Nina’s Travel Rule #22: Don’t Go on a Field Trip Drunk, You Will Probably Pee in Poison Ivy

It’s 5:30 am, I’ve been asleep for about two hours, and I am completely beyond fucked up.  This is unfortunate, ’cause I’m supposed to be driving about 30 unpleasant paleontology students to the field for some fossil prospecting in about 30 minutes.  I can’t get a ride to school ’cause my ride is in a worse state than I (it’s true, bless his heart), and I’m thinking I may be too incapacitated to figure out the bus.  I know, I’ll bike!  About 20 minutes and, say, three whole miles later (so I’m a little wobbly and confuddled, so what…), at least I’m there on time.  This is when it dawns on me that I totally can’t drive, the professor I’m slaving for is narcoleptic so there’s no way in fuck I’m riding with him, and it’s shaping up to be about 110 degrees out today.  Balls.

SOSOSO NOT what we got to study 😦

The problem, you see, is not that I had a hell of a night, it’s that when you’re a grad student, you usually get a free ride and a piddling little salary, but you don’t exactly get to choose your occupation.  So yeah, I was studying paleontology, but that really didn’t mean I wanted to be a TA for a narcoleptic crazy man who teaches outmoded crap to a bunch of whiny bitch students who’ll do literally anything to get out of taking his class.  Sadly, I was less successful than them, c’est la vie.  Like, this is the prof. that makes you grade exams for him, in front of him, at 9am on Sundays.  Who teaches classes on developing film, like, you know, from cameras??, because he can’t function Photoshop.  Whose only response when a student of his finished a Ph.D. was, “Congratulations.  You may call me by my first name now.”  And this field trip was totally the worst part.  He fucking always holds it the weekend of Halloween, it’s never cooled off out yet, it’s a like, nine billion hour drive from Austin, and there’s not even anything good out there to collect.

When my partner in crime, I mean, my co-TA (I love you, Laura!) turned up, I realized happily that at least I wasn’t the worst off.  She looked like death on a stick, and was babbling incoherently about some banging costume party she’d like, just left.  So of course we traded “OMG I just had the craziest night EVER you won’t BELIEVE what we got up to” stories for a while.  Nearly time to leave, I figured at this point that I was definitely going to die in one of these three vans, and it might as well be by my own hand.  Some number-crunching was accomplished, and our prof.’s long-suffering,  ever-sober, unreasonably-understanding grad student advisee (who, yes, does now call him by his first name) volunteered to drive for our friend, leaving me to suck it up and take the last van.  And yes, I’m aware that this was all my fault, but did I really deserve the absolute worst kid ever riding shotgun?  I mean, everyone else in the van had kindly passed the hell out, it being all of 6:20am on a Saturday, and I could almost see straight by now, or at least the road lines had stopped wiggling, but this fucking kid just would not stop trying to converse with me!  After about 10 minutes I actually turned to him and said “If you don’t shut the fuck up right now, everyone in this van is going to die”.  Bless his heart as well, he took my subtle hint.

The Brownwood dam. Yes, this really is the absolute best picture I could find of it. Which tells you how "out there" we were...

A thousand hours later, we hit Brownwood, the Texan Capital of…  well, not much.  There’s fuck all doing in Brownwood, pop. ~18,000, except, of course, a dam and reservoir that, once finished in 1927, allowed us gung-ho (or less so) paleontology dorks to prospect in the old river bed.  Think that sounds interesting?  Yeah, me neither.  Especially since the only crap down there is like, Ordovician crinoid stems.  And no, you really don’t wanna know what those are.  So then we hiked.  I would like to say that I spent this time praising our glorious Lord for allowing me to live to see this stupid fucking riverbed, but actually I spent it falling over, swearing at my lil’ fuckin’ students, and realizing that worse was coming: as the fucked-up fadeth, so the hangover approacheth.  Balls again.  As mutually previously agreed, no sooner had we hit the floor of the river then both TA’s announced that we would be taking a “break” under that bush way over there, and would allow an approach only if something of truly astounding value to all paleontology was discovered.  And so we passed out.  For about four hours.

Crinoid stems. These are actually like, really really good ones.

I can’t bring myself to dwell on the rest of that day, it might kill me again.  I will say that the only perk (leaving!) was accomplished about three hours late, getting us back to Austin (and my bed) around fucking 10pm.  Which woulda been about a fucking hour later, except that I expressly refused to wait for the other vans or to allow my kiddos any pee breaks.  One dear little girl actually threatened to pee in a bottle, right in the middle of the 15-person van, to which I responded, “Fine.  I’m not stopping.”  She did not like that, poor thing.  To which I responded, “Fine.  Pee on your boyfriend then, he can take it.”  He did not like that, poor thing.  And so it went.  They’re married now, dear things 🙂

A giant scary Texas poison ivy tree. Yup, that whole damnn thing.
A cute little Yankee poison ivy plant.

I spent Sunday recuperating, but realized on Monday when I crawled out of my bed that repercussions to my idiocy remained.  That’s right, I had poison ivy.  I know this doesn’t sound so bad, and you’re probably thinking, “Christ, you could be dead.  Or still under that stupid bush.  What’s the biggie?”, so I shall tell you.  See, I grew up in Yankee-land, where I used to roll around in poison ivy, poison oak, poison whatever, all summer as a kid.  No problem, never got it, no worries.  Then I moved to Texas, where poison ivy is no longer found as a cute, 3-leaved little shrub nestling adorably under the bushes.  No sir, down here it’s more like a 10-foot-tall wall of impenetrably spiky poisoned death.  Some examples: apparently the leaves of poison ivy can grow to 8″ across, and I can personally attest to bushes measuring 10′ in height and stretching across whole fields.   Resulting in shit like this:  And yes, I knew all this going in, but like, it was 110 degrees out!  No way in hell I was wearing pants in that, man.  Which, clearly, I now regretted vehemently.  Because, not only did I have poison ivy on my legs and arms, like normal people, it was also, shall we say, inconveniently located, umm, a bit further, uhem, well… upwards.  “Now how the fuck did that get there?”, I though repeatedly, and then realized.  Oh Jesus.  I have peed in poison ivy.

It turned out the only other person similarly afflicted was Pee Girl, who I really did feel sorry for at this point (mainly, yes, because I finally commiserated); she and I traded home remedies, finagled prescription drugs, and generally whined ourselves to death for about a week, all to no effect.  She finally hit up some crazy hippie apothecary (God Bless Austin, Land of Fucking Nuttos) for some “herbal” shit, which is honestly the only thing that worked.  Like magic, thank god.

Things That Don’t Cure Poison Ivy:

  • Any of approximately 34 over-the-counter anti-itching creams, gels, tablets, or washes.
  • Bathing in tomato juice.
  • Bathing in a scalding hot shower.  Especially if you’ve managed to get the poison oil all up in your bath towel, which you have subsequently failed to wash.
  • Bathing in a freezing cold shower.
  • Scrubbing literally all of ones skin off.
  • Prescription steroids obtained in desperation by your neighbor from his M.D. dad.

And so the horror had finally ended.  Or so we thought…

Came in to teach lab one day to find Pee Girl was missing.  It turns out her boyfriend (seriously, bless this man for marrying her…) found her naked on the bathroom floor, where she had knocked herself unconscious on the towel rack as she bent over to furiously scratch some ivy-ridden, unmentionable, anatomical region, and she was now in hospital with a concussion.

So I guess there’s a silver lining to everything!  I mean, I’m not dead, and the hippie drugs killed the ivy just before it could creep past my short-shorts line!

P.S.- All enquiries as to details regarding the insane debauchery that precipitated this disaster will be redirected to the office of “None of your fucking business, but trust me, it was really really good”.  Regards, the Mgmt. 🙂

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