Wisdom Through Humor
Olympic Hangover

Martin C

I've had a few hangovers. Most are tolerable and a goodly proportion of them are barely noticeable. In the vast majority of cases, from the moment you wake up, drink some water, have some aspirin, things get better. And that's the important thing. While experiencing extreme discomfort, the reassuring feeling is that you are thankful you're feeling better than you did an hour ago. You don't think about the issue any further; you don't think, this is not worth it, I'll never drink again. Well, this thought actually occurs to many but as you progressively feel better you progressively give this thought less and less credence. Under normal circumstances this is the case; you feel better every hour, and that's all you care about. There are things to look forward to.

It was not under normal circumstances that I experienced my first monster hangover. For the sole cause of a monster hangover is extraordinary circumstances. My first monster hangover was to be experienced at a 21st birthday party. The birthday girl was Jane, a girl atypical of the Australian outback, she was gorgeous. The place where she was brought up was not. It was hot, dry, and looked positively desolate. The circumstances were these: it was very hot, the beer ran out very early and those left standing at 2:00am had only bulk white wine to move on to. The decision to drink cheap Australian white wine seemed flawless and was seamlessly made at the time. Though, as every accident investigation finds, the most catastrophic accidents occur because of the culmination of several minor incidents.

I awoke, hot and confused, I couldn't open my eyes, yet everything seemed to be very bright. Sun-burn, a sensation I know well, was the first inkling I had that all was not well. The fact that I couldn't open my eyes was the next. The fact that my mouth seemed to be sticking to something rough was another. Then nausea, headache and general feelings of falling and spinning. As I reached up to my eye, I found the reason for my optical impairment. My eyelids were caked-over with dried something. A few scratches and I could open an eye, to see, sideways, a windmill, dirt, sheep, a hot sun, (it was about midday) and the edge of the hessian sack I had fallen to sleep on, and indeed, to which my face was adhered. My outlook was not at all good. And there I lay for about an hour, unable to move.

I got burnt and then sick trying to fall back unconscious, being sick made me feel a little better and also solved the mystery of why my face was stuck to the hessian bag and why my eyes had been welded shut. I had obviously been sick several hours ago. After grilling myself thoroughly on one side I mustered the strength to roll over, it was a relief, it stimulated the vomiting reflex again and also showed me the 180 degree view. That of the homestead, cars, other people and the dam. This sense of familiarity and perspective was a huge relief and I knew then that I was heading for more familiar, just horrible, hang over territory. This hangover peaked soon after the effects of the sunstroke and dehydration had worn off. The recovery from this hangover took two days.

My next monster hangover occurred years later at sea. Waking up in the Ship's Bar, with my face again stuck to something (a beer sodden carpet tile), mouth as dry as a kookaburra's Khyber, with a splitting headache and a nauseous stomach. These circumstances were especially unpleasant as I had to contend with my head swaying and rocking as well as the boat actually pitching and rolling. Of course, we were in a ten meter sea in the southern ocean. The ship was not that big so the motion on-board was considerable. The combined effect meant that I perceived things turning randomly 480 degrees in all directions. This wakening was again a grim re-acquaintance with the conscious world.

The night before was the celebration of some minor event, celebrated enthusiastically for little other reason than that it was a break from monotony. A recollection I was able to make only days afterwards, and even then only at the reminder of others on-board, was that we had all moved on to a drink called a tropical penguin. Again the reason for this was that we had run out of normal grog. The ship had been at sea much longer than was planned as so alcohol was being rationed. Hence, a big night could only occur if people bought down their own private stocks or other booze was found.

A tropical penguin was other booze. Technically it probably wasn't booze as it was made from 8 litre cans of pineapple juice and 2 litre bottles of ethanol from the marine science lab. Assured by inebriated chemists and bio scientists at 3 am that this was a top drop, we sang their praises until we were unable to. The next morning, having woken deep, deep within the bowels of an icebreaker in heavy seas, again having puked all over myself, a difference to the last monster hangover soon became apparent; the stench. There were about a dozen other people in a similar state and the bar smelt like nothing on earth. Sweety, sweaty, oily, musty, body odoury and pineappley. I staggering/crawled to the door, falling on my face, literally, several times, I released the wheeled hatch. Another fresh stench hit me, diesel fumes, which bought on a few minutes of dry retching. After about ten minutes I had managed to climbs three decks up greasy steel ladders through the fumes and rumbling of diesel engines. Through another difficult to open hatch, I found myself on the trawl deck and, naturally, throwing up afresh.

I lay, star shaped, on the steel, beside nets filled with rotting krill. Being utterly hungover means that you are, in part, still a bit drunk, things dawn on you slowly. After overcoming the fear of rolling or sliding off the rear ramp and into the heaving sea by remaining very still, I realized that my new environment smelt worse than the previous ones. The rotting krill did actually stink worse than the bar. Other facts also begged my attention; it was about minus five degrees and I wasn't wearing much clothing and my elbows and hair had frozen to the deck. As these facts, and their consequences sunk in, I summoned what was left of my strength and will and hauled myself back inside to warmth and safety and the awful motion of my bunk. Full recovery from this hangover was not achieved for three days. A painful three days which did not actually peak until the evening of the second day. If I sit quietly now and think I can recall this exquisite horror.

[Don't stop here, find out about Martin's Ultimate Hangover at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games: next>>]


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