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