Imagine this scenario: A frazzled mom and dad finally getting on the plane at LAX with 3 youngsters and about 49 pieces of allowable handluggage, after using two large trolleys to get our 12 checked pieces of luggage to the ticket counter, waving a last goodbye to friends before maneuvering through x rays, taking off everyone’s shoes and dumping all our treasures onto the conveyor belt, and stumbling down the aisle trying to find places to store all our loot overhead…
We all get settled, eat dinner at about 2 am, mom promptly vomits after a likely combination of seaweed soup and spicy pepper paste drizzled over the Korean meal, and the kids fall asleep over their food. They wake up 7 hours later, raring to go, and unfortunately we have to inform everyone that there are about 6 hours left to go before landing…We transit smoothly (considerin the dozens of bags draped across the stroller, and 2 energetic big sisters running and climbing on everything in sight at the airport in Seoul), and land at our final destination an hour later.
The only hitch? When the health forms are collected by officials screening every traveler’s temperature looking for bird, swine, horse and any other possible kind of flu, Mom is taken aside for further questioning because the box was checked for “vomiting.” I am ushered into a room with a health officer dressed to combat mutant killer germs from head to toe, and handed a face mask. To the background chorus of wails of “maaamaaa” from out in the hall, I spend the next 1 1/2 hours trying to explain (via a fresh-faced college student with barebones English hauled in from down the hall somewhere) that it really was a fluke, I have not been sick and this was a weak midwestern stomach’s reaction to Asian delicacies. Many forms are filled with Chinese characters, and I must open my mouth and say Aaah. Oh no! There is something really bad in your mouth! I am told. You need to go and see a doctor. He asks my husband’s and my profession, and I tell him we are doctors. I suspect is is a food fragment, but the health officer cannot be convinced. After having my temperature taken 3 times and told it was borderline at 37.1 C, and repeated warnings to go to the hospital if I get any worse (plus some silent prayers on my part), they release me. The wailing chorus finally ceases as mama appears (sans face mask) and we collect our luggage.
PS. We are told later by friends that we were fortunate that it was only an hour–most people get quarantined for up to a week!