Adventures In Food Poisoning
This story starts with a delicious meal with more than 30 student volunteers and one student leader (me) in rural China. What seemed an exotic and flavorful meal at the time later proved to be the Devil’s Dim Sum conveniently served with a side of Satan’s Spring rolls. After thanking our hosts, I corralled the college students onto the bus for our long drive back to our hotel.
There were certain districts where you simply would not stop with a busload of short-term missionaries at this time in China. So, everyone settled in for a long uninterrupted journey to the comfort of their 3-star beds. Until…
The person sitting next to me began to squirm and sweat, and his bowels released the sound of a World War II submarine releasing its ballasts. I tried not to look at him funny or make a big deal of it. Then suddenly, my own stomach began to squeal like a demon bursting from the gates of hell. It started off as a gurgling noise heard from deep in the earth, but it grew in pitch and intensity at an alarming rate. I clutched my belly and looked out the window to see where we were.
Unfortunately, I recognized the province we were in. It was a no-stop zone. My seatmate and I had 45 minutes to an hour of torture ahead of us as we wound through the hills of China. I had no idea about the agony and trauma (physical and emotional) that was about to begin.
The groans of agony were not localized to our row of seats only. Within 10 minutes, the whole bus was filled with students whose short lives were flashing before their eyes.
This was an emergency! So, I did my best to clench my cheeks as I walked up to the front of the bus. I felt like I was patching a hole in the Hoover Dam with duct tape, but I braved the 25-foot shuffle to the Chinese driver. I begged him to let us stop and release these intestinal demons. But he insisted that we couldn’t stop until we reached the next province.
Our next stop would be in 35 minutes, he said; the hopes and dreams of the entire bus were lost at that moment. As I penguin walked back to my seat, I saw multiple different techniques to avoid the inevitable fecal deluge. Some were bouncing up and down and saying prayers; others stiffened their whole body like a 2×4 clinching their eyes closed. While still others simply wept and resigned themselves to their humiliating fate.
One brave soul ventured to release a fart to alleviate the gut-clenching pressure in his intestines. A loathsome fog spread throughout the whole bus. My eyes started to water from the horrible scent. I let the tears come.
As we drew nearer to the border, we prayed for traveling mercies. In this case, we were specifically supplicating for shiny porcelain toilets. Our prayers were answered, but not in the way we hoped.
When we rounded the final corner, we saw a line of about 15 port-a-potties. There was only one problem: more than thirty butt bombs were loaded on this terror bus, and the timer was ticking down to the last 60 seconds.
When the bus stopped, it was like mice escaping a flooding ship. The faster ones made it to the door; others didn’t bother, they climbed out of the windows. One guy even escaped through the emergency door in the back.
As the emergency siren wailed, 30 students gorilla-walked to the blue port-a-potties. I was toward the back of the pack, but when I spotted a door that had the green vacancy indicator, I set my full focus and hope on reaching that door without soiling myself. I was feverishly trying to hold back the metaphorical Diet Coke eruption, but it felt like the mentos had already dropped into the bottle.
I started undoing my pants. Every second counted. My eyes were squinting in agony. As I opened the door, I swung my bare butt into the port-a-potty, hoping my clinched butt would make it to the hole before the eruption.
I didn’t make it. The filthy torrent pushed its way out of my body, completely covering…the young lady who was already seated there.
I don’t remember anything that happened after that. I have blocked it all out. I gained a new phobia of unlocked stall doors on that trip. And for every overseas trip I have taken after that fateful day, I secretly pack an adult diaper in my backpack.