Two glorious days.
Two days of boasts and claims of supremecy, that’s what we had.
The ship had pulled into Japan, and in order to get a full appreciation of the local culture, the entire wardroom treated itself to a genuine Japanese dinner. There were waitresses dressed up in the traditional kimonos, tables were set low to the ground, and there was a lot of sake to keep us merry. It was a wonderful dinner, and we returned to the ship happy and full.
But we brought some visitors back with us. Visitors in the form of microscopic organisms that hitched a ride inside our intestinal tracts.
The next day, they began to drop. One by one, each of the officers fell victim to a nasty form of food poisoning, incapacitating them all, even the Captain. Something to do with fertilizer and unwashed vegetables.
But not me or my roomie.
We felt fine, and found ourselves with the run of the wardroom pantry. The coffee pot was never empty, and lacking competition, we scored the choicest pieces of meat and piled the potatoes high.
To say we were empathetic to the plight of the other officers would be … well, a stretch. With glee we opened stateroom doors and bragged about our iron stomachs, and how REAL men with REAL testosterone could conquer any bugs the Japanese could throw at us. For two days, we were kings. As we dug into our piles of chile con carne that night, we laughed and basked in the glory of being invincible.
It all stopped on day three. As I neared my stateroom, I knew something was amiss – the evidence was all over the bulkheads. Tentatively I followed the trail of chile con carne to the head, and there was my roomie, hunched over and looking like death.
I might have taken the chance to declare victory as last man standing if there was time. But the scene was more than my body could stand, and in an instant I joined the ranks of the stricken.
It’s hard to say what made the next two days more miserable – the food poisoning or the jibes we had to endure from the (now recovered) wardroom members.
As we sailed out of port, and as much as my stomach cramps would allow, I reflected on the lessons of our visit.
Be compassionate to those who are suffering.
Treat others as you would have them treat you.
Hubris is an evil bedfellow.
Also, experience becomes wisdom when it is used.
So I learned something, and the next time I visit Japan I’ll be wiser.
I’ll eat at McDonalds.