Day 4 in a Month of Writing: Defining Moments or Times I Literally Choked

The one on the left claims she didn't want to "cause a scene".

The one on the left claims she didn’t want to “cause a scene”.

The challenge of committing to writing something daily for a month for me is my desire to actually document something of interest to people, while getting in the habit of finding inspiration from activities in my daily life. Today I am taking my inspiration from a single mother in Colorado. She and I were coworkers at a department store while she was in high school and working her first job and I was working three part-time gigs and expecting my first baby. She had an affinity for career wear and attended a strict high school, perhaps Baptist. I remember that she had a piano she loved and had plans for a custom desk when she graduated high school and began college. For some reason that description might leave one thinking she was very serious. That would not be the case, she was mature but with a wickedly keen sense of humor. Years passed and via Facebook we have reconnected. She is hilarious and posts work related bits, pictures of her genuinely cute son and his foray into pet ownership with his hamster. Her work-related post today was more alarming than funny. She was choking in her cube and it seems none of her coworkers wished to be inconvenienced by checking to see if she might need some sort of attention.

I shared with her an episode that I had choking, which I will close my piece with. There are three choking incidents in my life that I recall actually being frightened that I might simply run out of air. The first recollection of choking I shared earlier this week when explaining to a friend my dislike for a particular yogurt sundae topping. My mother was alone with my brothers and I at the cabin (which meant no car, no phone and a long walk to the nearest farm if we had a true emergency). We always had a bag of marshmallows for roasting over the coals of the grill after dinner. I was young enough that the potty chair was in the cabin. My brothers had a marshmallow fight and I picked one up and basically inhaled it. I still remember the panic in my mother’s face as she opened my mouth and inserted her fingers, can practically feel her almond-shaped nails grazing the back of my throat and pulling out the gooey obstruction.

Years later while babysitting, my young charge grabbed a Dorito off of the table and I heard that same sound of an object being inhaled and the airflow coming to an abrupt halt.  In a panic, he ran for his room. When I got to him he was already red and I picked him up and tossed him above me and grabbed him in the gut. The contents of his stomach landed on the top of my head, along with a perfectly intact triangular corn chip. Good thing I was able to save him, he was the Jr. Groomsman in my wedding years later.

The second choking incident I recall having came on a rare night as a child that I was home alone with my father. I was about three or four because I was sitting next to the coffee table on a rag rug and we didn’t get wall-to-wall carpeting until I was five. My dad was seated on the couch watching TV, which was something he did not do often. I remember that Green Acres was on, which was exactly the kind of programming that kept my dad away from the TV unless it was a National Geographic or Jacques Cousteau “special” (notice how once you have a few hundred channels available we don’t get much in the way of “specials” anymore?). My stay-at-home mother was gone at a Church circle meeting and I will assume my brothers were at the ice rink, a scouting event or the Linden Hills library. I remember being happy and sitting with my little red box with the pretty lady wearing the bonnet on it. A perfect kid-sized treat, raisins! I can still remember the rattling sound as I inhaled one and then the silence as I could not swallow it or get it to come back up. I remember wondering how to get my dad’s attention and for some little kid reason there was a flash of “will I be in trouble?”.  My father did notice, came around the table and scooped me up and gave me a firm wallop with his man-sized hand on my little preschooler back and there came the raisin and then a huge gulp of air. I detest raisins to this day.

While dining out with my family when my kids were small I was seated across from my husband and daughter when I realized she was choking on a mozzarella stick. You know how they can remain stringy and still attached even after you’ve bitten through them? First I had to make my husband aware and then have him slide out of the booth and pull her out. By now I had actually learned how to do the Heimlich Maneuver and on the first thrust up came her dinner. I still remember the looks from the four older women in the next booth. Apparently saving our daughters life had ruined their meal. Really? So much better to go home and tell your neighbors about the lovely and very quiet family behind you at dinner that let their daughter choke to death so as not to inconvenience you.

Which brings me to this gem, my adult choking experience from many years ago. After a night of drinking in Northern Michigan with a friend from college I laughed and inhaled a limp piece of lettuce that felt like it cling wrapped itself over my wind pipe. We were seated in a corner and the only person who could see me and hear the very small gasps I could get was my drunk friend who froze and did nothing. Just as I was about to clear the table with my arm to get someone else to notice I had this strange sneeze-like reaction, which dislodged the lettuce and planted it on the wall (where it stuck) over my friends shoulder. Upon catching my breath I asked why she had done nothing. Her answer was “I didn’t want to make a scene.” I assured her that an ambulance, cops, the county coroner and my corpse in the restaurant would likely have caused a scene too. I still remember what I was laughing about but I will save that for another story.


One thought on “Day 4 in a Month of Writing: Defining Moments or Times I Literally Choked

  1. Mia says:

    It’s a good lesson for all to learn (or remember) how to do the Heimlich Maneuver! I had to learn it when operating a daycare business years ago.

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