This is Part 2 of story I started a couple of weeks ago. If you want to read Part 1 to "refresh" your memory click here. In Part 1, I described a peculiar affliction one of my former students had. The smells in the cafeteria made him sick. We seemed to deal with it OK. It sort of came to a climax here...
It was the blend of odors that made my little friend Brandon sick. Regularly. We hoped that he would simply grow out of it. Unfortunately, on this particular day, he had not.
Brandon was very pale when we sat down, a little “green around the gills” my dad would have said. He was on free or reduced lunch, so he got a school lunch every day. Most of my children did. There were some in the class who chose cabbage over green beans. The way they prepared it was pretty unhealthy, swimming in butter and salt. Brandon looked down at his lunch but obviously had no appetite. He was sweaty and had dark circles under his eyes. He wasn’t a hair-trigger kid. He was used to the routine. I was certain that if he was about to barf, he would be able to make it outside. Sadly, I was wrong.
I was not looking directly at Brandon, but when I heard the shrieks I knew what had happened. When I looked at Brandon I could see a stringer of spit dangling from his lower lip and on the lunch tray in front of him was a puddle of vomit. He had a miserable sick look on his face. It was a look of embarrassment as well as pain and discomfort.
I stood up to comfort him and send someone for a custodian. Before I could get over to him, I glanced at Amy, his neighbor at the lunch table. She looked down at the oozy, watery mess on the tray and table and her eyes rolled back. In an instant she threw up in her lunch tray.
The smell was overpowering and the children were beginning to scream and jump out of their seats, to point, cover their mouths and back away. Little Johnny, who was sitting across from where Brandon and Amy had lost their lunches, croaked loudly. He was getting sick too.
It seemed to happen in slow motion. Johnny tried to get up, tried to get to the door as he had seen Brandon do so many times before. But he had just cleared his seat, a bench which ran along the lengthy cafeteria table quite like a long picnic bench, when he simply threw up straight down his front, soaking his shirt and pants and splashing vomit on to his shoes and socks.
That pretty much cleared the table. And while we gathered the children in the entrance to the cafeteria, the school nurse took the sick children over to the nurse’s office to get them cleaned up. The custodial crew was called from the various corners of the building to spread that sawdust stuff with the disinfectant in it over the affected areas and to sweep it up, then mop with the stinky string mop they used to swab out the tiled areas.
I suppose it could have been worse, but that was a record for me, one which I hope will never be broken during the rest of my years as a teacher.
I never asked Brandon to go into the cafeteria again if he didn’t want to go. If he had that sinking feeling on the way to lunch he just ate in the office area. When I left Davis Elementary, Brandon was in about third grade and I think he nearly outgrew his smellophobia.
Brandon would be about 30 now. I wonder if he has developed a stronger stomach and a greater tolerance for smells. I wonder if he has passed on that delicate part of his disposition to his own children.
I wonder if he has ever even tasted boiled cabbage?