Go with a smile!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lactose Intolerance

Some of you might recall that when I applied to grad school, I considered the major universities in the same part of the states as my sis. There was 1 university that I did not apply to, and that was Americanos University. That was because Americanos was a big city that I didn’t really like.

It’s not really that I didn’t like Americanos, but it was just that I had heard so many bad things about Americanos. There were a few of my favourite musicians who really got messed up in that city. It was big and loud and – well, Palm Tree and Mexico just seemed more welcoming to me.

The last 1 week just passed in a whirlwind. During term time, there is always a period of time, 3 weeks before the end, when I would just lapse into a big funk and not give a shit about anything, and keep on procrastinating away. Then miraculously some of the term projects start to get done, I start cracking, people start barking at me, I bark at people, and then there is the climax of the term, the finals week. My professors were merciful: there was just 2 take home exams, and 1 project. I didn’t want any in-class exams: you lose the ability to memorise things after you’re 30. So it’s unfortunate that many of the other courses I’m going to take will have in class exams. Take home finals are nice because you don’t spend the finals week trying to study everything and wondering what’s going to come out in the exam. You just have to follow the course and be prepared and just do the questions that they give you. Of course it is not possible to start learning everything from scratch and doing those questions during that 1 week, but at least you don’t get that sickening feeling of “the one question I didn’t study for was exactly the one that came out.

So there was 1 week of constant work. My 2 courses with take home finals were OK, and I’m expecting a good grade from those courses. The one with the project – let’s say that my project partner, who’s a very well liked person apparently, decided to slack on one thing, and that one thing was that project. In the end I did more than my share of the work, and I forced him to write up the slides and the paper. Even then I had to do a lot of editing because he’s from China.

In any case it all culminated on Super Thursday, when both the final exams were due, and the paper had to be presented. I actually went out that night but when Friday came, I had to go do my packing. As fate had it, I bought a plane ticket to go home for the first time after the death of my grandmother, and I was flying off from “Americano” rather than “Mexico”. I had no choice – the flights out of “Mexico” were a few hundred dollars more expensive than from “Mexico”. So here were the details of how I would have to go to “Mexico”:

1. Take the bus to Small Town.
2. Take the train from Small Town to Americanos
3. Find my way from Americanos train station to Motel
4. Sleep in motel for 1 night and get up early the next day
5. Take the morning flight out of Americanos.

And that would be the price I would have to pay to save a few hundred dollars. Number 3 was the trickiest to plan, but I decided that I could take a shuttle bus to the airport, and then take another shuttle bus from the airport to the motel, which was supposedly just 10-15 minutes’ drive away.

I did a bit of packing, a bit of stock taking – stuff I didn’t need had to get sent home. Was dead exhausted from that intense 1 week. I had tried to slowly deplete the stocks inside my fridge, but there were a few pieces of chicken, half a gallon of milk and a few veggies left. I cooked a few pieces of chicken, ate some of them, and saved the rest for later. I was also drinking some of the milk – it was probably a little brave of me to drink up 2 cups of milk at one go – my stomach’s lactase wasn’t what it used to be.

So 1 hour after I drank the milk, I suddenly had to go to the loo. That was easy – I was still in my own dorm and I could go run there. I did 2 things, one of them was a great decision and the other was not. First, I cooked up everything and brought it out with me in tupperwares. And second, I finished drinking the milk. I didn’t sleep, and I set out at 6 in the morning.

It was a relatively uneventful trip, except that I missed the announcement that the train from Small Town to Americanos would not be running. That was stupid. Happily, the Greyhound station was just next door, and I hopped over and took the Greyhound instead. The only problem so far was that the bottle that was holding my small flask of gin and tonic was leaking a little and there was some sugary liquid (tonic water is very sweet) on the papers I planned to read on the plane. Otherwise, it was quite smooth. Obviously I slept a lot on the greyhound trip.

The only problem would be that my plan to take 2 shuttles to the motel would be scuppered. I used the bathroom in the greyhound station, and I went out. Later on, I would realize that that was my worst mistake of the entire day.

I called up a limo service and found out that they were charging me $30+ to send me to the motel. I walked out to the street, and saw a few tough looking 50+ year old guys on the street corner. I plucked up the courage to ask them where the train station was. It turns out that the guys were running their own private taxis. He quoted me $25 to send me straight to my motel. I weighed it up in my mind and then I decided to trust him. It turned out that that was a great decision. The guy – well I suppose you just couldn’t look at the average scruffy looking guy and simply assume that he was going to drive you into a dark alley and beat the shit out of you. It’s just as well that he could be trusted. And he didn’t look that much like a bad guy. A nice, avuncular latino guy in a leather jacket.

In the middle of the journey, I started feeling a queasy rumble in my bowels. I hoped and prayed that he would send me up to the model fast enough, before something terrible happened. Yes, I had drunk the milk 4-5 hours earlier but most of the trip from “Mexico”, I had been asleep, and the body doesn’t loosen the bowels until you wake up.

When I got to the motel, I filled in the card to register. There was this terrible moment when they told me, your room is on the third storey. Third storey! Fuck! I was about to blow! I grabbed the key as fast as I could when they handed it to me. I was just wandering around the car park of the first floor, when the guy came out and indicated to me that I could use the lift. So I dashed into the lift and I tried to make it into the room before something bad happened.

I was already on the 3rd floor, and 25 seconds away from the bathroom, when the bottom gave way. I felt the terrible sensation of something warm and brown dribbling down the left leg of my khakis. I dashed over to the bathroom, threw all the things on the bed, and found, to my dismay, a great mess had occurred.

In many ways, this was similar to the massively unfortunate events of my cousin’s wedding. But there were a lot of things in my favour. First, if you want to mess yourself up, you better do it when you’re right next to a big bathtub where you can clean everything up afterwards. Second, nobody’s watching you, as opposed to it’s your cousin’s wedding, and there are people everywhere. Even then, thinking back, that little boy’s behavior was kinda bizarre – why would you take off your shit stained trousers and fling the shit everywhere?

The toilet paper was frantically deployed and unfortunately there were 2 splotches on the carpet. Now I know why motel rooms are so dimly lit – you just don’t want your guests to see what a disgusting place it really is. You just want to stay for the night, get a good sleep, and get the fuck out of there.

So after emptying the rest of my ass into the toilet bowl (truth be told there wasn’t much of it left) I surveyed the wreckage. Shit on my left shoe, my left sock, underwear gone fuck. I had to go clean every damn thing up because I wasn’t going to live in the same place as all the shit. Ran the bath tub, and it took some sitting in it, rinsed my ass 3 times. My balls were soaked in the shit. The socks were OK, I can survive a plane ride without socks. I had very fortunately brought back half my underwear collection. You see the nice thing, the nice thing was that it was all diarrhea shit, watered down, and you could see all the components. There were scraps of peppers, tomatoes and onions that were in last night’s Ragu spaghetti sauce. And for some reason the shit had this mucuous, slimy texture that was kinda – well yuck.
The whole ordeal lasted maybe half an hour. In my mind’s ear, I was playing to myself “Sweet Virginia” by the Rolling Stones, you know the song where he sings “ gotta scrape that shit right off the shoe”. It’s kinda gross that there’s this splotch on the shoe, and some of it got on the inside. I had to wipe it off, take out the sole and rinse it. Then the socks. Then the undies. And finally the khakis.

My trousers were the only pair that I had at that time. And I had to wash the damn thing, get it dried, and then wear it on a 20+ hour flight. It was not a pleasant prospect at all! Well fortunately Americanos weather is dry and windy. I took my khakis and slung it over the railing. But then I wouldn’t be able to go out. I had to watch my khakis and make sure that nothing untoward happened to it, otherwise I would not be able to fly back home! So I was watching it for a few hours while absentmindedly surfed the internet and watched TV. I was so glad that I had brought food over from Mexico - I wouldn't be able to get myself any food during this period of time. I briefly thought about - I had a few long sleeve shirts and a sweater, and I could tie both of them around my waist, and use them like some kind of a skirt. Later on, I decided that it was a real bad idea. Instead, I heated up some stir fry cabbage, some spaghetti (more Ragu sauce by the way) and ate it all up. But of course I had to be obsessively careful about what I touched just before I ate my food. I found myself washing my hands like a sufferer of obsessive compusive disorder before I started. After lunch I decided that I was too sleepy to keep on eyeing my trousers on the railing, I had to take the damn thing down and hang it up in the bathroom. I took a bath, and then a nap.

I woke up to the sound of some guy trying to open my door. It was this African looking guy. I told him, “those clowns gave you the wrong room, the wrong key. Go back downstairs and ask for another room.” And after that I wondered for a little moment how much more disastrous it would have been if I had met the same problem, and had to go downstairs to the lobby in my shit stained trousers to go ask for another key. Well count your blessings eh?

I sat up and watched “Big Bang Theory”. They were showing some episodes on the TV, I watched it, and after that, my pants were dry enough to wear, which was a great relief. I went out and bought some take out – some fish and shrimp, Lousiana style, cooked by a Chinese guy. I ordered a place on the airport limo.

I don’t really know if I was in a bad part of Americanos or what. It looked gritty and worn down. I haven’t regretted my decision to go to Mexico rather than Americanos: both universities were roughly equally selective, and to be frank, Americanos might have been a better fit for me in terms of what I wanted to do. But I just didn’t want to go to school in a place like this. I wonder whether this unfortunate incident was a matter of Americanos returning me the love that I had for that place. Or well when my grandmother was alive, she always insisted on having some food that she liked. One day she ate an ice cream in spite of her lactose intolerance, and after that the poor maid had to spend 1 hour in the bathroom with her.

In any case, I have worked out the immediate problems. I wonder what other kinds of challenges are ahead of me on the trip home.


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