Internal Power Wash

by Katie Weekley

I have wonderful moments when everything happens so magically, or quirkily, or perfectly, that I think, "This is like a scene from a movie." My less than wonderful moments, however, seem like the Lardass pie eating contest scene from Stand By Me.

My theory is that my latest less than wonderful moment started with an innocent visit to the catering truck while at work, and what I now have to force myself to type but once believed to be a delicious (how could I have been so mistaken) mushroom cannelloni. Now I may never be able to look at another mushroom again.

Not even two hours after my cannelloni encounter, I was on the set thinking (sorry for the unnecessary personal grossness in the title of this important journalistic expose) "What is wrong!? I just went to the bathroom. Again?" My gut was all "Nuh-uh" finger-waving at me, and finally, when it was appropriate, I excused myself to the other camera guys to go visit the honeys. (Honeywagons technically are defined as divided trailers. On the set, the trailers with the bathrooms are simply called "the honeywagon." I have no idea why. I wouldn’t eat honey out of that wagon.)

When I stepped into the honey, the Third Assistant Director stared at me like he was Mulder in a super important cliffhanger episode of the X-Files. Sure enough, I was green as an alien when I looked in the mirror. Then I immediately discovered the worst way to serve mushroom cannelloni. If you are going to visit Opposite Land or Bizarro World, call me because I now have the recipe that serves one hefty portion, in reverse.

Stuffed Pasta Shells with Sauce
Stuffed Pasta Shells with Sauce
Vano, Tom
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The honey’s walls are really thin and I'm extremely barfophobic. I loathe dealing with barfing people. Barfing cats, I somehow put up with. But when people barf, I get all Zen and remove myself from the experience. I remind myself that no one is barfing in front of me on purpose and that they’re doing so doesn't make them bad people. But because I really do intrinsically hate it so much, I try to live by the Barfing Golden Rule: no one should ever have to deal with my puking. Which is why I felt terrible for anyone who may have heard me.

I cleaned up and hoofed to craft service--that luckily was close by—and did some mega mouth swishing with water and then stuffed half a pack of gum between my lips. The alien-spotting Third AD was AWOL, thank goodness, and my secret was safe. In Pollyanna fashion, I believed that I'd gotten everything out of my system and that I could endure working another four or five hours. The end.

But I couldn't stand in any comfortable position. My joints were stiff and my intestines felt like nylons filled with rocks. Finally, when I started shivering, I decided to take the first step in not being hardcore and reported to my friend Juliana.

This is a weird thing I do when I'm sick, or feeling an unusual symptom. It's not for sympathy, but because I'm not used to feeling unwell. I believe that any malaise I suffer would send a normal person to the hospital and I'm just doing the responsible, CDC thing. I’m trying to prevent the outbreak and everyone having to wear hazmat suits as the epidemiologists trace the cause back to Patient Zero. Maybe they’d name the cure for the highly contagious Mushroom Cannelloni Epidemic of 2006 after me.

As I talked to Juliana, I realized that my illness skipped over the topic-of-conversation-phase and was seriously going to impede me. I headed up the stairs to tell the folks in my department who could send me home, when I realized there was no way in the world I could set foot on that hot, stuffy set unless I forever wanted to be known as "The-Girl-Who-Barfed-on-the-Super-Special-Set-and-Wrecked-It-So-Badly-that-They-Had-to-Repaint-and-Now-They're-
Days-Behind-and-Insurance-Won't-Cover-the-Reshoots." So I waited beside the camera equipment for someone to come down.

When the other camera assistant stepped off set, his face registered severe alarm and I barely needed to explain myself before he pushed me out of the workspace. It was all clear. I was going home. The end.

But, much like Lardass' mineral oil-fueled gut rumble, my own belly demanded one last drama queen moment in the sun. As I walked from the set to the stage door, I knew that within seconds I was going to barf in front of everyone. And worse, since the area was crowded there would be no way to tuck my vomit off to the side where everyone could avoid it before a discreet clean-up. Nope. It was Code Red.

I set a goal. All I had to do was make it outside, and if I puked on the asphalt, then it could be cleaned up with a hose. That's all I had to do.

When I got outside, I set my sights farther on the big garbage can right outside the camera truck. I started running, hand over my mouth, communicating undoubtedly the universal sign for “stand waaaay back.” I heard a clamor of voices coming at me, all asking, stupidly, "Are you okay?" ("Why yes, my training for the Barf Steeplechase is going wonderfully. Say, do you mind timing this run?") But no time for sarcasm (really, it was that serious) if I was going to achieve my goal.

Achieve it I did, with a resounding splash, which was actually wonderful since it happened in the confines of a deep, recently emptied, lined garbage can.

I don't remember much after that except for the hands on my back and my savior, (oh my sweet savior) Juliana who came to the rescue with handfuls of paper towels, bottles of water, and cases of gum. When I felt safe enough to pull my head out of the Bin O' Disgust, I learned that the director, the director of photography, and several producers had witnessed my graceful performance. That was an Oscar-worthy finale and a wrap on me!

I headed home but not before making a big show of double bagging the garbage so that no one had to relive the experience. At home, my husband greeted me with phone message tales of others on set who had puked! Four during my short drive home! The experience had grown to mythic proportions!

Fast forwarding to wrap on Friday night, about half the crew (almost twenty of forty) had gone home sick after my workplace disgrace.

Hubbie was oddly proud of me. "You were first, you know."

Um, that's not a good thing. (But, yeah, I was first). And as much as I hate PDBs (public displays of barfing) I did feel my performance justified me going home sick.

I spent the next thirty-six hours flat on my back, except for periodic intervals spent leaning over or sitting on the toilet. I thought I was going to die a few times and I really don't understand how my body came up with all that liquid. But now that it’s over, it seems like I have undertaken a very serious cleanse, like there couldn't possibly be anything bad left inside me.

It was totally not worth it, but it's one way of looking at the bright side or finding a silver lining.

Cynthia Joan Porter
BIO: KATIE WEEKLEY lives on the West Coast where she works in the film industry. Her work has been published in Reading Divas and Green Tricycle. More of her writing can be found at You can reach her at

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