I should have known when I heard the ship groaning in the night as it shifted from side to side. But I knew unquestionably when I sat up in the morning and began to sway back and forth. I remembered someone telling me once about falling out of the shower on a cruise ship. I doubted it at the time, but as of this minute, I believe that entirely.
One crew member said that it’s always cold in these northern British Isles ports, even in summer, often wet and the water in the fall especially is “choppy.” If this is just choppy, I’d hate to see worse.
So today, I’ve gained an appreciation for drunken sailors. You see, they may not be drunk at all, simply seasick and staggering around trying to find and maintain their footing – or the closest bathroom. Last night, John, the cruise director said he can always tell the drunks when it gets rough. The people who are normally sober are all staggering around, but the drunks, they are all walking in a straight line, referred to, appropriately, as “the line of experience.” Obviously, I simply don’t drink enough!
In any case, it’s been an exceedingly rough day at sea. I spent the morning staring out the window at the horizon trying to keep the Dramamine down. I called the spa to cancel my “happy birthday to me” massage for today since I “wasn’t feeling well.” When I called, they told me that acupuncture cures seasickness, right after they told me that the cancellation charge was the same amount as the original spa charge. I had my doubts, believe me, but I was so sick and miserable I was willing to try just about anything, so off to the spa I staggered – plus I was paying for it whether I went or not – so why not try acupuncture. I couldn’t feel much worse.
Actually, I had my husband deliver me. The wind was blowing so hard they had the outside decks closed. The wind is howling like an unhappy banshee in the deepest Michigan winter blizzard. That’s on the inside, sheltered deck with the open roof that can’t be closed over the pool area. The outside is worse and unsafe, which is why it’s closed. The spa is on the other side so you have to walk through the open roof area. If I was going to blow away, I wanted him to be with me. I figured two of us stood a much better chance of hanging on and well, we were much heavier together and more difficult to get aloft like giant inflatable kites.
These ships were not made for winter, in fact, they have no heaters for the rooms. You can have A/C or “regular air” which is whatever the air temperature is, recycled. It’s in the 50s today. I’ve taken to sleeping in my sweatshirt and wool socks with the bathrobe thrown on top of the blankets for extra warmth and I was finally warm enough last night. If they were selling parkas, they would make a fortune because it wouldn’t matter how much they cost. I swear to you, I saw a crew member today wearing gloves.
Tell me why I’m doing this again??? Oh yes, it’s a DNA trip, to find my ancestor’s lands and share their experiences. And yes, some of them were mariners. Probably, knowing my family, the ones walking in a straight line. Ugh. I could have passed on this particular shared experience, but no, this had to be authentic.
So after arriving at the spa, off with most of the clothes (brrrr) and in with the acupuncture needles. There were needles in my face, in my ears and in my hands and feet including between my eyebrows and between my toes. As I lay there, looking like a distant relative of the porcupine family and afraid to move for fear of impaling myself, the thought crossed my mind that not only did I do this of my own choosing, but worse yet, I’m paying for the opportunity. I tried to fall asleep, which is difficult with a bunch of needles sticking in your skin. Basically, they poke you like a pin cushion, turn the lights off, come back in about an hour and collect money for doing so.
Now the good news is that I did and do feel better. I’m still staggering around like a drunken sailor, or what I previously thought was a drunken sailor, but I’m not sick. By mid-afternoon, after my spa treatment, food even sounded good, so I went up to the lounge deck with floor to ceiling windows and had a snack. Yes indeed, things are improving for the old porcupine. But the sea is quite rough again as we have left the shelter of the Isle of Skye and other islands off Ireland and are in the open North Atlantic now. It may be rough, but it’s still exceedingly beautiful.
This reminded me of another time, years ago, when my kids were young and we had saved enough to take everyone salmon fishing in Lake Michigan. We chartered a boat for the day, and we invited my Mom and (step)Dad to join us. For my Dad, who loved to fish, this was a wonderful opportunity he had never enjoyed before – and maybe he’d catch something more interesting than catfish and bluegill in the farm pond at home.
We spent the night before in a local bed and breakfast and got up early to begin our much-anticipated adventure. I gave everyone in the family Dramamine, everyone that was, except my mother. She refused, saying that she didn’t get sea sick. I encouraged her to take it anyway, but she would have none of that.
You know what happened don’t you? She turned green as pea soup – and not only was she miserable – so were the rest of us. It’s hard to have fun when someone is so ill. So we went back to shore, Mom and Dad departed for home, despite our protests, and the rest of us went fishing. We caught and froze some salmon for Dad, but it just wasn’t the same as catching those fish himself.
However, this made me wonder – is motion sickness hereditary? I have suffered with it all of my life. My first memories of it are riding in a car when I was quite young, pre-school. I still suffer from this same problem. Mine is much worse than Mom’s was.
According to 23andMe, indeed motion sickness is hereditary.
In a paper presented at the 2012 ASHG Meeting, they state that:
Roughly one in three individuals is highly susceptible to motion sickness; the remaining two-thirds of the population may experience motion sickness if the conditions are extreme.
It’s estimated that up to 70% of a person’s risk for motion sickness is due to genetics, but the genetics of motion sickness has been very poorly understood … until now.
23andMe scientist Bethann Hromatka presented results from a genetic study of nearly 37,000 customers who were surveyed about motion sickness. The analysis identified 14 genetic associations with motion sickness that fall into a few different biological categories. Three genetic variants are involved in development, including development of the eye and ear. Other variants are involved neurological processes and glucose/insulin regulation.
Aha, I knew it. I get to blame my mother, and maybe my father for this unfortunate inherited trait – but I’m guessing my Estes mariner ancestors didn’t carry it – or they wouldn’t have been mariners. But, according to Mother, she wasn’t motion sick, she simply had “an inner ear problem.” Uh, yea, Mom, you did. A rose by any other name…
Now, I wonder why acupuncture helps relieve the symptoms? The crew, who also take these treatments because they have to keep working, says that one acupuncture treatment works for days too. Although truthfully, I don’t care why. I’m just glad that it does. Given that the condition is genetic, I’ll probably be blessed with it the rest of my life so it’s nice to have a tool, any tool.
During the rest of the day, we were treated to a rainbow several times. The end of the rainbow always seemed to wind up in the restrooms on the lower decks. Not sure what to make of that pot-o-gold. I guess it was near the casino. The rainbow didn’t photograph well through the glass, but you get the idea. It was pleasant and hopeful to see after not feeling so well.
Our towel guy tonight has, what else…no, not acupuncture needles, although that certainly would have been appropriate. Ginger snaps to help with seasickness, Bonine (which also costs far more on this ship than an outfit at Kohl’s) and chocolate covered strawberries – the last 3 on the ship. Well, after all, it was my belated birthday present. Acupuncture, ginger snaps and chocolate-covered strawberries. Who could ask for more!
Tomorrow, solid ground again. We’re going to Urquhart Castle. Hope you’re coming along!