Dehydration is NO FUN (graphic)

Wednesday night, Bill Simmons, ESPN’s “Sports Guy” came to the Bookstore for a signing of The Basketball Book, which had just been published in paperback. I was thinking maybe 100 people would show up, but probably six or seven times that came. The line started at our Mini-Minfo desk, snaked through the DVD aisles, along the back wall by the DVD cases, down past art and architecture to the CDs, snaked through those and the computer book aisles, then ran along the wall again, past Math and Science into Self Improvement, Health Reference, along the Cooking Wall, into Paperchase, past the elevator, through Romance, and Mystery and True Crime. The line make a sharp turn and ran along the entrance to the Kid’s section, then past Education and Child Care, past Science-Fiction and Untranslated Literature where it finally ended at African-American Fiction. If more people had shown up, we were going to run them up the stairs and back towards Biography and Calendars.

Our store is 35,000 square feet. Most of it is the lower level. Long story short: it was a lot of fucking people (I couldn’t begin to guess, but we sold over four hundred books, and some people who came for the signing brought their own — we had maybe 5 or 6 hundred people?) . Thankfully, Simmons signs fast.

When I work at the Bookstore, I frequently wear a sweater. The store isn’t evenly heated: some places are nice and toasty, others are kind of drafty. So I didn’t really pay any attention to the fact that I was wearing a nice thick sweater. My night was fairly laid-back: I held a big sign that said “END OF LINE”. Tame, right?

Except that about 7:30, I began to feel some cramps. I made my way to the employee restroom, and, well, let me ask you a question: have you ever been dry-heaving AND suffering from diarrhea at the same time? It’s no fun. A few minutes of that, and I felt better and went back on the floor. About forty minutes later, I was back in the restroom, with more of both symptoms. I had no strength and was soaked in sweat. At one point, I sort of fell onto the cold title of the restroom floor, my boxers and jeans around my ankles and just tried to soak up the coolness.

My store radio was still on. At some point, I guess one of the managers figured out I was out of action. The store closed at 9pm, but there were still people in the store waiting to get their books signed, so they were permitted to stay. Meanwhile, I made my way out of the restroom, asked if I could leave right then and there, was told yes, and promptly collapsed back into the restroom again as I didn’t have the strength to walk any further.

Look: I’ve got a lot of faults. But getting sick isn’t something that happens to me that much. And even when I do get sick, like with the flu, I’ve usually still got the strength to, y’know, walk where I want to walk, or do the laundry, or whatever. And the other night, I just had nothing. I was soaked in sweat, and walking took an incredible amount of energy. At some point, I left the restroom and put on my scarf and coat. At this point, I collapsed into a chair and lay my head on the big industrial paper cutter.

“Didn’t you ask to leave like an hour ago?” someone asked.

“Mmm-hmmm,” I muttered, asking if I could borrow some cash from one of the managers so I could take a cab home. He gave me a cup of water and handed me a $20.

Another manager asked me what my symptoms were, then said: “You’re dehydrating. It happened to my daughter: take off your coat and sweater.”

I did, and moved into the GM’s office, where, reclined into a big comfy chair, with my feet propped up on his desk, and the lights off, and a big cup of water in my hand, I recovered. I mean: not a lot, but after twenty minutes or so I was unable to move under my own power and felt like I wasn’t on the Front Line of Death anymore (so that was good).

I drink a lot of water, particularly at my Office Job. I have a big beer mug that I use for at-work drinking purposes, except hah hah!, non alcoholic-drinking purposes. It makes a good hot chocolate mug for winter mornings, and transitions to hold lots of nice cold water. I probably drink at least six mugs worth of H20 over the course of 7-3pm. But with so many people in the store Wednesday night, and wearing the sweater as I was, I clearly needed to be drinking water.

I got the Overnight Supervisor to give me a bag check and let me out of the store, and I flagged a cab (by my count, only the fifth time since I’ve lived in DC that I’ve taken a cab). I got home, cranked the heat, and collapsed into bed.

This was like 10:30. At about 11, I thought I was about to dry heave again, but … no.

It wasn’t dry heaving, it was legitimate, and copious amounts of vomit spewed out of my mouth. I felt like I should’ve been on the Exorcist. I really should have kept a towel with me, but I didn’t. My poor, poor carpet. This lasted a couple of minutes (felt like hours), and I changed the sheets on my bed and went back under the sheets for sixteen hours of fitful rest: yes, I finally pulled myself out of bed for longer than a moment or two at 1pm. Empty plastic water bottles ringed my bed.

That’s pretty much how I spent all day today: in bed. Sleeping, or not. I forced myself to eat a pretzel a little after 4, even though I wasn’t at all feeling hungry. Around 5 I actually feel asleep, legitimately, and stayed asleep until pushing 10.

And now it’s a little after 11pm. I am (mostly) awake, and I feel a million times better than I did last night, and a thousand times better than I did six hours ago.

So the moral of the story here is: drink your water. And if this hasn’t been enough to convince you to drink your water, I’d be more than happy to discuss the consistency of the diarrhea.

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