As I kneeled over a bucket, throwing up for the 15th time in 30 minutes, my friend said to me, "Sure, you feel terrible now. But this is going to make a great column."
When you're as sick as I was Friday night, it's hard to think about anything other than the feeling in your stomach and the taste in your mouth. Well, there's the sweet release of death, but I only prayed for that two or three times.
I was at Muhlenberg College, preparing to do a show, when the food poisoning hit me. I assume it was food poisoning, because I've never heard of a 12-hour flu. I'd eaten a soup and a salad for lunch because, ironically, my stomach wasn't feeling great from my lack of sleep the night before. So when I proceeded to feel worse throughout the day, I didn't think it was because of what I ate. I assumed it was because the housekeepers had a party outside my door early that morning.
I'm not sure if it was a party, but it was loud. Having gotten in at 4AM the previous night, I made sure to put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. What that meant was that housekeepers were not allowed to knock on my door, but they were allowed to yell to each other just outside of it.
"Room 309 has the do not disturb sign up."
"ROOM 309 HAS THE DO NOT DISTURB SIGN UP!"
"OH. THEN I GUESS WE BETTER BE QUIET."
"YES! WE SHOULD STOP SCREAMING IMEDIATELY!"
I got the soup and salad because I was wondering if my tired stomach could take the grilled cheese and fries I was going to order. Be safe, I thought. Soup and salad. Easy enough.
As I kneeled over a bucket, throwing up for the 15th time in 30 minutes, I said to myself, "I should have had the grilled cheese."
There was another problem not only did I feel terrible, but I had a show to do. I gathered myself together, washed out the bucket, and went on stage. I think someone drove me to the show in between, but I was too delirious to remember exactly what happened.
I performed for a half hour before I couldn't take it anymore. I thanked everyone for coming, and found the nearest drain. Fellow comedian and traveling partner Steve Boyer finished the show. In the fifteen minutes between when I got off stage and when the show ended, I threw up twice and passed out on a desk in the hallway.
As I lay there on that desk hovering over a bucket, almost throwing up for the 20th time that night, one member of the audience said to me, "you're really sick, huh?"
"No." I replied. "This is an elaborate ruse so people will feel bad for me and laugh more."
Hey, I was sick, I wasn't dead. The day I'm too sick to be sarcastic is the day I'm too sick to talk.
The food poisoning passed the next day, and I ate a bowl of jello and a few pretzels. I also managed a can of ginger ale. Canada Dry should have commercials for just such an occasion.
"When you feel like you're dying, try some Canada Dry! Don't remember the name? It's "Dry" just like the heaves you had last night!"
While I was sick, I couldn't think of anything other than the pain and how slow the clock was moving. Less than 24 hours later, I didn't even remember how bad I felt. That's the amazing thing about being sick you forget about it pretty quickly. Well, that's ONE of the amazing things. The other amazing things are too disgusting to print.
I am proud that I was still able to perform. And I'm glad that after the show, we drove to New York where my mother took care of me until I felt better this morning. That's the odd dichotomy of my life right now. I'm old enough to stubbornly insist on going to work despite being sick, but young enough that after work, I still needed my mother. (A necessity which may never go away).
I like I earned a badge last night by having the show go on despite how I felt. And to all comedians, musicians, and other performers who are in a similar position, I have one piece of advice: If you happen to eat at the Allentown Friendly's on Cedar Crest Boulevard, get the grilled cheese.
Steve Hofstetter is the author of the Student Body Shots books, which are available at SteveHofstetter.com. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.