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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Running, Running, as fast as you can

Those of you who were fans of No Doubt in the late 90s / early noughties will no doubt (ha ha) recognise the title to this post as lyrics from the Band's 2003 single "Running", not one of their biggest hits but one of my favourite ND songs.

However, even though I am a big fan of the Ska-Rock band and have been ever since Tragic Kingdom came out in 1995, this post is not No Doubt related. It's also not about the sort of running that crazy people do for exercise and / or recreation. Definitely not. I hate that sort of running and avoid doing it unless I absolutely have to - the last time I can recall running was in 2006 at Shanghai Airport where, having sat in a very dodgy airport bar drinking Tsing Tao with a colleague for four hours, I had no choice but to run in order to catch the plane. (On another side note, I should mention that the flight was operated by Dragonair and one would not normally run to get on a Dragonair flight - in fact, one would normally run in the opposite direction to avoid having to get on a Dragonair flight. In China, the concept of "personal space" doesn't exist, and Dragonair does its best to provide its customers with a genuine cultural experience. The only reason I was running on that day in 2006 was that I was desperate to get back home after four weeks in Shanghai at the Hong Kong Plaza, which is approximately 3 weeks and 6 days too long a stay at that fine establishment. This is not to knock Shanghai, though, which is one of my favourite cities and will be the subject of a future post).

Back to the crazy running people for a minute. Have you ever seen a smiling jogger? Bet you haven't. Whenever you see people jogging on the streets or in a gym (I like to go there to use the steam and sauna) they're inevitably red-faced, with popping veins and mad, bulging eyes. They grunt and they groan, they heave and gasp for breath like Rosie O'Donnell walking from her dining table to her favourite armchair. When they finish, they double over and stay bent like that for hours before managing to unlock their muscles enough to stand straight. Having observed all of this for a while (en route to the steam room), I've come to the conclusion that people who like to run for any reason unless they absolutely have to must clearly be mentally ill, no sane person would ever do that for fun...

Anyhoo, back to the point of this post. The "running" in question here refers to the sort that occurs when the contents of one's bowels decide that they've had enough of staying indoors and feel like popping out to have a look at the surroundings. This is fine when it happens once or twice a day in the normal scheme of things in a quiet, orderly and - above all - firm fashion. It is definitely not alright when some sort of bug and / or spoilt item of food moves into the old alimentary tract and sets about evicting the residents thereof in a brutal brook-no-arguments sort of manner. It is even more emphatically not alright when this happens ten minutes into a 13-hour flight, which, oh so joyfully, is exactly what happened to me yesterday as I flew from Colombo to New York.

To be specific, this happened to me as I flew from Doha to New York, after shuttling from Colombo to Doha. I thank Bob (time is space and space is sound and sound is the creator of all things, which is pretty impressive for a small cocker spaniel named Bob. Therefore,  time is space and space is sound and sound is a small cocker spaniel named Bob, Ergo, Bob is time and space as well as sound. Just so you know.) that this actually kicked off on the Doha-New York leg and not before, else the earnest young chap who was doing a very thorough body search of me at the departure terminal in Doha might have found his hands full of a WMD unlike anything he'd been trained to deal with...

I also thank Bob that it kicked off just after the seatbelt sign had been switched off, otherwise Qatar Airways' lovely plum-coloured seat may have turned into a lovely plum-and-brown-coloured seat. Ok, I'm exaggerating: it didn't actually kick off until about 20 minutes after the flight took off, by which time I'd declined breakfast and politely offered to swap seats with the lovely English lady in the window seat next to me as I intended to go straight to sleep and she might prefer the aisle seat so as to avoid having to clamber over me to get out. She said no, I turned the seat into a bed, covered myself in the hypo-allergenic blankie and nodded off...for all of about five minutes before I jerked awake in horror aware at some subliminal level that I was milli-seconds away from kacking myself. Dashing to the loo, I made it just in time and let me tell you, what followed was not fun at all. For the visual amongst you, think of the Kelani River in spate and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Sadly for me, that was just the beginning. It went on, and on, and on, and on, and on. So much so that I was actually afraid to go to sleep in case I didn't get up in time to dash to the loo. So much so that I actually contemplated asking the lady next to me if she had a sanitary napkin that I could borrow (although I doubt that she'd want it back afterwards - isn't it weird how people ask to "borrow" things they can never return like "machang can I borrow a cigarette") but we hadn't really got to know each other well enough and the initial pleasant smile on her face as we said hello when we first boarded had been replaced with a look of studiously-maintained blankness in that very English way as my visits to the potty became more and more frequent (it didn't help that the loo was just in front of our seats and Qatar Airways' headphones aren't the noise-cancelling type).

I had to eventually ask the cabin staff for an Imodium (I'm not normally a fan of Imodium - I prefer to let things run until the system's rid itself of the intruder) as I couldn't bear it anymore. They didn't have any on board and gave me something else instead, which didn't work... 13 hours later, as we descended into JFK, nothing had changed and I was beginning to dread what might happen while I was in the immigration queue, in which I had been stood for two hours on my previous visit. I decided that the best thing to do would be to try to evacuate as much as possible before getting off the plane, and so I stayed put in the loo for as long as I could until the cabin crew forced me back into my seat for landing and I was straight back in there within two minutes of touchdown, taking advantage of both the crew's sympathies and the ridiculously long post-landing taxi at JFK.

You might be wondering how this happened to me. I've been trying to figure it out myself. On the one hand, it may have been breakfast on the Colombo-Doha flight. I had said I didn't want any when we first took off, then when I woke up and we still had 30 minutes to go I said I'd have some. I reckon they had heated the dish as we took off, put it away and then re-heated when I asked for it some hours later. It was a pretty dodgy chicken "curry" and roti and that may have been it. On the other hand, I spent several hours in the company of The GE (see post #1) two days before this all began. The last time I had seen The GE before that was in March and that time too, I had violent runs two days later - you do the math. I think she might be a virus (computers tend to crash in her presence too).

Getting off the plane, I received several pats on the back and "good luck"s from the cabin crew. Steeling myself for 3 hours of buttock-clenching (2 hours at immigration, followed by another hour stuck in Midtown traffic), I had a serious chat with my intestines telling them they could do whatever they wanted for as long as they wished, just so long as they held off until I was safely in my hotel room. Knowing they had the upper-hand, my intestines weren't all that happy to agree to terms, but we've known each for nearly 40 years now and so they grudgingly acquiesced. Fortunately, the immigration queue was completely empty and I (having done a rapid crablike sidle - running would have only resulted in more running) found myself first in line. Thank Bob for that. American TSA agents are paranoid to the nth at the best of times and I can only imagine what my have happened had I been standing in line hopping (very slowly) from one foot to the other or even worse, had the unthinkable happened and I ended up leaving little brown trails behind me as I inched my way to the counter....

Being the ruthless bastards that they are, by intestines stuck to the exact letter of our deal and re-commenced their merry dance as soon as I walked in the door of my hotel room. It's almost 24 hours later now and things seem to be slowly settling down, but even as I speak I can feel a little rumble in the jungle, so let's just keep those fingers crossed. I'm supposed to be going to see a Broadway show tonight - Ben Stiller and Edie Falco in The House of Blue Leaves, apparently a "gut-busting comedy". Let's hope that's not literal...

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