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Cheryl Hughes; The Shade of an Oak Tree

There is a saying on the high seas that goes something like, “The only cure for seasickness is the shade of an oak tree.”  It is an acknowledgement that if you are prone to motion sickness, you have to stop moving before it gets better.  Motion sickness of any kind is miserable.  I know firsthand.  The back seat of a moving vehicle is the bane of my existence. 

When we were kids, my sister, Rhonda, and I would get car sick on even the shortest trips to town.  On longer trips, the ride in the back seat almost always culminated in vomiting.  My dad wouldn’t stop the car for us, so Rhonda would be on one side and I would be on the other, our heads hanging out the windows, vomit streaking across the fenders of our Ford.

When Garey and I go to Alabama, we usually take his mom, Aggie, over to Garey’s sister’s house for a meal.  Aggie is 92 years old and also suffers from motion sickness, so there is no way I’m asking her to take the back seat.  If we go during daylight hours, I will drive.  If it’s after dark, however, I don’t have the best night vision—cataracts not quite large enough for surgery—and I don’t know the backroads there as well as Garey, so I take the back seat.

When we arrive at his sister’s house, I head straight for bread or saltines.  It takes about 20 minutes before I can eat anything else.  By the time we’ve made the return trip and arrive back at Aggie’s, I’m in a condition that even the shade of an oak tree can’t help.  It takes me a couple of days to fully recover.

I’ve done or taken all the remedies websites and the well-intentioned have suggested.  Nothing seems to affect the condition, although there are countless explanations as to why it happens.  The general consensus is the following: “You get motion sickness when there are conflicts among your senses…your eyes see one thing, your muscles feel another, and your inner ears sense something else.  Your brain can’t take in all those mixed signals.  That’s why you end up feeling dizzy and sick” (webmd.com).

Motion sickness has been recognized and written about since antiquity.  There are accounts by the Greeks, Romans and Chinese.  Since there were no automobiles at the time, the term “car sick” was replaced by other terms.  “Cart- sick” was the condition one found oneself in after a bumpy ride in a cart pulled by oxen or donkeys.  “Liter-sick” was a condition found among the upper class after being carried about on a liter or sedan chair.  There is even mention of “a peculiar form of motion sickness…associated with Napoleon’s camel corps during the Egyptian campaign of 1798/1799, a sickness induced by riding on a camel” (pubmed.ncbi.nim.nih.gov).

For the record, all types of motion sickness fall under one comprehensive term, Kinetosis.  According to thehealthy.com, a person with motion sickness needs to sit in the driver’s seat.  “Drivers have an advantage over passengers because they can anticipate what is coming next…anticipation substitutes for sensory experience and prevents motion sickness.”  So, maybe they’ve hit on something here, anticipation anxiety.  In layman’s terms, worry about what you can’t see coming down the pike.

It seems there are two factors at play here. The first is trust issues involving the back seat passenger, that would be me.  The second is the trustworthiness of the vehicle’s driver, that would usually be Garey.  Maybe, I could test this theory by riding in the back seat of a vehicle driven by a professional, like Kyle Busch.  I have great faith in his ability to anticipate and avoid any trouble coming down the pike.  That would probably be an expensive venture, however.  It would probably be cheaper to just plant an oak tree in the back seat.

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