In Which I Exhort You to Bring Imodium Wherever You Go

I thought I’d be writing as much about my visit to Amsterdam and Antwerp as much as I did with Cuba earlier this year. It turns out I was wrong with a capital W… make that all-caps WRONG because most of my time was spent pounding the pavement and then coming back to the hotel suite in the evening all exhausted and fit for nothing but watching the US Open on Eurosport1. I know, it sounds horrible doesn’t it? Maybe if I’d been younger, I’d have spent more time partying my ass off and swilling jenever into the wee hours of the morning even if I don’t really drink all that much, because who cares about cable when you have the invincible power of youth brimming in your veins?

So now here I am on the flight back, winging my way across the Atlantic. It’s the first chance I’ve had to sit back and really try and remember what the trip was like. I am currently aided by the “Easy Listening” genre offered by the inflight entertainment. Right now, it’s Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer”. Lol. I haven’t heard this song in years. It’s something my mother used to play on her guitar, back when she had one.


I was going to write about my Amsterdam and Antwerp experience, but decided to share the perils of travelling without Imodium instead. Yes. I lived through some people’s worst nightmare. And I didn’t just live it any old place.  I lived it on Icelandair Flight 506, from Keflavik to Amsterdam.

I had felt all girl-scout confident and prepared on the way, because I felt I had all the necessaries for an emergency. Including Imodium. Imodium, for the benefit of the ones unfamiliar with the name, is a brand name of generic loperamide and is used to control the symptoms of diarrhea. I had checked it in my luggage, because I wasn’t anticipating anything. But that’s betrayal for you. It just comes out of nowhere. It’s almost always unexpected. I have no idea what I ate. Whatever it was, my traitorous stomach just decided to rebel.

I told myself I could hold it until we landed in Schiphol International. You know how sometimes you think it’s just a small rumble, a bit of a fart, it’ll sort itself out? There we were, seatbelt sign on, everyone strapped in our seats, about half an hour away from actually landing on the tarmac when my stomach decided it had had enough. Faced with the reality of being in a metal tube filled with recycled air and potentially asphyxiating everyone on board, I scrambled up and over Le Hubs, who was trying in vain to get me to stay in my seat, and headed for one of the bathrooms, which was locked, because they lock the doors of the lavatories before landing.

“We’re landing in fifteen minutes!” said the flight attendant who tried to get me to go back to my seat. “This is an emergency,” I hissed. There must’ve been a really feral look in my eye, or maybe the kind of wild desperation that drives people to do unspeakable things, because she didn’t argue any further with me.

Is there anything worse than everyone knowing you’re about to go into the shitter when you know it isn’t going to be a quiet session? Because I would say yes. It is a thousand times worse when said shitter is an airplane lavatory at the front of the plane with an attendant strapped to her seat beside it because the plane is supposed to be going down from a higher altitude to land. Add in you sitting there trying to go as discreetly as possible but knowing it’s pointless  because you’ve been holding everything in so long it’s too late to be coy about setting your large intestine free, turbulence shaking you around as you sit there  in a cold sweat, wondering if your stomach is done with you and if it’s safe to come out,  then someone starts banging on the door saying the plane can’t land if you’re still in there doing god knows what so you hurriedly clean yourself up and emerge trying to look like it’s just another day in Normal Town. And then you go back to your seat to face a husband who is as mortified as you are and avoid eye contact with everyone and everything for the next few minutes as the plane finally touches down and you’re just praying to God no one recognizes you or even remembers you on the baggage carrel.

(Which, to my relief, no one seemed to. At least that’s what I like to think.)

On my first plane ride with a group of other people I worked with on the school yearbook,  I remember one girl making sure she took an Imodium before we started off. I asked her what it was for and she said she just wanted to make sure nothing untoward would happen on the way. I thought it was kind of silly to willingly constipate yourself when your stomach was fine, but it turns out she was right in the end. I was wrong. Oh, so wrong. I still don’t think it’s a good idea to take Imodium when there’s nothing wrong with me, but from this day forth, I vow never to be without it at all times.

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