From Joanie:

Recently, I got a text from a friend about an incident last summer asking if I was laughing about it yet. I replied yes, and that I had been laughing about it since the day after, as my being an [expletive deleted]-hat is pretty darn funny.

Here’s the story:

The performers in the company where I was singing decided to go on a float trip down the Illinois River in rural Oklahoma. They’d gone the previous season, and I had been unable to attend—I heard on Facebook and through others all the next summer how much fun it had been, and how I’d missed a good time.

So I was determined to go, despite the description given to one of the new folks that season:

“It’s so much fun! And you can drink!!”

Anytime anyone utters the words “and you can drink!!” I should assume I’m not going to have any fun. It’s not that I don’t drink—I’m Episcopalian, and I think Easter Sunday without a champagne fountain in the choir room before church is weird.

However, there are other variables that must be present when I drink alcohol:
1) lots of water for me to drink
2) a clean bathroom where OCD Joanie can wash her hands
3) food—this could be #1, but we’ll get there
4) absolutely no sunshine—I am very fair, and burn easily, and am susceptible to sun poisoning, which is incredibly painful and gross looking, and which is exacerbated by drinking
5) I have to start drinking early enough that I am not compelled to be responsible for the other people drinking in my company

So you see how the float trip could be problematic. It’s ok—I planned ahead…or so I thought. I meticulously and repeatedly applied sunscreen every half hour. I bought two giant bottles of Smart Water. I didn’t drink at all—I even volunteered to be designated driver. My car was the storage facility for a large portion of the group’s valuables, so I made sure to place my keys (in a plastic baggie, just in case!) in the artistic director’s bag—where could be safer?

I brought snacks--which I ate all at once in the first half an hour of the trip, like a squirrel preparing for winter.

Most of the trip was fun—I didn’t have to babysit the drunks, no one mocked my ridiculously large hat, and I had real bonding time with those aboard the raft my part of the group affectionately named The African Queen, after the Kathryn Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart movie.

Much like the movie, the perpetual heat of the day, and the inherent dangers of a downriver quest soon took over the delightful love story of the gin soaked boat captain and prim school marm. I won’t name who fell into which category in our boat.

If you’ve not seen the movie, there’s a scene where a crocodile slithers up past the boat, and Kathryn Hepburn shivers in fear. Well, it was kinda like that, except instead of a crocodile, it was a girl who was dangerously inebriated for being so near large amounts of water. She slithered up to our raft, and asked for a ride down to where her friends’ raft was.

We of course said sure, and she sallied up into the raft, and in the process, gave me a swift (and audible to the person next to me) kick in the head. This was pretty hilarious to even me, as we’d just closed a show where I’d played a character who’d gotten kicked in the head by a pony as a child.

However, the combination of heat, running out of water, starting to get hungry, and a karate kick to the head meant one thing: INSTANT MIGRAINE. DO NOT BOTHER WITH REGULAR HEADACHE MEDICINE!!! YOU ARE AT LEAST AN HOUR FROM IMMITREX! AND FOOD! AND POTABLE WATER!

I did take a plain old Tylenol someone had…and I’m pretty sure the bottle of water I washed it down with was in fact river water—at that point we weren’t sure.

The others in my raft, who were, at that point, sick of being on the river too…this activity loses its fun quotient pretty rapidly after the first hour and a half.

The group was awesome, and they trucked it to the landing station—it was pretty impressive that my friends and colleagues, who were already physically exhausted, pushed themselves like that for me.

When we got to the landing, I realized my keys were still in the artistic director’s raft, so we’d have to wait for them. One colleague bought me a Powerade and snack, and a gift store travel size container of Advil. We sat and waited, and the migraine went down to a moderate and manageable level—they never really go away until I’m in a dark room with my eyes closed for a few hours.

But it was too late for the hunger.

Even with the tiny snack, my body, which demands a large sit-down meal every two hours, had simply had it.

I was the ticking time bomb that Michael has affectionately named “hangry.” It’s a combination of “hungry” and “angry” because when the two combine, I begin to act like a hungry, angry baby.

It’s horrible. And all it takes is one small, teeny little trigger:

Artistic Director: “Joanie, can you unlock your car ?”

Joanie: “You have my keys in your green bag.”

Artistic Director: “No I don’t.”

Boom. The lit match hits the gas tank and the explosions begin.

It took about an hour for the ranting to stop, during which my (still somewhat) inebriated colleagues called my husband, host family, and AAA.

Meanwhile, as the Hulk, I alternately paced, went fetal screaming “I am not allowed to have fun! I AM NEVER ALLOWED TO HAVE FUN!” and cried that nothing good ever happened to me for the next few hours after that.

It’s a good thing everybody’s phones were locked in my trunk, because had someone tried to film that and put it on Youtube, I think “Joanie Smash” would have been more than words.

What I was actually upset about, and completely unable to communicate, as I had not been fed, watered, and put down for a 30 minute nap at any point that day, was that I knew without the key, the car wouldn’t start at all—you can’t break into a 2007 Honda Civic. As part of a safety and anti-theft measure, if someone (a locksmith, car thief, etc., friendly helpful redneck just passing by) manages to unlock the car from the inside, it sets the car alarm off, which can only be shut off by detaching the battery. To start the car again, even with a spare key (which was five states away), you have to re-program the computer in the car, and the key using a code on a tiny business card the car dealership told me NEVER EVER TO LOSE. It, too, was five states away, safely tucked into our fireproof/waterproof safe.

The second element of grief, in knowing that my car was Fort Knox was this: I would not be able to leave the next day, which would mean I’d miss seeing my sister on one of her rare days off, and I hadn’t seen her since Thanksgiving.

Eventually, my colleagues and friends (who HATED me that day, and with good reason) forced me to eat some ice cream. I know they’ve been walking on eggshells around this story in case mentioning it would trigger some return to Hulk-dom, and for their patience that day, and continued patience with my inner evil four year old, I thank them.

As to the message I received from the artistic director, he had thought of the story because he was in an airport, delayed after a rushed and awful connection. And if his connecting flight didn’t get there in time, he’d miss curtain for tickets at the MET with a good friend. His text read:

“My first thought was I am not allowed to have fun! I am never allowed to have fun! And now I’ve gone fetal on the floor crying.”

I told him he was HANGRY and needed to get a Dr. Pepper and something to eat.

Because if anybody knows how to deal with Hangry, it’s... JOANIE SMASH.