The Barf Bag Test

When my family would go on vacation, we three children were always given a few travel gifts to see us through. Travel games, books to read, and coloring books topped the list. For our first few family vacations we mostly drove to our destinations, but as we got older, we started flying as a family. I preferred driving only because it gave me more time to read and our car’s seats were more comfortable than those on the airplane, but eventually I became accustomed to flying, and now I realize how lucky we were to have been taken on so many trips. Laurel and I would sit together- side by side or flanking Buddy- and we would color in our coloring books, read, or talk to pass the time. At some point we saw the obligatory barf bags inserted in the seat pockets. We asked our folks what they were for. They informed us that some people get sick and vomit on planes. “O-oh”, we said looking at each other with matching expressions of sympathy and disdain. We had already had a brush with seasickness. (When out on our boat with our friends Betsy and Mike, their son Mark had gotten so sick he threw up for what seemed the entire boat ride. Laurel and I were stunned. What had he eaten? Should he go to a hospital? “No,” his folks said, “he just gets bouts of seasickness.” Huh? We looked at each other, our faces question marks. As children who went for weeklong trips on boats and read chapter books in the car, we could scarcely comprehend the affliction of motion sickness. But hey, we believed them.) Back on the plane we recalled this, and shrugged our shoulders and shook our heads, some people were just unlucky. And so began our childhood tradition of decorating barf bags. If people were puking their guts out, the least we could do was create something pretty for them to york into. After all, isn’t part of counting your blessings, helping those less fortunate? As children seemingly immune to motion sickness we considered it “paying it forward”.

On one such trip, Laurel was putting the final touches on a peacock balancing at the end of a branch with the message “Get Well Soon” on it, and I was most likely detailing the scales on a mermaid tail, my piece working titled “Ariel and Puking Flounder”, when across the row we heard the unmistakable sound of scissors crisply cutting paper. I’m sure our first reaction was of envy- “why hadn’t we thought to bring scissors? Do you know how many shapes we could have cut by this time?” But then common sense would have set in. All the scraps to keep track of? It’s a logistical nightmare. Then we looked over and took in the whole picture. It was a boy, about ten years old, smiling as he cut giant holes in the bottoms of the barf bags in his row. Laurel and I’s jaws dropped. This was a bad kid. He not only did not feel sorry for people with airsickness but was making a craft project out of making them vomit into their laps! Where were his parents? Were those them? Just sitting beside him, tacitly allowing him to commit this atrocity? Well we had never witnessed such behavior. Had we not already pledged to be on our best and quietest behavior on the plane, I’m sure we would have read him the Franck Girls Riot Act! But, as we had been gifted with our markers and travel goodies in good faith, we let him off with little more than a few threatening and disapproving glares.

It was at that moment that I knew there were two kinds of people: the kind who decorate barf bags, and the kind who cut holes in them. It has been a goal in my nannying to be sure that I am instilling the values and morals through my words and actions with the kiddos that they become the former. I want them to be sympathetic, recognizing that others may be having a hard time, and to put out the effort to right wrongs they see in how others are feeling or being treated. Helping them become conscientious people is not only about cleanliness and responsibility but upholding the golden rule in their treatment of others. So think of the kiddos in your life, and stop to think which side of the barf bag divide they stand. We adults must be mindful that we are not just here for childcare, but to inspire kiddos to become caring people. Oh, and always warn them to check a barf bag before using!


4 Comments on “The Barf Bag Test”

  1. Oh my word, Cheryl, one of your funniest posts yet! As someone who can picture exactly what the Franck girls looked like staring down the boy in the plane, this totally cracks me up. Thanks so much for the lunchbreak laugh!!! 🙂 Awesome.

  2. Aspen says:

    I laughed, so hard!


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