The Sickest I’ve Ever Been

An analogy for personal experience as evidence of novelty

“A couple of years ago, I boarded a deep sea fishing boat for 3-hour excursion.

Winds were moderate and the water rough.

Within the first 10 minutes, motion sickness set in. I knew the boat couldn’t turn around and that I’d made a huge mistake in a) drinking a lot of coffee beforehand, and b) not taking Dramamine.

It was the worst 3 hours of vomiting in my life—indeed, the worst 24 hours of illness I’ve ever experienced. I said, out loud, numerous times, “I am going to die.” When dolphins were leaping out of the water, I couldn’t even look

I puked in the car ride back to the beach house, at the house, and several times throughout the night. I feel nauseous right now just thinking about that day.

I wasn’t the only one who got sick on the trip. All but a few passengers – one a cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and another my ten-year-old daughter – barfed at least once. The crew were fine (of course).

Needless to say, based on my then-new experience being on a vessel smaller than a cruise ship many miles from the coastline, I can’t recommend anyone go on deep sea fishing trip. Certainly not on a windy-ish day with choppy seas.

But, what if I said that there was something unique and unusual about the ocean waters that day? Or insisted the boat had a design that spiked the propensity of passengers to retch over the rails? Or argued that the captain must have been navigating in a negligent manner, or drunk, and needs his license taken away? All because I WAS THE SICKEST I’VE EVER BEEN AND OTHER PEOPLE WERE REALLY SICK TOO, DARN IT!

What would you say to me?

If you’re my middle sister (whose child is the Coast Guard Cadet) you might say, “Caitlin and the crew were fine, so it couldn’t have been that different from the norm.”

If you’re my youngest sister (a physician and the one who paid for the trip as a gift) you might say, “That was the most motion-sick I’ve ever seen you, Jessica. Why didn’t you take Dramamine?”

If you’re my spouse (who threw up once) you might say, “No one is surprised that you were sick the whole time. You know not to drink coffee before a flight. Yet you drank a full Yeti of dark roast, no cream, on the car ride over.”

If you’re my mom (who wasn’t on the trip and heard about it later) you might say, “Oh no, I’m so sorry! Dad and I went deep sea fishing once and we were so sick. Never again!”

Whoever you are, I hope you would find a way to tell me I’m wrong.

Jessica Hockett

There’s no perfect analogy. So in the comments section the author had to clarify:

“The point of my analogy is that personal experience isn’t evidence of novel factors or unique conditions”

Jessica Hockett

… and suggested…

For a more formal and scientific exchange on the topic, see the debate between Martin Neil. Jonathan Engler, & me and Dr. Pierre Kory.

Jessica Hockett