The Challenge of Keeping it Down

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, a little girl who loved to travel got car sick.

A lot. In fact, the little girl spent much of her youth sitting beside her mother, the driver, fending off bouts of the stomach whoopsies.

Her mother acquired her first car when the little girl was nine and from then on, they spent much of their free time traveling the roads of New England. Together they drove to the ocean, the White Mountains, and the Mohawk Trail. And together they learned about new places, people, food, and fun. But the little girl still got green a lot. Decades later, she can remember many of the exotic places where she yelped, “Stop the car!” Her mother always obliged, especially when it was apparent that her car was in imminent danger of a yak attack.

By now, you’ve probably realized that I was the little barfer. I must add that it has taken a lifetime of concentration to overcome that dizzying state. Back then, I would never have dreamed that one day I would be able to read or knit in the car. In those early days, I stared straight ahead. My eyes could roam the landscape if my head remained steady. I now realize that I saw a great deal more of the landscape than most kids.

What didn’t help was being the daughter of a thrill seeker. There is a particular wavy road that Mom and I traveled twice a year on regular visits to Canterbury, New Hampshire. In addition to its curves, this road was a washboard of twenty-foot hills – up and down, up and down. Mom thought it was great fun to accelerate up, and float down the other side. Up and down, up and down.

The result was often “Stop the car!” On those trips with Adventure Woman, I always arrived with either a freshly emptied stomach or a green face … sweaty, pale, and gulping for cool air. I threw it up or kept it down. Up or down, up or down. On my most recent visit to Canterbury, I drove slowly over those hills and turned up the air-conditioning. Some memories never die.

Luckily, I’ve never been seasick, but I am only comfortable in the front of a bus or car.  A long trek in the back seat of any vehicle is risky, although I eventually overcame my airsickness. 

What’s that, you say? Airsick? Weren’t you a stewardess? Yes, but I never claimed it was easy. And besides, I was only sick for the first three years. 

During the first year, I worked in some prop planes which didn’t fly high enough to get above the bumpy weather. I quickly decided that jets were my best bet. After I learned from dire experience how much the tail sways, I tried to work first class. Often, the only way I was successful was bid for the first position, the one who assumes more responsibility … including making all the announcements. It was worth it to me – except for the Dallas flights.

Back in those days, I flew to the west coast from New York through Dallas. There was no way to get to Dallas without flying over Oklahoma. In the summer, Oklahoma has some of the hottest, most turbulent skies in the country. I was often woozy when I activated the microphone button to announce, “The Captain has turned on the seat belt sign for our descent into Dallas. Please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts.” Unclick the mic.

Breathe deeply. Turn the cool air blower directly onto my face. Breathe, breathe.

            Then one day, after gratefully landing from a extremely turbulent flight, I stood to make the taxi-in announcement. I was pale, sweaty, and fighting off the nausea. “We’d like to welcome you to Dallas Love Field …” 

Oh no. Here it comes. Unclick the public address microphone. Quick, open the lavatory door. Upchuck into the sink. Grab a paper towel. Rinse the sink. Click open the mic.

“The temperature on the ground is 94 degrees …” Unclick. Barf again, into the hopper. Click. “The captain has asked that you remain in your seats with your seatbelt fastened until he has brought the aircraft to a complete stop at the gate…”  Unclick. Back to the sink.

Then, finally, I clicked it on for the last time, thanking our passengers for traveling with American Airlines, and hoping they would choose us again. I hung up the mic and went back into the lavatory to clean and spray it, rinse my mouth, and pop in a Rolaid. On went the fresh lipstick and the white gloves. I joined my flying partner at the door and said goodbye to our departing passengers with that big old American Airlines smile. All in a day’s work.

Like I said, the first few years weren’t easy. Today, I still pack Rolaids. And I never travel to Oklahoma. I know my limits.


In November, Marcy O’Brien’s first book Rounding Third will be released. We will have more details in the upcoming weeks.  

Share this Post:

One thought on “The Challenge of Keeping it Down”

  1. That’s a rough lifestyle that was chosen for you! I also can’t ride in the back seat–or backwards under any circumstances, which I learned on a fire truck. But it sounds like you have it way worse than I ever did.

Comments are closed.