Someone once told me that the best response to the gag reflex is to smile. Whoever said it was probably deranged since no one in their right mind would be able to smile while they are gagging, but that is what I heard. Since I would never be able to smile while dealing with situations where vomit is involved, I choose to do it after the fact and cover the whole occurrence with a generous dose of humor…and baking soda.
In the center of Guangzhou, China, a metropolis of more than twenty-five million people, there stands a hotel complex which is truly beautiful. With rooftop pools, a private cascading garden, a thirty foot waterfall, koi ponds and a spa, it is an example of sophistication and nature. It should go without saying that our family of five – two harried adults, a six year old, a three year old, and a nine month old – did not fit the standard guest list.
For starters, we had been traveling from hotel to hotel, living out of backpacks for the weeks. The business travelers around us didn’t appear to have the same daily fights with cribs and bottles, diapers and tantrums. Their crisp suits and designer shoes accentuated our tussled hair and screaming baby. On top of that, in a country that enforced the “One child law” for many years, we were an example of the chaos which the country had tried to avoid. At least that was something I could be proud of.
The complimentary breakfast was our one opportunity to utilize the buffet in this beautiful hotel. We made sure everyone ate well. Once we left that room it was back to noodles and whatever else we could find nearby. Each morning the whole family would parade down to the restaurant entrance under the distrusting gaze of the hotel staff and other guests. We would then proceed to pile as many plates as possible in front of us. With buffet tables full of fruit, nuts, meats, noodles, pastries, and cheeses, we ate well, whether we were hungry or not.
But then our good thing fell apart. One morning Crystal and I were working at getting as much food into the mouths of our children, and ourselves, before the hotel staff figured out some rule which would allow them to kick us out. In the midst of our familial frenzy, our six year old complained of her stomach. She had been feeling off since early morning, and had been picking at her food.
Before we knew what had happened, everything she had eaten, and then some, had come up all over our table in the center of the dining room. Well groomed heads turned. Business conversations stopped. Finely held cutlery was set down. The world seemed to go quiet…except for the heaving at our table.
Our exit from the restaurant was nearly as quick as the emptying of our daughters stomach. With a kid in each hand or under the arm, my wife and I fled the scene. Thankfully one of us had an empty hand to grab a pastry on the way out the door.