Friday, December 2, 2011

Don't always blame the chicken - it spoils my sleep

"The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion ... draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside or rejects".   Francis Bacon, 1620.

A few years ago, I was flying from Hong Kong to Auckland.  I sat with two attractive young women and enjoyed a glass of champagne with them before dinner.  After the meal and film, the girls went off to spend time with other members of their party and I settled down for a sleep.

Some time during the flight, the cabin attendant shook me awake: "Dr. Brooks.  Are you a real doctor?".  Suppressing the urge to take him by the throat and educate him about academic qualifications, I asked what was the problem.  It seemed that one of the girls and two others of their party had been taken seriously ill, and the attendant wanted me to open the airliner's medical pack to use the rehydration fluids for the victims.  I explained that I was not qualified to do this and headed off to the galley to chat to the stewardess and persuade her I was really in need of a beer and some sandwiches.

Some time later, the girl who was not ill told me that her friends were vomitting and had diarrhoea.  "It was the chicken pizza we had in the lounge before we boarded".  The timing and symptoms didn't seem right to me and I asked a few questions, including what they had been doing in China.  "Oh, we've been at a furniture expo for the last week".  It didn't seem to occur to her that she had been snacking on canapes and eating buffet-style meals for the previous seven days; she immediately blamed the chicken.  When we landed, her friends were taken by ambulance to the hospital, suffering from severe dehydration. I never heard from them again, but my money is on the meals during the week, not the chicken.

Now whenever I fly international, I ensure that my ticket is booked in the name "Professor Brooks".  I'm more likely to get a decent sleep during the flight.

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