousness to being sea sick but the smell of puke would have had me doing the technicolor yawn with everyone else.

      Reply
  8. K

    I am lucky, I use a bracelet that applies pressure to a place on my wrist..
    It works wonderfully…

    Fabulous read… but that picture.. yikes!!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve heard about those bracelets. I’m glad to know they work. And I didn’t realize the picture would scare anyone. Honestly when I saw that small boat–on the edge of Lake Erie–it was all I could do to not sneak off with it.

      Reply

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