We eat our knowing that there is always some inherent risk factor. Eating food from places, especially when you travel outside the US, is always going to be a hit-and-miss kind of experience. But it’s rare that it would seem that what you can eat outside our borders can possibly kill you. And we read about it in the papers and news all the time that sadly, many children and elderly do die from foods they come into contact with that is less than safe of optimal. This story has to do with the all time worst meal I ever had.
We were on the border of Switzerland and Italy at a little gas station/ grocery store alongside the beautiful Swiss mountains.
Our tour bus made a routine stop for drinks and meals. We walked in the door of what seemed like your typical stop and go place. That’s when I saw the accursed sandwich. Nestled inside the refrigerated holding place of purgatory was the ham sandwich from hell. The funny thing was we weren’t even that hungry. The only reason I bought it was because we knew we wouldn’t eat for at least another 4-5 hours. We were going from Italy into Switzerland.
I purchased the ham sandwich and hopped in our tourist bus. At first it didn’t feel like food poisoning. I felt as though the sandwich didn’t feel right. I just felt like I had to go to the bathroom but it wasn’t so bad. I held myself for a few hours and it wasn’t difficult to do. They say when you get hit with food sickness it hits right away, within the hour. This is not true. The real impact of the sandwich hit about 7-8 hours after I had eaten it. Back at the nice hotel in Switzerland, I was puking my brains out in the beautiful marble bathroom. I was away from home and so I began to pray. I did not know any doctor or any person in Switzerland except for my godfather, and the tour bus and route did not allow for me to see them. I imagined terrible scenarios of emergency rooms and hospitals, something I wanted nothing to do with in a place I did not know. The hotel restaurant was nice and on the 7th floor. It was elegant but locked up indoors is not how I had imagined spending my time in Switzerland.
I was hit with a terrible diarrhea and vomiting simultaneously, something that I had never experienced before in my life. It was truly horrible. I was puking so much I felt as though my face was going to explode. I looked in the mirror and my veins were popping in my eyes, my face was sweating, my eyes were red, and my color was yellow. I remember doing that at least 9-10 times before I calmed down but it was sporadic and lasted all night and into t morning, but by noon I felt like I could leave the hotel.
I barely made it to a local pharmacy where all they offered us was herbal tea and pills. I did not need herbal tea and pills; I wanted Pepto Bismol, extra steroid edition. They don’t have Pepto Bismol in Switzerland, and they don’t have anything like it either. We called a family doctor back in the USA and he suggested I just rest, drink warm water as much as possible, and he said to not eat solids for an entire day until the poison all left my body. It worked. I truly felt like something terrible was going to happen that was worse and so I was so thankful to be feeling better!
After much prayer and clear soup from the hotel, I started feeling better. The group went bobsledding in Switzerland and I missed it because I was sick and felt like dying in pain in our hotel room. I often think back about the beautiful Europe trip and my one deep regret is eating that fucking sandwich. The thing is I have never went back and I feel as though that opportunity to go bobsledding in the Swiss Alps would have been wonderful, terrific, and an awesome adventure. I know Italy was, so was France and Austria, but I totally missed out on Switzerland. I will forever regret this until I go back, not get sick, and go bobsledding.
I felt better just in time, thank God, by the 3rd day. Good thing too because we were back on the bus and there is no way I could have been held back. It’s sad that I missed seeing Switzerland in all of its glory. I missed the beautiful snowy mountains, the elegant and nice buildings and people, and who knows what else. I will never know because I missed that damned part of the trip. And guess what? Going to Switzerland, by bus and driving through all the rest of Europe, is a hard thing to do. Which is why I haven’t been back there in over 10 years; but I am planning a trip soon, to finally go back and see it in all its glory in 2015, and this time to see my cousins who live there as well. That should be a totally different kind of Switzerland experience, hopefully one without food poising.
This makes me think about everything else in life we often miss and take for granted. But life is short and these little opportunities all add up. I was so sad I missed that. I remember the clean and beautiful streets of Switzerland and the white elegant swans that we saw in the lake. That is all I saw of that beautiful place. I need to go back and make up for that missed day. This story does not falter my determination to go new places or see new things at all. And I am in no way saying we should all “keep it safe” and just eat at Mc Donald’s every time we travel to Europe or other far away places. I’m just saying it is on us, the restaurant and food store industry, to do everything we can in our power to make it more and more healthy and safe for our customers. This is more than our job; it is our solid duty and responsibility. Anything less is undeserving of our industry. Obviously the owner of that food mart we stopped at the border of Switzerland and Italy didn’t feel that way.
The most terrible fear that anybody should have is not war, is not a disease, not cancer or heart problems or food poisoning – it’s a man or a woman without a sense of humor. Jonathan Winters