I cannot seem to stop aging. One new thing for me as I age is the intensity of the nervous shakes when I enter a new situation or place. I’ve always had these shakes but lately they’ve gotten positively disruptive. Installing a new shower head last week came with the extra challenge of my hands shaking so hard I could barely get the washers in the proper spots without dropping them on the floor.
This has happened my entire life, not 100% consistently, when I enter into a new situation or take on a task I rarely perform. In both scenarios the nerves settle down quickly enough as I gain confidence in the new scenario or familiarity with the task at hand.
Too bad I don’t expect to make a career of installing showerheads. By the time I got this one set up I felt like a virtuoso at that mundane task.
Today’s incident, however, had genuine repercussions. I’m on a job that involves entering data into an iPhone, a brand new out-of-the-box device I’ve never used. It’s possible I’d never even touched an iPhone until now. My cell phone heritage starts with the Treo line, which ran the Palm OS. Everything since then has been Android. The only Apple product I ever owned was an iPod.
But I encountered no particular learning curve here. I had no trouble using the thing, with only the usual irritants I experience with handheld devices like this.
My use of the iPhone had no issues until I started entering data into it, in a new environment, with elements of time-sensitivity and deadlines exacerbating my general nervousness.
As I entered the data I could not figure out why words I typed either disappeared or never showed up at all as I tried to enter them.
I didn’t have time to figure it out until I took a break, stepped outside, and discovered the iPhone ships with a default “Undo” command, which activates if you shake the phone a little bit. My hands were shaking hard enough that I had the iPhone thinking I wanted to delete everything as I kept trying to type it in.
I found that shake/undo setting on the phone and turned it off, feeling bad for having submitted a faulty data entry filled with spelling errors, but too embarrassed about this to tell anyone else on the job. It turns out the data I submitted cannot be corrected.
As the day continued the shaking eased. To iterate, this has nothing to do with it being an iPhone, save for how shaking it activates the default “Undo” command. The only other place I’ve seen such a feature was the dating apps, Tinder and Bumble.
Another new thing for me, which evidently is not uncommon to develop as people age, is motion sickness. I don’t remember ever getting seasick or carsick but both have happened in the past year.
On a ferry boat from Astoria to Wall Street I thought sure I would hurl the morning’s fresh fruit and Fage yogurt breakfast all over the floor of the vessel. It would have made great theater. A filmmaker on board had her camera pointed at me, collecting video for a documentary film we tried to put together. To catch me barfing spontaneously could have made awesome grit for a documentary, but I made it to shore with the day’s breakfast traveling its inevitable path.
A few months later a friend drove me to Gowanus and back, so I could leave a bunch of old computer junk at the e-Waste facility there. This was in my father’s old car, which I drove up here from Florida after he died, and later sold to this friend from the neighborhood, who drove that day. It was a 1997 Lincoln Town Car, which drives about as smooth as any vehicle out there.
That smooth ride didn’t seem to matter. The Town Car was no match for the rough roads of the BQE, which had me close enough to the vomit point that I did not even want to talk about it, or even say another word, as doing so would probably make it worse.
I made it back pukelessly but later the friend doing the driving said it was pretty obvious something was off with me.
Whenever I vomit I think of my mother, particularly during those times when I think I might need to vomit but cannot seem to make it happen.
I think of her because one time, as a little kid, I had to barf, knew I had to do it, but could not summon the internal gymnastical trick of reversing the muscles of digestion from swallowing and processing food to hocking it back up, cutting short its transfiguration from whatever I had eaten earlier to certain fecesdom.
I sat on the bathroom floor, staring into the shitter, clutching its edges, maintaining a steady level of nausea, until my mother said those immortal words: “If staring into a toilet doesn’t make you want to throw up I don’t know what would.”
With that my mind flooded with the various qualities of the toilet, its piss stains on the edge of the bowl, its status as a receptacle for piss and shit, the fact that my head was hanging over the very path of air through which I defecated and peed almost every single day. That reality put me over the brink. I vomited like a force of nature. Hallelujah.
DO BABIES EVER NOT BARF?
My mother introduced me to an interesting concept, one for which I’ve never found any type of corroboration, but still lingers in my reckoning as a condition that might have some kind of consequence.
She said she had heard, from a seemingly reliable source, that if an infant does not vomit by a certain age they should be forced to. The theory presented said that if one does not vomit by a certain age their digestive muscles will not learn how to regurgitate, to reverse direction, and they will lock into a downward-only pattern from which they cannot return.
So if you ate something bad you’d be unable to barf it out, and you could die.
That was the theory, the source of which I have no idea. I’m not saying I believe this, or that I even want to believe it. But I continue to believe there must be something to this scenario, as impossible as it sounds for any infant to never barf.
THE VOMIT KING
In grade school I was the vomit king, barfing frequently on the school bus and at the school, where I usually but not always got to the bathroom without spitting half-digested pancakes or bacon and eggs onto my or a neighbor’s desk. I even felt pangs of jealousy when other kids barfed, stealing my thunder.
These days I rarely have occasion to reverse the digestion process. Some years ago I got food poisoning, and practically lived at the toilet for 3 days. More recently a mild bout had me hacking up air for about a day.
When I experienced the Covid earlier this year the hacking cough sometimes got so intense it felt I might vomit up a lung. I even reported to the shitter a few times in case something came up. As my symptoms receded I would hear that hacking cough, coming from people’s apartments and houses, with a new and unpleasant resonance, as infection numbers climbed and deaths hit a thousand a day. Whatever one thinks of the death statistics there are so many whose lives and health will never return to normal after their recovery.
Drinking has not led me to throw up for a long time, probably not since my twenties, though I seem to have developed an allergy to something in beer. Almost any time I start drinking a pint I sneeze uncontrollably for about a minute, then it stops. Sometimes the sneezing starts again later and lasts quite a bit longer. I enjoy the bodily catharsis of those episodes.
I also get hives and welts from beer, one time spotting a baseball-sized welt only by chance after taking my shirt off and standing in front of a mirror. I felt nothing of it, and seeing that giant welt in the way I did made me think something was wrong with the mirror.