I’m back in Bangkok, finally, after 32 hours of traveling, at least 3 of which were spent in various bathrooms trying to dig a piece of plastic out of my vagina.
WELCOME BACK, Y’ALL!
This isn’t how this trip was supposed to start, obviously… me, explaining to a heavily-armed Swiss customs agent that my menstrual cup is suctioned to my cervix… him, needing a translation of “menstrual cup”… me, saying all the words I can think of for “period” and “device” and “stuck” and “14 hours, it’s already been 14 hours, I’ve only got a 4-hour layover before another 10 hour flight, I need a fucking doctor NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!”
Quick pause, for the dudes reading (or the ladies who don’t know what a menstrual cup is)…
A menstrual cup is a squishy silicone garden gnome hat that you shove up in your hoo-hah to catch all your period stuff.
It’s supposed to be better for your body and the environment than tampons, and “more convenient for travel.” (Ha.) Apparently it’s changing the lives of millions of women in Africa because tampons and pads are too expensive or inaccessible, and so girls end up missing like a week of school every month. With a menstrual cup, you just pop that sucker in and go about your day. It fills up, you dump it out, pop it back in, easy peasy.
A lady-time dream.
Until it gets leech-stuck to your cervix and you’re in the Zurich airport.
Back to my story.
It took five people to decide whether this thing I was telling them about my vagina was true or if I was just trying to sneak into Switzerland (as if that’s the brilliant story I’d come up with to sneak into Switzerland). In the end they stamped my passport with an emergency visa, and escorted me to the airport medical center which is, inexplicably, outside of the airport.
It takes at least twenty minutes to walk there, through duty-free shops and waiting areas and baggage claims, and I cry the whole way. I’m not much of a crier, really, especially about medical stuff, but something about this situation freaked me out in a way I haven’t experienced before. I’m blubbing like a big ol’ baby, y’all. Ridiculous.
To make things even more dramatic, the airport people have have decided it’s best to have two security agents flank me, close, as I walk. They are carrying very large guns. The girl agent tries to make small talk with me. I now have snot running down my face. The guy agent asks me multiple times if I need a wheelchair. He is so severely awkward when he does this because he knows as well as I do that a stuck menstrual cup doesn’t mean your legs don’t work.
We walk past hundreds of people who stare at the disaster of a woman being escorted out of the airport by people in uniforms with big guns. I wonder if they think I tried to smuggle in a monkey or something. I pretend this is what had happened because, in my mind, that would be far less humiliating.
Note: I recognize that I’m all “Oooh, it was so humiliating for people to know about this!” and here I am telling the internet. I don’t know what to say about this other than things are just way funnier after the fact.
Anyways. Me, the two armed guards and my imaginary monkey finally make our way to the Zurich Airport Medical Center and approach the front desk.
Here’s a thing about medical stuff in other countries: They don’t give a flying fuck about your privacy. They will announce your shit to an entire lobby full of people for zero reason. Actually, that’s not right – they will make YOU announce it to an entire lobby full of people, usually multiple times. No writing it down discretely on a little form, no taking you into an exam room to have a private conversation. You can’t even be subtle about it. “I’m having a female issue” will not suffice. There is no possible way you’re seeing a doctor until the entire building knows about that thing you put in your vagina.
So, basically, that happened.
And yet despite my detailed description of my situation, the woman at the front desk is confused. The doctor, she explains, is not a gynecologist, to which I want to respond “Duh, we’re at the airport, I didn’t figure.” But instead I croak out a desperate “PLEEEEEEEASE” because by this point I’m already 3-hours past the “call a doctor immediately” mark, and I really, really don’t want to die in Zurich.
She makes several phone calls and consults with every person who works there, and then disappears into the back. I stand awkwardly with the security guards, who yes, have been there with their guns the whole time.
She returns with a grin and says “Okay, he’s going to try!” The room erupts in a cheer. The nurses all give me big smiles. The security guards pat me on the shoulder. My monkey does a little dance in the corner.
I sit for 30 minutes in the lobby while they “prepare the room” which I find both hilarious and terrifying. I try to imagine what my cervix must look like after 15 hours of suction. I settle on a way grosser version of this:
Eventually I’m called back to the exam room. The nurse is pregnant which makes me feel better because she, too, has something stuck up in her ladyparts which will have to be extracted at some point. She tells me to “make free” which I interpret to mean “take off your clothes.” (Thankfully, I’m right about that.) I climb up on the table, pantsless, put my legs in the stirrups and await further instruction.
I notice immediately that, in all that time preparing the room, they’ve forgotten any sort of blanket or sheet for me to cover myself with. They’ve also forgotten to close the blinds on the wall of massive windows looking out onto the tarmac.
Every person flying in or out of Zurich now has a full, unobstructed view of my goods.
Luckily, I have some experience with prolonged unintentional vagina exposure to large numbers of people (a story for another time…), so I take it in stride.
The doctor comes in and shakes my hand. “I’m the doctor,” he says, and I respond with a garbled monologue about how sorry I am that he has to dig around in my vagina when I’m sure he just wanted to be a simple airport doctor who never has to think about vaginas much less dig around in them, and oh no, you’re wearing all white, this was the wrong day to wear all white, ha ha, HOLY SHIT YOU LOOK EXACTLY LIKE DAVID HASSELHOFF.
My memories of the next 5 minutes are like a series of stills from a slasher movie. There are massive pliers and sprays of blood and whimpers from a terrified woman. There is David Hasselhoff, donning his most serious “guy staring into a body-hole he’s pried open real big” face.
There is pain.
There are more tears.
And finally, there is a small wet pop and a flood of warm relief.
I will not die in Zurich, hallelujah.
Dr. Hasselhoff immediately runs out of the room because he did not sign up for this shit (or someone’s drowning in the lobby – could’ve been that), and I lay on the table, full-on sobbing while the pregnant nurse starts cleaning up.
I wish I could say that’s the end of the story, but what happens next is maybe the best part. (If you’re into horrifying gross stuff, or me humiliating myself.)
Alright. Here’s the best part.
At some point while I was up on the table, they raised it up really high, presumably because David Hasselhoff is tall and doesn’t like to hunch over when doing his doctor work. I somehow didn’t realize this, and so when I tried to get off the table, the floor was not where I expected it to be, and I started to fall. The nurse ran toward me, slow-mo style, but before she could grab my hand, I caught myself on the little table that held…
You ready for this?
…every tool that Dr. H had used to extract that thing from my insides…
…the thing he extracted…
FOR REAL, ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?
…a little bowl, about two-thirds full…
of my ladyblood.
The scene was every bit as horrible as you’re imagining. All of it, everywhere. On the floor. On the nurse. On my clothes, which were way over on the other side of the room. On the monkey, who doesn’t even exist. On the backs of my eyelids, right here when I close my eyes, all the time, for the rest of my life.
I stand there, frozen, in complete, bloody shock. I look at the door. I could run out, but I have no pants on. I look at the floor. This poor pregnant nurse has to clean all of this up.
I look at her. She looks at me.
We stand there for a minute, in total silence.
And then, in the sweetest, most gracious gesture I think I’ve ever seen, she takes off her gloves and takes my hands in hers, and smiles. “It’s okay. Just care for yourself.” She pats my hair and I completely lose it.
She brings me towels and warm water and I put on my clothes and find the bathroom, where I wash my face and try to collect myself.
I go to the front and pay my 80 francs, and walk back into the airport to catch my connecting flight. I sit in my seat in a daze – throbbing head, puffy eyes, and the strangest ache in my deepest depths. And for the entire 10 hours of that flight, and even still, as I sit safe and happy in a hostel in Bangkok, I send all the gratitude in my soul to all those people in the world who do thankless, disgusting work every day for dorks like me.
And also for government-subsidized health care, cuz that shit would’ve been triple in America, no doubt.