Janet Gilbert: Don't rock the boat ... or anything else unstable

I don't really like boats, so don't surprise me with one, unless the surprise you're looking for is "Oh, wow! Just what I never wanted!"

I think it's because I have always suffered from motion sickness. Even as a child riding the Fire Island ferry during the summer — a brief trek across the Great South Bay that more resembles a water-taxi route than a sea journey — I would race to claim a seat in the open area up top, away from the strong smell of fuel that increased my discomfort with the tilting of the horizon.

Because of my propensity for queasiness, my parents always traveled with Dramamine and would give me a dose before any long car trip. As it turns out, Dramamine had the unexpected, pleasant side effect of making the 9-year-old me a less annoying, drowsier traveler who was not always trying to get a game of charades or car bingo going. I would usually doze off. It's no wonder I can't remember anything of our family driving tour of the Amish country in Pennsylvania.

On short jaunts, I always got the front seat without a fight from my siblings, where I sat like a soldier — never reading or knitting or doing anything that would require a change in my field of focus. I chewed gum. I cracked the window. I kept a plastic bag on my lap. Invariably, I would end up weakly whispering, then desperately shouting the classic suggestion-turned-command, "Can you pull over, Dad? Pull over now? Now! PULL OVER RIGHT NOW!"

I seemed to outgrow my motion sickness once I could drive myself; for example, I am now less affected by the twists and turns of Rock Creek Barfway. And if I am piloting a personal watercraft or paddling a canoe, I have no issues. It only seems to happen when I am a passenger and can't anticipate rapid changes in direction. I had this motion-sickness epiphany one weekend when my children were in middle school and I realized I could play the video game Mario Kart, but I could not watch them play it.

You would think this insight would lead me to avoid motion-sickness risks like the Sidewinder at Hershey Park, the neighborhood sledding hill on a spinning disc or the river rapids in a bobbing, twisting tube — but no. I always hope I will be cured. And I'm about to participate in the grandest motion-sickness experiment ever — a family reunion cruise.

The way I look at it, I am very excited to see my entire family, even if it means I will be carrying a plastic bag at all times. Because I am solutions-oriented, I've taken down the toll-free number for an online learning institute to see if I can combine their certifications for "Computer Repair" and "Legal Assistant" with "Cruise Boat Operator." Then if things get a little rough, I can simply head for the bridge and take the wheel, while adjusting the monitors and jotting down notes for any future lawsuits brought against me.

Of course, I have other options, such as packing Dramamine. Sure, I might become the sluggish, lethargic relative who dozes on the deck chair and rereads the same chapter of her book the entire week. But all those tropical islands will no doubt bring back fond memories of Amish country.

I have heard that the patch is good, and so I'm planning to stock up, even if I end up looking like the Raggedy Ann of tropical cruisers.

At any rate, everyone I know who has been on a cruise assures me that the ships are so huge you don't feel the rocking, and I believe them. Just as I believe my ship's captain will be Gavin MacLeod from "The Love Boat."

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