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.