Before I begin to tell you this story, I need to first stand up and say two things:
One: The previous post on flying with children was horribly misleading. Why, you ask? I’ll tell you why: that aeroplane trip was easypeasylemonsqueezy and as pleasurable as an all expenses paid spa weekend in comparison with what I am about to tell you.
Two: You may not want to eat your lunch while reading this blog today. Ignore this warning at your own peril. Seriously. put. down. the. sandwich.
Okay, here goes…
The day had finally arrived. I had been waiting for this train trip and visualising it for months before. Having been born in South Africa and now living in Australia, I was looking forward to my first sighting of snow-capped mountains in the same manner that my kids look forward to trashing my house on the day I clean it.
There I was, in the Zurich train station, waiting to catch a train to St Anton, Austria. It was going to be two and a half hours of blissful travel through the Swiss Alps and I was itching to get on that train. Between us we had four giant suitcases, four backpacks, a stroller and handbags, as well as three children to get on board in the (approximately) thirty seconds that the doors were open. Magically, we managed to get everything and everyone on board and found our seats. Aaah – now all I had to do was gaze out of the window at the Christmas card scenery outside….
Not so fast, Michelle.
Ten minutes into the journey (long enough for me to decide to get out my big camera, select and connect a lens and focus – note: I said focus, not click) Baby G began to complain that her tummy was sore. She began to complain that she felt sweaty. I packed away my camera, leaned over to cuddle her and found myself staring into two huge, alarmed eyes and an expression of abject fear. Then, my darling Baby G proceeded to projectile vomit e v e r y w h e r e.
Let me be clear: by everywhere, I mean into her bucket seat, on her lap, on my lap, on the floor, on the laptop screen of the man behind us, on the camera bag, on her sister’s hat, on her sister’s jacket, in her boots. Gotta hand it to her, she doesn’t do things by halves.
All credit to the Swiss. Nobody blinked, nobody reacted (okay, the laptop guy grimaced ever so slightly as I apologised and smeared vomit across his screen in a lame but valiant attempt to make it unhappen). Nobody stared as we frantically tried to clean up the lake of vomit which, to this day, was so huge that I can’t comprehend how it came out of such a small child. If the sight wasn’t Nightmare On Elm Street enough to mortify us, the smell was. Oh my…the smell. Just be thankful that I have no words to describe the stench that assaulted every passenger in the cabin.
So, there I was, on hands and knees, scooping up vomit into shopping bags, food bags, any bags we could find. Baby G was crying. The big kids were panicking. Darren was running around the train trying to find cleaning supplies (heads up: trains have no staff when vomit appears. It’s like fairy dust – poof…), my mother-in-law was in the toilet cubicle attempting to wash and blow-dry Miss M’s jacket, hat and scarf. Let’s not forget that I was covered in vomit, cleaning vomit and dry-heaving as I tried to calm my stinking, loud family down and pretend this really wasn’t that bad.
Finally, after using up every possible tissue, baby wipe and plastic bag, I got up, changed my clothes, washed up in the matchbox-sized bathroom and patted myself on the back for remaining calm and actually managing to clean up after the devastation of the Puke Tsunami.
That was bad, but it was over! Which meant I could enjoy the scenery! Yay!
Not so fast, Michelle.
“I want to lie on your lap, Mama!”
Still optimistic about this train trip, I bundled Baby G (now wearing only thermal longjohns and a vest since all her other clothes are destroyed) on to my lap. She rested her head on my chest, I stroked her head and she fell asleep. What could be better? Cozy and snuggly and happy that that was now over, I happily cuddled my little girl, smiled serenely as I watched the snow-capped mountains and chocolate-box villages roll by.
Then it hit me.
Like a slap in the face with a rotten fish, a Toxic Cloud, carrying the most fetid odour I have ever smelled, surrounded me. Surely this fart from the depths of Hell hasn’t originated from my beautiful chubby-cheeked princess. Surely?
I wondered if I could hold my breath for the remainder of the trip. I decided that passing out would be preferable to breathing. Before I had to test my breath-holding abilities, the Cloud moved on. Phew.
I looked up, across the aisle at Darren – happily reading his book.
Until it hit him.
The Toxic Cloud hit him so hard he flinched. He looked up at me, eyes filled with horror and I nodded, knowingly. I pointed at my sleeping cherub and claimed ownership. He physically fought the cloud by flapping his hands in a particularly manly manner but it hung over him just long enough to instil fear. Then it moved on.
It hit the man behind Darren, who was eating a sandwich. His eyes watered a little.
It hit the man of vomity laptop fame. He looked at Sandwich Dude accusingly.
It proceeded to visit and sit on every person in that cabin.
Then the waitress came in with a tray of tea and – I swear on all I hold dear – the Toxic Cloud tripped her. Her reaction was so violent that she abandoned her duties in our cabin for the remainder of the journey. (She may have quit her job.)
Long story short (too late?): the Toxic Cloud gave a few encore performances, much to my mortification and then abandoned us altogether. Oh, hallelujah! I settled down, stared out of the window and in a particularly admirable Pollyanna-esque manner, delighted in how happy I was and how lucky I was to be able to have this experience. Positive thinking or deluded idiocy? Yeah.
Finally, Baby G was soundly sleeping. The man behind me peeled open a mandarin and the passengers in the cabin all but cheered – the smell of mandarin was like an air-freshener in the bio-hazard we were all immersed in. Now, I could relax.
Not so fast, Michelle.
Why was my leg suddenly wet?
Wet Toxic Cloud.
I found myself so desperate for this moment not to be that I didn’t say a word. Yes, folks, I pretended that the diarrhoea that had found its way through her undies and long johns and my jeans and my long johns on to my leg wasn’t there. I so badly wanted it to not be so that I sat in the Toxic Cloud, with a Toxic Puddle on my lap and contemplated not telling anyone.
Who was I kidding.
Poo covered legs don’t lie.
In my most charming voice, I called to Darren. I pointed down, then lifted Baby G up, pointing her bottom at him. I didn’t have to ask how bad. I got up and carried my sleeping, stinking mess of a child – bum first – through the whole cabin and through the next cabin to the smallest bathroom ever built. I stripped the two of us, bathed us both in a teaspoon of water and changed into the random, unsuitable-for-freezing-climates clothes that Darren somehow managed to get from the luggage.
Baby G and I did the walk of shame, stinking and in danger of being arrested by the Fashion Police, back to our seats. My inner-Pollyanna enjoyed the scenery and I even took a picture or two.
When the train finally reached St. Anton, our cabin was the first to empty. Laptop Man lead the stampede, followed closely by Sandwich Dude. That Austrian air… Heaven. It was only then that I really understood how badly my family had destroyed that train.
Our long-time friend met us at the station and we greeted him in chorus (not unlike the Von Trapp Family) with “Don’t touch us! We stink!’
Yep, pure class.
I’m happy to announce that we managed, despite all this, to have an incredible snow holiday and we didn’t destroy any other modes of public transport on that trip.
Except, of course, the Airbus A-380, seat that got saturated with urine. But that’s another story.
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