This is actually my third attempt to write this up. It's a bit of a monster to wrestle down to an appropriate size. Take my word for it, it was a memorable weekend. The basic premise is that I, and a few of my buddies, got together to watch the Superbowl. Sounds simple enough right? Nothing out of the ordinary there. Certainly nothing that would irrevocably change the course of four men's lives for all of history. No no, just a few beers, some munchies, and double dose of the norwalk virus, and apparently, what was Via Rail's most unreliable piece-of-shit locomotive in their entire fleet. Allow me a moment to try to set the scene for you. I'll be using my friend's nicknames so as to preserve their privacy, and hopefully save what's left of their 'respectable' reputations.
January 26th, 2003; Superbowl XXXVII: A contest of skill between the Oakland Raiders, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A Superbowl significant if only for it's complete inability to garner any interest from the viewing public. Note worthy perhaps if only for the fact that it had the third lowest attendance recorded in Superbowl in history. An all star line up like the Raiders vs. the Buccs, and no one's interested? I can't begin to fathom why.
Our tale takes place in the snow-dusted surroundings of the quaint little village of Oshawa. Also known as the industrial heartland of Ontario's manufacturing industry, home to the largest collection of automobile manufacturing factories in Canada I believe. The principle characters in our little drama were:
- "Big Al" (B.A.)
- "Mrs. Pedro"
- Yours truly.
The three of us arrived in Oshawa oblivious to our impending gastro-apocalypse, and proceeded to throw ourselves whole heartedly into the magic that is Superbowl weekend. That is to say, we began drinking. Dinner was consumed, bars were visited, ladies of questionable virtue were admired, large intimidating gang members were cautiously appeased, more beer was consumed, and eventually.... the first day of the weekend came to a finish.
We awoke the next morning in a dehydrated stupor, which was quickly remedied by an ancient curative known as "hair of the dog". Superbowl Sunday morning was something of a hungover lazy endeavour in which a lively game of Risk was engaged, fought over, and finally concluded in the only way a true game of Risk can be; anarchy and chaos. While we entertained ourselves, Mrs. Pedro had been up with the crack of dawn throwing herself with lively gusto into the task of preparing a feast without equal. I know that any description I may offer would fail miserably to do justice to the cornucopia of dishes layed out by our esteemed hostess, and to try would merely cheapen the achievement that she so gloriously wrought. That is to say good reader, there was a shit-load of food, as fate would later demonstrate ad nauseam. Mrs. Pedro had surprised, to say the least, all of us with the magnitude and the abundance of choices, and her efforts and accomplishments were very much appreciated and in NO WAY responsible for the horror that was soon to visit her happy, unsuspecting home.
It was soon revealed that B.A. was not feeling up to his normal, reliably durable, high standard of peak efficiency. Not one to normally be layed low by a mere hangover, his honest and sincere appeal for support and understanding was met with the only appropriate response. A chant of "Girly-boy! Girly-boy!" was soon livening up the house while we all enjoyed a good laugh at the expense of our soon-to-be-fallen comrade. If any of us had even the slightest insight into what was in store for us we would have called for an ambulance and an industrial strength power washer right then and there.
All too soon, game time was upon us, and the spectacle had begun. To this day, I can recall with perfect clarity the kick-off that began the penultimate showcase for the contrived glory of American football that is the Superbowl. I can remember it with perfect clarity, because that is the only portion of Superbowl XXXVII that I saw. Three minutes into the game, I began to notice an odd feeling below the safety line, as I call it. For those familiar with such things, I was in the first stages of what has been described in less-than-polite society as "a case of the gurgles". An affliction I once heard referred to in a children's rhyme as "rumble guts & rumble butts".
With an immediate sense of urgency, I ascended the stairs to the lavatory, and proceeded to attend to my rather pressing business. Once concluded, I congratulated myself on a disaster narrowly averted, and set off down the stairs to return to the party. It was then, that I became acutely aware that something was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
When I say, "something was wrong" I don't mean it in an average Monday-to-Friday, regular day, common-use sort of way. I mean it in more of a - 'This is what inspired Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg to develop a scale to measure the magnitude of tectonic plate collisions' - sort of way. I mean it in a - 'Atheist-finding-God at the last second' - sort of way. I mean it in a - 'There's only one parachute left!' - sort of way. Have I sufficiently conveyed the scope of the situation? Is the magnitude of my all too late epiphany adequately established?
I had descended no more than a half dozen stairs before I turned and sprinted back up the steps only to arrive at my destination within the narrowest of safety margins. Where I had so recently patted myself on the back for a job well done, I once more took up the challenge that was before (or rather behind, as the case may be) me. Imagine my surprise when the task at hand, a task that I have no small amount of expertise in, presented itself not in it's well established familiar fashion, but rather a considerably less structured, down right fluid like, manner. Suffice it to say, that I met the challenge presented to me. I stood before my foe, and I was tested in the crucible of battle. I was found to be adequate to the task. I left that bathroom a changed man. Fearful of what I had seen and experienced, but elated that I had managed to survive it.
Unfortunately for all involved, that was not the last battle I would fight that evening. Nor was I alone in fighting the war against the dreaded foe. I can only recall what was the following twelve hours as a hazy blur of toilet bowls and puke buckets. B.A. and myself had been stricken with a variation of a norovirus, or the "Norwalk virus". Not to be melodramatic, but people have died from this in the past. I don't mind saying that I was reasonably well convinced that I was dying that very night. The thought occurred to me just how ridiculous a death it would be. To be found dead on a toilet bowl with a full puke bucket on your lap. Not the "blaze of glory" I had imagined in my youth to say the least.
Those twelve hours are easily the longest hours I have ever spent on this earth. While I set up residency in the basement bathroom, B.A. claimed the upstairs washroom as his new domain. Between the two of us, we occupied the only two lavatories in the house for a full half day. Twelve solid hours of violent expulsions from one end or the other adds up to a wicked case of dehydration. Irritatingly, our foe had the last laugh as neither one of us were able to keep water down for more than a few minutes before it came back up in horrendous stomach churning fashion. Needless to say, no one got any sleep in that house on Sunday January 26th, 2003.
Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity had passed, morning finally arrived. B.A., Heeman and myself were scheduled to return to Ottawa on a morning train. A journey that neither B.A. nor myself were all that eager to undertake. However, after the horrors we had visited upon Pedro & Mrs. Pedro's good house, we were keen to depart and leave the disheveled and obviously traumatized couple in peace. The symptoms of our affliction had not retreated entirely, but were no longer presenting themselves with the veracity of the overnight onslaught. With no other options available, we set out once more to travel the rails.
Clearly, a strategy was required. While our situation was dire, it was not hopeless. Heeman had already planned ahead that he would be getting off the train in before B.A. and I, in order to visit family. Thus, he was seated on a different car and was not present for the final leg of our journey. B.A. and I were to travel the remainder of the trip with out the safety net of a healthy companion, dangerous, but still feasible. Our plan was simple but effective. Rush the train with all available haste and claim the two seats closest to the washroom. If they were already occupied, beat unconscious anyone who may already be sitting in them and move their bodies to other chairs. With unfettered access to the washrooms, we were essentially guaranteed priority 'seating' as circumstances may dictate. The train soon arrived, and we put our plan into action.
Thankfully, the seats we coveted were unoccupied, and so a trip of leisure and convenience was all but assured. Or so fate would've had us believe. The train ride between Oshawa and Ottawa takes roughly four hours on your normal day. This particular day: Monday January 27th 2003, turned out to be the exception that proves the rule. Keep in mind, that during this trip, B.A. and myself were fooling absolutely no one. It was abundantly clear to everyone in our train car something was seriously wrong with us. Two large gents, who are gaunt and pale, sweating profusely, and seemingly down right territorial in regards to one of the two available bathrooms does not pass without notice. Wisdom prevailed, and they gave us a wide berth while trying to discretely ignore us.
Our situation was made infinitely worse however, when our chosen mode of transport broke down. Not once,.... not twice,... but three times. THREE [EXPLETIVE DELETED] TIMES! Before arriving at it's final resting place that god forsaken piece-of-shit locomotive broke down, and ceased all forward motion, on three separate occasions. Each unscheduled stop lasting longer than the last, until finally, "the little locomotive that couldn't" gave up the ghost in Brockville. Brockville. Nearly-an-hour-and-half-from-home Brockville. By this time, my travelling companion and I had entered a dehydrated trance-like state of exhaustion, only coming out of our daze long enough to crawl to the bathroom, conduct whatever business we needed to, and return to our respective seat. It was then that the conductor "apologized for any inconvenience", and announced that Via Rail, had arranged for a bus to come pick us up at the train station, and take us the rest of the way into Ottawa.
What choice did we have? None. None what so ever. We waited for the bus,.. hoping, praying, begging that it be a coach bus with an on-board bathroom. What did we care if we usurped it for the remainder of the trip? These other people could clearly see that we needed exclusive use of the bathroom, surely they wouldn't risk injury, nay death itself by putting themselves in our way. They were strangers to us. It's not like we asked to be in this condition, all we wanted was to go home. What pulled up was a modified cheese-box that so many of today's youth ride every day to and from school. A distinctly "no-frills" bus, free of any unnecessary clutter of modern convenience like seat belts, televisions... or more notably, bathrooms.
I'm not the most fit fellow you'll ever meet. I don't have washboard abs, or chiseled pecs, or tight glutes. I haven't run a marathon, and I don't know what the hell "upward dog" is, and I 'pre-load carbs' pretty much every day. Even so my friends, despite all of this.... I am convinced that my stamina is at minimum measured on an Olympic scale, if only based on the seemingly never-ending endurance test that was that bus ride. If I had to choose one single word to describe that exercise in agony it would be: "Clenched".
One hour, and twenty-seven minutes later, the bus pulled up to the Ottawa train station. I vaulted off the bus, body-checked a Via Rail attendant, and sprinted at near-light-speed to the nearest bathroom. As I rounded the corner to men's room, I noticed a small tiny yellow & black coloured sign hung on the door:
"Closed for cleaning"I payed it no heed what so ever. I flung open the door, and quick-marched into the nearest stall and proceeded to let loose the wrath of hell itself on that previously pristine toilet bowl. A few minutes later, I exited the stall, and apologized profusely to the cleaning lady who had stood mop-in-hand for the duration. Transfixed in shock and horror at what she no doubt has had nightmares about ever since. My trial was over. I washed my hands, left the bathroom, retrieved my luggage, said my goodbyes to B.A., and went home.
While the symptoms were essentially over by the next day, it would be at least 3 days before I had the strength to get out of bed, and a full week before I or B.A. returned to work. I don't think I've ever been so dehydrated ever before. Part of the feast that Mrs. Pedro had prepared contained shrimp. Despite the obvious source of our illness (Typhoid Mary on the train ride down) I had made the association in my mind, and couldn't eat shrimp for at least five years after that. That's my story of the worst Superbowl ever. Go Niners!