Perfect for the day after Valentine’s, as this story is not romantic in the least, but does lead to a marriage.
A sweeping disclaimer for the series of unattractive and unsanitary details that follow: I am not normally this gross. Try and hold that in mind.
Okay! Here we go.
When Jordan (my husband) and I first started dating, we were long distance - I was in Huntsville, Alabama finishing my second year of Teach For America; he was in Birmingham finishing dental school at UAB. About two months in, I invited him to a little gig I was playing with a good friend of mine, Andrew, at a cafe in Tuscaloosa. It wasn’t anything big, just a few dozen people in a coffee shop.
As the gig drew closer, I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything for dinner. Seeing as it was about 9 o’clock at night and I normally eat every three hours like an infant, I knew not eating and performing would be a bad idea. What if I passed out in front of my adorable new boyfriend? (This outcome was unlikely, but I regularly make up scenarios a lot more stupid than this as an excuse to eat, so whatever.)
I got in the car and zoomed around the block to see if there was anything remotely healthy for me to grab quickly ― but, alas, every restaurant was fast food. I stopped at McDonald’s.
Let me say here that I actually love McDonald’s. I know. It’s disgusting. Judge me. I certainly judge me. But at this period in my life, I was trying to eat well, so I ordered a salad with grilled chicken on top.
Frantically, because we were on in about ten minutes, I ordered, pulled to the front of the line and got the salad from whatever 14-year-old was working the drive-through window. Sadly, said 14-year-old hadn’t popped the clear plastic top onto the salad container properly, so as I took it, the salad spilled onto my center console and into the backseat of my car.
I pulled into the parking lot in front of the venue and was faced with a decision:
Do I cut my losses, not eat, and risk getting the shakes while singing in front of my boyf for the first time? Or...
Do I eat only the parts of the salad that aren’t touching the floor in order to have some semblance of a meal in my stomach?
I’m sure you can deduce which one I chose.
The problem was ― well, the other problem, as I’d say we’re pretty far past “normal” already here ― that the non top-popping genius at McDonald’s had ALSO failed to include cutlery.
So there I was, squattin’ in an abandoned parking lot behind the open back passenger door, eating a salad off the floor of my car with my hands like a racoon. Haven’t we all been there?
After completing what I felt was a satisfying and safe amount of floor-of-my-car salad eating, I went back into the venue to discover that Jordan had arrived. I tried to be extra charming, despite the fact that shame was radiating off me like a stink for what what had just happened in the parking lot.
I was also sweating, because, I forgot to mention, I’d somehow parked in front of a 6-foot high construction fence that spanned a horizontal half-mile in front of my car. So I could either move my car (there was no parking spot to be seen) or climb the fence to get to the venue which was about 10 yards on the other side of the fence. I climbed the fence because #ofcourse. As you should already have put together, my judgment was very bad.
The show went great. Andrew was on fire, and I felt really proud of our set. We closed with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which, I’M AWARE, is a very cliche White People Folk Song. But I really liked our version and Jordan seemed to, too.
Given that it was a Friday night, Jordan had invited me back to Birmingham with him for the weekend. I told him I’d be happy to see him on Friday night, but that I was going to spend time with my parents (who also lived in Birmingham) for the rest of the weekend. This was my attempt to play it cool.
After we left the venue, Jordan and I got into our respective cars and drove back to Birmingham. I called my friend Wes to tell him every detail of what has now become known as Floor Salad. He laughed and told me I was an idiot and was absolutely, 100 percent going to get sick.
“No I won’t,” I scoffed. “I have an iron gut. I’m a McAnnally. We grew up on marshmallow and chocolate chip sandwiches, for God’s sake. Don’t underestimate me.”
When we arrived back in Birmingham, Jordan took me for frozen yogurt and we headed back to his his apartment. I should mention here that this was the very first time I’d ever seen his place.
The next morning, I awoke. As most women in new relationships do, I was trying to convince Jordan that I woke up each morning looking like little birds had arranged my hair and applied my makeup in my sleep. Alas, one whole side of my face was so pillow-smashed that it was basically one giant feature (eyes, ear, half-mouth) and I think I was drooling. Despite that, he very sweetly asked if he could take me to breakfast.
“That sounds greandoibofojs,” I choked out. In the middle of the word “great,” vomit had risen in my throat.
I swallowed hard.
“Sorry. Wow. That was weird and gross!” I said, way too loud and way too fast. “Anyway, yes! I’d love to gooidnaoifjaoidf.”
There was no going back.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, trying to deliver this next line with as much finesse and class as possible, “but I think I’m going to be sick. Where is your bathroom?”
To hear me say that sentence, you’d assume I had all the time in the world to locate the nearest toilet, but the reality was that I had a mouth fulla bile and was about to lose my shit. Once I found his bathroom, I threw up immediately. Multiple rounds. Jordan’s apartment was older, so the bathroom door sat about 2 inches off the tile floor, making the bathroom a veritable echo chamber of acoustic wonder. I’m sure he could hear every single thing. I did notice that he had a remarkably clean and well-kempt bathroom for a bachelor. Noted.
After I felt the wave of nausea pass, I stood up, brushed my teeth with my finger and his toothpaste, and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. WOOF. Not my best. But the show had to go on.
I threw back my shoulders and headed out.
“Are you okay?” he said sympathetically. He, ever the gentleman, was pretending I had not just reversed my stomach contents mere feet away from him.
“Totally! I honestly don’t know what that was about. Such a freak thing. I practically never throw up.” I chirped as I started to apply eyeliner. “Just give me five minutes and I’ll be ready to head outuoigojgoigjfda...”
The words were barely out of my mouth when I dropped the eyeliner and shot back toward the bathroom for round two. It was only when my knees hit the cold tile floor for the second time that it hit me: I have food poisoning. I have food poisoning from a salad I ate off the floor of my car LIKE AN ANIMAL. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me.
After that, the pretense was gone. I dragged myself off the floor of the bathroom and, one eye lined, said to Jordan, “I think I have food poisoning.”
He’d made himself scarce in the other part of his apartment so I wouldn’t feel like he’d been able to hear me, which was another ace move.
“I am humiliated,” I said. “This is a disaster.”
“Do you want to lie down for a minute?” He grabbed a blanket and offered me his couch.
“Thanks,” I said. “I really do. This is awful, I’m so sorry. Really, I’m so so sorry.” I couldn’t stop apologizing and he couldn’t stop being totally polite and accommodating.
“Really, don’t worry about it. I’m in the medical field, it doesn’t bother me,” he probably lied through his teeth. “Hang on.”
Within minutes he’d brought over a paper towel of saltines and a Sprite. I MEAN, COME ON, PEOPLE. I should’ve married him right there. Though, to be fair, he probably would’ve liked his bride not to have vomited recently.
Eventually I realized that our breakfast date was not going to happen. I knew I had a limited amount of time before the next round struck, so I tried to gather myself and say goodbye to Jordan before he had to witness Round 3 of the Thunderdome.
He walked me to my car and told me to call him if I needed anything. I then sped from Jordan’s apartment to my parents’ house.
The trip was about 11 minutes long, but on this particular day, it seemed like years. The remnants of last night’s salad were still on the floor of my back seat and I felt like a junkie waking up after an evening of using and seeing the evidence everywhere. (Note: I have never had this experience and am only drawing the comparison from what I read in Postcards from the Edge. But it seems pretty similar.)
As I traversed the windy roads of Mountain Brook, Alabama, I started to get the twinge in my stomach. Oh, no. This is happening.
There were no shoulders on the road since it was cut through a mountain, and I didn’t have the presence of mind to turn into someone’s driveway, so my only option was to find something to throw up into. In a panic, I searched my car - what?? What could I use?
I looked into the passenger seat to discover that my only option was the plastic McDonald’s bag my salad had been served in.
And so, literally a block from my parents’ house, all while driving, I threw up into a Mcdonald’s bag with the words “I’m Lovin’ It!” emblazoned on the side. I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s my low point in life so far. And if it isn’t, I’d like to formally resign myself to my bedroom forever.
I screeched into my parents’ driveway. They were having their roof re-done, so there were construction guys everywhere as I leapt out of the car, still running, and sprinted through the front door. My parents, bewildered as to why I was in their house given that they had absolutely no idea I was in town already, asked no questions. Maybe it was the dried puke on my chin. Maybe it was the crazed expression in my eyes. Maybe it was the telepathic messages I was sending them that I did not, in fact, want to discuss the fact that I was in town seeing my brand new boyfriend and christened his bathroom with Floor Salad. My mom flew into caretaker mode and attended to my every need.
For the next 24 hours I was a true delight to be around. I’d liken it to that scene set in the bridal salon in the feature film Bridesmaids. If you are a living breathing person and do not get that reference, close the browser.
I did see Jordan one more time that weekend, on my way back to Huntsville (to a job where I instructed America’s youth, mind you). He was studying for his dental school exams at a local library. When I studied for my finals in college at the library, usually what that entailed was eating Cheetos, throwing things at other, more diligent people and whining about all the work I had to do while actually accomplishing none of it. Jordan, conversely, had snacks, a water, pencils laid out, perfectly stacked books, and headphones. He was not playing. And as such, he was not interested in being too close to me because I might be contagious.
Like the sewer rat that I was, I stayed a solid three feet from him during our interaction, thanked him for his hospitality and care, and left thinking I’d probably never see this guy again.
So let this be a lesson to all you single gals: your impulse might be to fix yourself up, get a wax, do your hair, throw on your best dress, and hit the town. Sure, you’ll turn some heads! But if you really want to attract a mate, a better test might be to head to the bars covered in vomit with half your makeup on and see who tries to take care of you.
Worked for me.
*A note that I have since learned it is likely that it was not, in fact, the floor of my car that gave me food poisoning; rather, undercooked chicken or bad lettuce. So if you're tryna judge me for Floor Salad...well, go ahead, I guess, but at least know that my car floor is clean. #byehaters