There is something about vomit that brings us all together as humans. As a mother, I see it all too frequently. No matter how impressive it is, my mind always wanders back to my favorite vomit story. Don't have a favorite vomit story? Feel free to borrow mine.
It was Christmas in Japan 1994. I worked for a Fortune 500 company, but there were only three of us (plus a shared secretary) in our division’s office: a British manager, a Japanese engineer, and a young American female engineer (yours truly).
Saying it that way sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. Maybe it is. But it’s true.
The three of us, my boss’s wife, and our shared secretary went out to dinner for our Christmas party. We then met back at my apartment for drinks and dessert. I had a lovely three-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor, overlooking the river. The living/dining area was a large room with two sliding glass doors onto a wrap-around balcony. The place was very nicely furnished. We were all dressed nicely. I played delightful Christmas music such as Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. We sat around and talked. Suzuki-san, the Japanese engineer, took an occasional smoke break out on the balcony. A bit after midnight, everyone went home.
The next morning, my very quiet American neighbor on the seventh floor called me.
“Quite the party last night, eh?”
“Party last night?” I asked. “I had a few people over. I’m sorry, were we loud?” I was very confused. Why is this man calling?? Sure, I enjoy entertaining, but certainly we couldn’t have disturbed HIM on the seventh floor? Huh?
“I can’t get to work.”
“What?” I asked, even more confused now.
“Have you looked outside?”
“Well, no, what are you talking about, exactly?” I wasn’t quite dressed yet, so didn’t want to go running out to my balcony.
“I’m sorry, there simply aren’t words to describe it. You’ll just have to go look.”
I quickly dressed and peeked out my sliding glass door. Nothing. Ha! Wasn’t my party.
I went down the elevator and out the front door.
“Oh my. Oh my. Oh my!!!”
Yes, it was certainly my party. From the outside of my fifth floor balcony there was a clear path of vomit. It hit every balcony on its way down. It must have spread into the largest cone imaginable. It completely and totally COVERED my neighbor’s car: THICKLY. It even splashed onto the car of my 4th floor neighbor. He was right. There was just no description for such a large amount of vomit.
My neighbor took the train. By the time I arrived at the office, my boss had already broken the news to Suzuki-san, who was anticipating whose car had been victimized. He left immediately with a friend in tow.
How did it end?
Apparently car washes in Japan do not take too kindly to such filthy disasters. He was denied access. He had to go back to the apartment building and clean most of it off himself before they allowed him into the car wash. He cleaned the inside too, and filled it with gas.
They were my quiet neighbors. I didn’t know them well myself. I went up to their apartment that evening with a small gift and apologized. That is how I heard the rest of the story.
When Suzuki-san went to return the keys to the 7th floor neighbor’s wife, he bowed so deeply and so long that she said she finally had to just shut the door on him. She didn’t really care so much about the car, but she felt a little awkward about having shut the door on a man bowing. He didn’t speak English fabulously well and she didn’t speak Japanese at all. I can imagine it was quite the scene.
The truth is that Suzuki-san didn’t really feel that badly about it either. It just happened. He did what he felt he was supposed to do. I bet my 7th floor neighbors still think it was funny too.