gasoline has no flavor
Friday, November 11 2005
I had a dental appointment this morning to have another round of things done with my root canal, and this wasn't even the installation of the filling. I suspect that what was being done was the replacement of the antibiotic wad stuffed down in my tooth's root. This is a precaution that wasn't taken by the West Los Angeles dentist who gave my punk rock tooth its ghetto root canal back in 2000. It all went well and I returned home intent on removing a couple final items before the guy came to haul away my pickup truck.
The most easily usable commodity from the old truck was its gasoline, so, with Gretchen's encouragement, I snaked a piece of garden hose down into the tank and tried to carefully start a self-sustaining siphoning process. You can probably guess what happened. Nothing was happening, so I sucked harder and then this bolt of fluid suddenly slammed into the back of my throat and I reflexively swallowed. The fluid was flavorless and the first thing I thought was, "Is that water?" But then I spit out what was in my mouth into my hand and smelled it. Of course it was gasoline. I'd swallowed gasoline! Oh the horror! I ran into the house and gargled a few mouthfuls of water, but that wasn't going to do anything to help my stomach. Upstairs in the bathroom, I drank a bunch of water and then shoved a thumb down my throat. It wasn't easy, but somehow I made myself vomit, multiple times. Each time I did so the air stank of gasoline. Gretchen was there in the early phase of my vomiting and I was so giddy with the ridiculousness of it all that all I could do was proclaim "Binge and purge, baby, binge and purge!" When my stomach began to empty I'd drink some more water and do it all over again, for maybe four or five stomachs of water. I couldn't completely eliminate all the gasoline in my stomach, but I probably got it down to near levels I'd experienced once before, that time back in April of 1996 when I drained beer from a keg into a plastic gallon jug without knowing it had previously been used to transport gasoline.
While I was upstairs vomiting, our friend Ray arrived from Brooklyn. When I figured I'd done all I could, I came downstairs and ate a banana, a peanut butter sandwich, and drank a glass of milk, all in hopes of diluting whatever gasoline remained in my stomach. There was definitely some still down there, something I was reminded of with every burp.
It's probably a bad idea to do a Google search on "accidentally swallowed gasoline" after accidentally swallowing gasoline. I did so and the only things I could find were stories in which the swallowers of gasoline died, in one case from cardiac arrest. Ray did some other searches and learned that a single drop of gasoline in the lungs can kill you, so I should be glad that I had the reflex to swallow instead of, ehh, inhale. When we finally found advice about what to do when one swallows gasoline, the very first thing it said was "do not induce vomitting" (perhaps to avoid accidentally inhaling it). Usually a hospital will send a hose down into the stomach and pump it out that way and then prescrive charcoal tablets. Lacking charcoal tablets, I made do with Pepto-Bismol and pieces of barbecue charcoal (but not the kind pre-soaked in lighter fluid!). Like gasoline, charcoal has absolutely no flavor.
All the scary reading about gasoline poisoning gave me a serious case of the jitters, something I combatted by taking a hot shower and then lying in bed, where I shivered even though I wasn't cold. Gradually, though, I regained my composure and felt relatively healthy. My stomach was a little upset, but it wasn't doing badly considering it had gasoline in it a couple hours before.
In the afternoon I had a housecall up near Saugerties, and by the time I needed to leave I was feeling reasonably okay. As I was driving there, though, my heart started racing and I briefly considered pulling into a stranger's driveway to ask if maybe 911 could be called. I'd been drinking coffee I'd made before the gasoline swallowing incident, and I wondered if maybe this was an evidence that gasoline and caffeine should never be mixed.
The housecall went reasonably well and I didn't have any more scary medical complications the rest of the day. When Gretchen prepared a ravioli dinner tonight, I had a fairly good appetite and little difficulty with indigestion. Beer proved much easier on my stomach than did red wine.
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