I had taken off early from work to go get my children from school. It had been a fairly hectic day and I was frazzled and the traffic was the usual Austin stop and go parking lot all the way across town to pick up my daughter from her school. Then I drove back across town through the same traffic to pick up my son from his day care.
We had all just gotten back in the car. I had strapped my son in the child seat, made sure my daughter was buckled into the passenger seat and gotten in the car myself. Visions of which kind of food we’d get on the way home were being discussed when the world came unstuck and started to spin around my head.
I had nothing to alleviate the rotational vertigo with me in the car. I really had no idea how to treat it other than to hug the toilet and throw up until it passed. I couldn’t do either of those things because we were miles away from home. I didn’t have a cellphone at the time because we couldn’t afford one. The school was closed and the teachers had all gone home.
So we waited. It was summer in Texas so we sat there with the engine running in the car and the air conditioner blowing full blast on my face while I stared fixedly at a screw head in the interior finish of my car. This went on for about two hours.
After that time, with little let up in the vertigo and no convenient police cars to flag down, I got my daughter to play lookout for me. I would creep forward to an intersection and wait for her to tell me it was clear. Luckily there was little traffic on the side roads between where we were and where the house was, so I just went block by block until we got back to the house, where I promptly went to the bathroom and started throwing up.
A friend bought a cellphone for me the next day and demanded I allow her to pay for it. I started carrying meclizine around with me. When that proved to not be enough I got valium and promethazine and had to use them and the cellphone pretty regularly to keep the nausea to a minimum and to call people to get me home. Get my children home. Then I stopped working and things got a lot easier to deal with even if paying for them got quite a bit harder.
I’ll never forget that day, though. How helpless I felt. How dreadfully wrong everything could have gone. It is probably one of those scarring events that keeps me from doing things to this day, and that day was about twenty years ago.