I chaired a session on Friday, and gave a talk on Saturday — in the very last time slot of the conference.
The Friday session went well, and sparked lots of hallway and online conversations; looking forward to proposing a related panel and/or SIG for next year. The Saturday talk was better attended than some late-Saturday-afternoon sessions I’ve attended, and the audience, though small, was attentive and welcoming. I renewed contact with colleagues I’ve always wanted to connect with, and felt inspired. I didn’t attend as many sessions as I have in the past, partly I guess because there’s just no possible way to attend all the e-text/blogging/cyberculture/digital literacy panels anymore, so I found myself being very particular.
I usually fly out Sunday morning, which permits a leisurely Saturday dinner with whomever is still in town, but this Saturday was my daughter’s ninth birthday, so I booked a late afternoon flight.
As it happens, shortly after I booked that flight, my family was invited to my nephew’s second birthday party, and my daughter bravely agreed to celebrate her own birthday a week early, so that while I was at the conference, she, her brother, and my wife could attend little Anderson’s party. But I didn’t bother to try changing my flight, since I had already agreed to two obligations on Sunday. And I was actually rather looking forward to a relaxing Sunday, with a little holiday from family responsibilities.
After my session, I had a nice talk with Liz Losh and a colleague, and wheeled my luggage onto the MARTA train, for the ride to the airport.
My plane sat on the ground for an hour, on account of hail in Charlotte. After an hour, they let us back into the terminal, and after another hour of working veerrrry slllooowwwly through the line of people hoping to rebook, US Airways cancelled the flight, and I found myself on a 10pm Delta flight.
I had eaten at a Burger King before boarding the plane for my first flight, and I went back for some more food while waiting for the evening flight.
I was not feeling so good on the plane. The ride wasn’t extremely bumpy, and I didn’t feel nauseous, but let’s just say I was very conscious of having eaten recently.
The story has a happy ending, and I won’t dwell on the yucky parts, but the best-bred ladies and gentlemen among my readers might do well to skip the rest of this blog entry, with the understanding that I was briefly indisposed.
After the plane landed and I stood up to leave, I realized I felt pretty woozy. I walked off the plane and into the terminal, where I visited the bathroom, hoping to ease my discomfort, but the attempt was, shall we say, not productive.
I could feel my head getting foggier, and I had a 1.5 hour drive ahead of me, so I figured I’d better get going now, before I started feeling any worse.
By the time I got out to the parking lot area, I was feeling horrible. It was now about 1am. My wife was out of town, and I really couldn’t think of anybody else I could possibly inconvenience with a “please come get me because I’m pathetic” call this late at night.
I saw a sign pointing to the airport hotel, and I decided I’d try to check myself in and drive home in the morning.
I got on a very long moving walkway, with three-foot rails on either side. You would think that just standing there, letting the moving walkway do the work, would have been a good choice, but then I started really feeling woozy.
I envisioned myself passing out, being carried a hundred yards or so by the walkway, and having my face ground into the grating where the walkway goes underneath to loop around. I know it’s weird, but I was thinking of this ragdoll physics game, and I didn’t want something similar to happen to me.
So I tossed my luggage over the railing, and leapt over after it, and crumpled to a heap on the ground, right in front of a very startled maintenance worker.
I did not actually lose consciousness, and was answering questions from all sorts of people who showed up — first the maintenance worker, then airport security, then a random passerby who happened to be a doctor, and then an ambulance crew.
Everyone assumed something was wrong with my heart, so I got the stickers put all over my chest and the measurements taken, but I’ve got no history of any heart problems, so that came out fine. Other questions that I got repeatedly were, “Did you hit your head?” (No, it was a controlled fall — I planned it and it turned out fine) and “When did you last eat?” (a late dinner while waiting for my 10pm flight).
Since nobody in my family was able to come get me, and since I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I asked to be taken to a hospital near the airport, thinking that I could get a cab back to the airport later.
At one point, the paramedics wheeled me into an elevator that happened to have a mirror. I tried to snap a picture of myself, but ended up taking a short video clip instead. (A still frame is the picture up above.)
I was in the ambulance, with an IV needle in my arm, when I asked, rather casually, I believe, for something to throw up in. The paramedic took his time poking around in cabinets, making small talk as he looked.
He wasn’t fast enough.
I will spare you the details, but after four or five enthusiastic exultations, my stomach was empty, and the floor of the ambulance needed cleaning. The driver parked the ambulance so that the door opened downhill, and spoke, cheerfully enough, of getting a hose.
I was able to scoot myself from the gurney to the examination table just fine, and during the initial assessment I asked to use the bathroom a couple of times, but they kept me there, with the rails up, and I tried to sit tight. I finally got someone’s attention and made it to the bathroom, where my body — with multiple triumphant intestinal flourishes — finished the job of voiding it of whatever was bothering it.
Back in the examination room, my mouth was dry and I was starting to feel disoriented. They couldn’t get a blood sample from the IV needle that was already in one arm, so they put an IV in the other arm. When the bloodwork came back, they said I was low in potassium, a condition brought about by the aforementioned triumphant intestinal flourishes.
I found myself thrashing on the bed, shouting out.
I was mentally present enough that I was aware I was acting strangely, and I remember saying that I couldn’t actually say “Ow, my stomach!” or “Ohh, my arm!” Nothing in particular hurt, but I just kept shouting.
I’m sure the employees thought I was a bit of a mystery, since in between inarticulate shouts I was lucid enough to recommend William Carlos Williams poetry to a nurse and I gave a brief synopsis of the play Wit.
I had my iPod Touch in my pocket, and bizarrely enough, was able to Tweet part of my ordeal. Doing so, and reciting poetry, and at one point delivering a lecture on John Donne, helped keep me from shouting.
When I took the cab back to the airport, I realized that my iPod battery was dead. This was important, because it stored a photo of the numbered pole where I’d parked. I figured if I didn’t remember the pole correctly, I’d spend forever wandering the parking lot, growing gradually weaker and weaker, until I collapsed.
So I had the cab driver drop me off near the same covered moving walkway where my ordeal began. I found a plug and sat there for a few minutes while my iPod charged. When I found the picture (it turns out that I had remembered the number correctly after all), I then had to walk all the way to section 9g, which took even more energy and time than I had expected.
I managed the drive home safely, and when I got home, enjoyed the luxury of a good sleep. I dozed on and off all day, but other than tiring easily and having trouble concentrating on more than one thing at a time, I feel fine — it really feels no worse than the usual cold, but I don’t have the usual sinus pressure or coughing.
All in all, if I had to be the victim of a virus that causes my body to void its digestive tract enthusiastically and thoroughly, I’m fortunate that it happened when it did. If the virus had progressed a little more quickly, I would have been on the plane when my body decided to show me my recent dining selections — and I’m serious when I say I’d have shared the experience across at least three rows. And if the virus had progressed a little more slowly, I might have been driving on the highway, and I might have lost control of the car.
I managed to put together a peer-review activity for students in my Monday class to complete in my absence, and did some basic prep work for Tuesday classes (I’ll try going in for a half day), but I have not been able to do any of the grading I’d planned to do Sunday night.
Oh, and pulling all those heart-monitor stickers and tape off was hellish. I now have much less chest hair.