(youtube vid via Metafilter)
At 11, I broke my collar bone playing football at school. At the hospital, they tried injecting me with anaesthetic, but I was so fat it didn’t have much impact, so they switched me onto the nitrous oxide. I can still picture the high mullioned window going blotchy and indistinct as I took my second and third huffs.
I remember the nurse saying to me, ‘Feels just like getting drunk, doesn’t it?’
To which I mumbled, ‘I don’t know – I’m 11.’
Then it’s all a bit of a blank until I overheard the same nurse saying, ‘We’d better stop – it’s having a weird effect on him,’ and I realised I was singing at the top of my voice, whilst crying.
The phenomenon of huffing gas – or ‘hippy crack’, as it’s usually known – at festivals, seems so odd to me. It gives you a brief, euphoric high and burst of energy, kind of supercharging whatever else you’re on, but at the centre of the experience is this terrifying moment of existential truth, where you become hyper-aware of your brain, squatting in its dismal little cockpit of bone as it briefly reboots. I remember seeing a friend inhale a balloon. He kind of zoned out for thirty seconds, then punched the ground and sprang to his feet.
‘Yes!’ he said. ‘That’s exactly how it feels to die!’
Oh great. Thanks for the buzz-kill, Monsieur Sartre.