Good Morning, Gentlemen. The temperature is 110 degrees….


We’ve all seen it.  For those that weren’t born when the movie hit theaters, you’ve all watched it on DVD, Blu-Ray, most of you probably own it.  The lingo from the movie is forever ingrained in our culture.

It’s classified. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

Son, your ego’s writing checks that your body can’t cash.

We all have our favorite scenes. Yes ladies, we all know that yours is the volleyball scene.  Probably some of you dudes as well.  Or how about Meg Ryan’s classic line “Take me to bed or lose me forever!”  All the girls watching giggled when she “lost that loving feeling”… Aw.. I hate it when she does that!”  So many of us dreamed of a moment when you’d be serenaded by a group of gorgeous men.  It happened to me, once, and it was a moment that still cracks me up.

When Top Gun was released in 1986, I remember how tough I thought all of those guys were.  Slider.  Iceman.  Viper.  My favorite was Anthony Edward’s Goose.  He was funny, cute, and loyal.  Maverick was a little too rash for me, so naturally when Goose was killed in the training accident I was seriously PO-ed with Maverick.  However, during the movie you watched the bravery of these fighter pilots training to go into battle for the US .  They were fast, crafty and daring.

So, as I was trying to find a comparison to our flight out to the Coast of Watamu from the Masai Mara, I wanted to relate the experience to each of you in a way that you could all relate to.  So, think Mav and Goose flying their F-14 Tomcat skillfully through the air, ducking through mountains and avoiding the enemy.  They landed confidently and smoothly.. “I feel the Need… The Need for Speed.”  High Five.  Got it?  Can you picture that in your head?

The flight from the Mara was absolutely NOTHING like that.

Mombasa Air

Our F-14 Tomcat was Mombasa Air, a hunk of junk that was around during WWII.  You do the math.

Our Maverick might as well have been JP, since I had zero confidence the pilot knew what he was doing.

Our Goose, aka wingman, was the flight attendant (a term I use loosely for him).  Instead of handing out soft drinks and biscuits to the passengers, he was distributing and collecting barf bags.

Now, please know that I will be taking some liberties with this story for two reasons.  It’s a better story this way and I was out of it much of the flight, so I don’t fully recall every detail.

The plane that landed prior to Mombasa Air.

As we were waiting at the Keekorok AirStrip for our flight to Watamu, it was hot.  There was no hangar.  No air conditioning.  And the only soft drinks were warm from sitting in the sun.  But, nonetheless, we were excited to start the next stretch of our trip– the beautiful coastal town of Watamu.

Several planes landed, picked up other passengers, and were on their way.  We were okay with that, since the planes had all been small 10 person aircrafts.  When Mombasa Air finally arrived, we were so relieved to be boarding this good-sized flight.  So, we grabbed our bags and skipped toward the plane.

What was waiting for us on the plane immediately rattled us.  It was hot.  Everyone was fanning themselves.  No one was talking.  A few people were hunched over, vomit bags in lap.  Damn.  These people really need to fly more, I thought.  I’ve come all the way from Philly, these people clearly need to toughen up.

I asked the girl in front of us “Is the plane rocky?”  “Oh, Yes.  It’s a bit bumpy.”  A bit bumpy?  Please… we were just hanging out with lions and cheetah.  We can handle “a bit bumpy.”  I sat back, confident that I could handle this better than these other folk.

Keekorok Airstrip

Within minutes of taking off, we had our first casualty.  Lindsay.  She went down like a sack of  potatoes. We were holding hands across the aisle because we were both scared for our lives. Literally.

The flight took off, then dropped 500 feet.  Went up 1000 feet, dropped another 500.  Sway to the left.. .Sway to the Right.  Now shake… Shake…Shake….Shake it like a Polaroid picture…

Talk to Me Goose.  I didn’t make eye contact with anyone on the plane.  I sat next to David, with an aisle between Michael and Lindsay.  Within a moment of Lindsay going down, I regretted my thought of being tougher, because I was right there with the rest of them.

Where’s the Air Conditioning, it’s 110 degrees!  Oh, there is none. Anyone got a mint for my nausea?  Nope.  I chomped though most of my gum. How much longer?  The flight was 2 hours, felt like 5.  There was no music on the flight.  No inflight movie to distract us– could have really gone for some Moneyball at this point.  The only sound was the wretching of passengers into their puke bags, and the whispering of happy thoughts into the ears of the sick.

Since I had just learned we were all heading to the Coast for Bobby and Claire’s wedding, I wanted to keep a sense of decorum. I had only just met these people as we boarded, and I was hoping to make a good impression.  Perhaps make some new friends I could party with while in Watamu.  Unfortunately, that plan quickly went out the window.  I was drenched in sweat.  Fanning my face emphatically.  Speaking to no one as the fear of vomiting was a few short breaths away.

The Waiting Area at Keekorok Airstrip.

I decided my best course of action was to close my eyes, and focus on my breathing.  Count to yourself.. Breathe In 1..2..3..4..5…Slowly Breathe out…1..2..3..4..5… Breathe In 1..2..3..4..5…Slowly Breathe out…1..2..3..4..5… I felt David’s eyes on me a few times wondering whether I was still breathing, as I tried not to move my body one millimeter for fear of repercussions.

David asked our “flight attendant/puke bag distributor” how much longer it would be.  He must have asked 10 times.  And each time he kept saying “not much longer.”

David, getting frustrated, “Seriously?  You keep saying that?”

“Twenty Minutes,” puke bag man replied.

“You said that a half hour ago”, David snapped back.  Obviously, I wasn’t the only one panicking.

I kept thinking to myself that this is a really lousy way to go out.  I would have rather been eaten by a lion in the Mara.  Or attacked by an angry hippo.

As we Carneys were in the back of the plane clinging to our last strand of sanity, I faintly hear Lucy Zorr, part of our safari gang ask our loud “So, what time are you all serving lunch?”

When the Flight attendant/Puke bag distributor finally gave us the good news that we were close, I thought, well I dodged a bullet now, didn’t I?  See, I am so strong.  It really is mind over matter. Good thing I focused so much on my breathing.  I am totally fine.  No.  Wait.  Oh God… No.  Not Now…

Not so fast Carney.  As I opened my eyes, I knew I was in trouble. I could feel my tomato and carrot salad starting to gurgle from my belly, and I knew that my upcoming performance was going to bring the flight in for a memorable landing.

I looked over to Lindsay, who at this point is slouched in her seat with Michael fanning over her, trying himself not to get sick.

I whispered, “Yo… You got a puke bag?”

“Yeah.. We do,” as he went back to fanning Lindsay. Um, Okay. Great. Thanks. I decided to try again.

“Michael, do you have a puke bag?”

“Yeah, Suz.  We have one!”   Back to fanning Lindsay.

I take a deep breath, grab my purse and open it, thinking that if I have to, I’ll soil my most favorite bag.  Before I take desperate measures, I say outloud,

“Anyone got a puke bag, or else I’m doing it in my purse!”

David leaned over me and growled, “Michael, SUZY needs a puke Bag!”  Just in the nick of time David!

So as we started our descent into the Malindi Airport, decorum out the window, I made a lasting impression on the flight.  I heaved for a good 10 minutes, until the cabin door opened and fresh air blew through.

Feeling much better, I went to stand up, and realized that I couldn’t move.  I tried to follow Michael and Lindsay out of the plane and down the stairs, but I couldn’t.  My entire body was going into spasms because I was severely dehydrated from the plane, the puke, the everything.  I was helped down the stairs, and a man arrived moments later with a wheelchair. Upset at the thought of getting back into a wheelchair since I haven’t since I was at Bryn Mawr Rehab, I let my death grip go of Lindsay, and fell into the chair.

As the plane was landing, Bobby and Quid were watching from the gate, waiting to drive us to the Coast.  Quid looked at Bobby and said “Oh No.”

Bobby was perplexed.  “What’s up, Quid?”

“Bob, that’s the Vomit Comet.  No one makes it through a flight on that thing without throwing up.”

Seated in my wheelchair, I looked around at all of the passengers who were getting their luggage from the plane.  Everyone was hugging as if they had just been through battle.  “We made it” was all I kept hearing from the exuberant group of people who felt they had just defied the odds by surviving the flight.  Yes, it was THAT bad.  We are forever bonded by this frightening experience.

After chugging some water, my body started to relax, and I knew that I would live to fight another fight.

Ah.  The Vomit Comet.  The flight that we were so excited to be on, ended up being a nightmare.  Apparently, the plane is legendary, and many of the guests had already heard of our adventure before we arrived at the Eastwood’s Welcome Reception that evening.

This is the stuff of legends, I say.  And we, every passenger of Mombasa Air, are legends in my book.

So, off to Party! Waka Waka!

Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Suz

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bill on April 2, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    Great blog Suz! By the way, Quid told me that while he was on the Vomit Comet, years ago with his family, during the flight, the back door of the plane flew open!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Lindsay on March 18, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    Amazing blog, Suz!

    Reply

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