I recently started wearing hard contact lenses for the first time. I’ve worn soft lenses since I was around twelve, but after nearly twenty-five years, their efficacy was waning. I’ve always had terrible near-sightedness, and later, bad astigmatism. Probably worse than most people can imagine. If I’m taking an eye test, not only can I not read the big letter at the top of the chart, I can’t see that there is a chart. I mean, I can kind of guess at it based on context—being seated in an examination chair in an eye doctor’s office is a clue—but, if someone ambushed me in the wild when I didn’t have my contacts on and held up an eye chart fifteen or so feet away, I’d be hard pressed to guess what it was.
And now I fear I’ve already said too much. Before you freaks get any ideas, please remember that I am also easily startled, a miserable conversationalist, and terrible at fighting, so ambushing me without my contacts to try to steal my wallet or ask me to guess what poster you’re holding up is a terrible idea. It would be very awkward for everyone involved. Let’s just forget about it, OK?
One other fun aside before I get to the vomiting. I’ve been to only one eye doctor my entire life. I first went when I was seven or eight and my vision started to suffer. I remember the doctor (shout out to Dr. Aker) used to record notes using a handheld mini-cassette recorder. He would say things like “Andrew is a very pleasant young man.” I don’t know what else he said, but that bit was more than enough for me. I could tell I liked this guy. Not only was he complimentary of me while I was sitting a few feet away from him, he had a sweet tape recorder.
But back to this story. The transition to hard lenses has been a bit of a wild ride, but it got significantly wilder when I decided to stop by Walgreens one morning to browse their selection of eye drops and contact lens solutions. The morning had been a normal one. We dropped the boys off at their schools as we always do when my wife is working, went to pick up coffee, and drove around aimlessly while the two-year-old demanded that I play Step in Time from the Mary Poppins soundtrack on an endless loop. I decided to stop in Walgreens on a whim. And because I had put it on my list of things to do for the week and I wanted to cross it off. And because I was beginning to have murderous thoughts about Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews and that’s no way to feel about your heroes.
So we parked and headed into the Walgreens that is less than half a mile from our house. We walked back to the eye care section which is at the back of the store, directly beside the pharmacy. I found the hard contact lens products and crouched down to inspect them because they were on the bottom row. My daughter, dressed in one of her favorite princess-style dresses with long sleeves and a fluffy bottom that is made of tulle (I think), crouched down beside me. She also had black leggings underneath (this detail will be important momentarily, as you will see).
I had just picked out my purchases when my daughter coughed once, hesitated for a moment, and emptied the contents of her stomach onto her tulle (maybe?) skirt and the linoleum floor. I mumbled, “Oh.” We both froze. I rubbed her back and whispered to her that everything was fine. It wasn’t really fine. There was vomit everywhere and we had no viable exit strategy. There was an older customer seated by the pharmacy, about ten feet away, but she didn’t seem to notice anything was amiss. She remained enthralled by her phone. Thank god for smartphones. Another customer, who had an older child with her, was seated with her back to us. She noticed the vomit after about a minute but seemed relatively unbothered.
“Oh. They probably have some paper towels in the pharmacy,” she said.
I told my daughter to stay where she was and walked up to the pharmacy desk to get someone’s attention. Luckily my girl was in a bit of shock, which worked in my favor. Her skirt was doing a nice job of containing the vomit, but any move would have been disastrous. Or more disastrous depending on how you rate these things. The pharmacist looked past me and said, “Oh.” We were apparently in full agreement that “Oh” was the appropriate thing to say in this situation. Then he called for clean-up in the eye care department and the technician handed me an almost empty roll of brown paper towels and some tiny packets of alcohol wipes.
I was pretty sure what I should do with the paper towels, but the wipes were a bit of a mystery. Mainly because they were one-inch squares. After I herded the vomit away from my child and under a pile of paper towels on the floor, I ripped open a couple packets of wipes and rubbed them around on my hands and her hands and the floor and wherever. This was challenging because they were clearly made for mice to use or maybe small squirrels.
A friendly and soft-spoken employee then appeared with a bucket, mop, and small blue paper tarp and told me not to worry about this because he had it covered. That’s all I needed to hear. I stuffed the eye care products back on the shelf, scooped up my daughter, held her baby style across my body to avoid any contact with the vomit stains, and walked briskly out the door and to the car. As we walked by the cash register, the cashier said cheerfully, “Have a nice day!” Little did he know.
Before we got in the car, I stripped off the soiled dress, leaving my daughter in just her leggings for the short ride home. All in all, we made the best of what could’ve been a truly awkward situation. Thanks in large part to the strangers and store personnel who were kind enough to help, but not overdo it. And best of all, my daughter was perfectly fine after the ordeal. She didn’t get sick anymore and returned to her normal self almost immediately. Talkative, cheerful, and obstinate.
The only long-term effect? Now I have to find a new drug store to frequent. At least until things cool down. Sure, no one seemed to care, but you can never be too careful about these things. Because after all, if you don’t have the complete respect of the customers and personnel at your local drug store, what do you have?