The Problem of Urgency: Stories from #AWP15, Deuce

You’re all gonna hate me for the pun in the title of this piece, but just deal with it, okay?

I got my writing done by the time I said I would. In fact, the reason I haven’t posted part two yet is because I’ve been having SO much fun writing my thesis that by the time I get around to writing this, I’m exhausted and my blood-chocolate level is above the legal limit and I black out.  Since I wrote the last post, I’ve written and revised over 150 pages of manuscript. Don’t ask me how–I don’t remember.


Anyway, do you know what’s more urgent than having to finish a book by mid-June? Try having three flights back to back to back starting at 5:15 in the morning, followed by a two-hour busride home… All while suffering from the worst food poisoning ever.

“Have the walleye,” they said. “It will be good,” they said. Minneapolis’s specialty is a fish called the walleye. That should have been warning number one.

Okay, this fish LOOKS like barf. I should have known.

Okay, to be fair, no one actually encouraged me to eat the Walleye. I just figured, when in Minneapolis, do as these crazy white people do. But I was at dinner with some faculty, administrators, and fellow students from my program to celebrate our weekend at AWP and I was feeling very adult, and it is a very adult thing to do to try the local specialty. Or something.

After dinner, I packed my hotel room up and fell asleep, since I had to get up at 3 IN THE MORNING to get ready for my ride at THREE THIRTY to the airport. You can see how this isn’t going to end well, can’t you?

Let’s add some more background information: I purchased my tickets about two weeks before, so I was stuck with the shitty flights back. My schedule looked like: 5:15 Minneapolis to Chicago. 7 Chicago to Cleveland, 9 Cleveland to JFK, Taxi from JFK to Jitney stop, Jitney to Southampton, Southampton to home. It was going to be a bitch of a day, with each flight around an hour but all that planing and deplaning and ugh, we know how I feel about planes lately.

In the car ride to the airport, I started to feel a little nauseous. I figured it’s just because it’s early in the morning and my driver was a little over-enthusiastic with both the heat and the maneuvering, though he was an excellent storyteller and is from Egypt, of all places! (He LOVES Minneapolis, even the winter… He is clearly insane.)

Then there were the huge lines at the airport because everyone was leaving AWP in the morning but apparently they didn’t want to open more than one TSA station, with ONE ticket checker and ONE security line. Airports make so much sense.

TSA might stand for “The Sucky Agency” (Note: I appreciate what the TSA does, even though sometimes they do it like a bunch of buttheads.)

It’s in line where I started popping altoids. I was like, “Aw, fuck, I’m going to have to puke here in a second, but maybe it’s just because it’s early morning and that drive was awful.”

Ha, ha, Past Whitney. You’re so good at denial and avoidance.

I continued to feel the Walleye trying to fight its way out of my body until I was on the plane. I was, unfortunately, in a window seat. The man sitting next to me said, “I don’t ever want to fly this early again.”

I looked at him like a very sorry little lamb, and said, “Hey… So… Listen… I think I have food poisoning and I’m probably going to throw up here in a second, and I’m sorry.”

He looked back at me and said, “That’s okay. I’m sorry to hear that.” Woah. Faith in humanity? Restored.

Then the plane door shut, and I picked up the paper bag from the seat-back pocket and I barfed my brains out. We hadn’t even pulled away from the gate yet.

The flight attendant was very sweet. She called me love and honey and gave me cold washcloths, pretzels, and ginger ale. I had to convince the pilots that it was food poisoning and not the zombie apocalypse, which made me feel pretty important. And I didn’t puke the rest of the flight.

I was sick a few times at the airport in Chicago and I called my friends in Cleveland and asked if I could stay with them, that there was no way I was going to be able to make the last of my flights AND the bus trip without dying.

I told the gate agent in Chicago that I needed to reschedule my flight from Cleveland to JFK because I had food poisoning. She said, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” Then she typed furiously and told me she had it taken care of. I didn’t have to pay anything. Double my faith in humanity.

I can’t honestly tell you about my day in Cleveland because I spent most of the day in a bizarro fever-dream that resulted in me calling their cat Moses and singing “Let My People Go” because the cat was lying in a basket. I do know that I had a fever for most of the day and that I couldn’t eat or smell food until about 9:30 pm.

Overall I’d say my first AWP experience was pretty incredible. I was on a panel. I got about twenty books. And then I ate some food that made me really sick and gave me a really funny story. I can’t complain.

Except fuck you, Walleye. Fuck you right in your barfy face.


PS–do you get the pun at the end of the title now? Haha, gross. I’m sorry I’m disgusting.

13 thoughts on “The Problem of Urgency: Stories from #AWP15, Deuce

  1. I hope you’re feeling much better now.
    And you’re lucky that you didn’t fly with a food poisoning a few months ago during the Ebola scare, because you’d probably still be in quarantine now. 🙂
    P.s. isn’t it weird that “walleye” sounds kind of like “Ebola”?

  2. Thank heavens no one on the plane thought your story was fishy.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. I can’t imagine flying while in the throes of food poisoning, and I really can’t imagine a seat-mate as sympathetic as the one you had. If I ever get to Minneapolis, I’ll be sure to pass up the walleye.

  3. I couldn’t find your comments and then I did!
    I got sick on seafood once and couldn’t eat fish for a couple of years. Walleye? I guess fish and chips may give you second thoughts for a while. Bummer. Sounds like the rest of your trip went well. Good luck with your book!

    1. Seafood sick is the worst kind of sick, I think. Because sea food itself is already sort of weird, and then when it makes you sick it’s like a bizarre alien experience. And thank you!

  4. Never apologize for being disgusting. Own it. Get it emblazoned on a T-Shirt.

    “I’m a disgrace to humanity because I ruin people’s dinners.”

    I am only sorry that walleye has been ruined for you. It really is a delicious fish when it doesn’t poison you. From what I understand, you can say the same thing about fugu too.

  5. Oy, empathetic laughter for barfing on planes. I’ve had more than my share of train heavings (even gave myself food poisoning once in Zambia, now that’s an awful awful talent) but at least there one can relatively escape close company. Well handled!

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