Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Death By Spit

It’s possible to choke to death. It’s possible to choke to death—on your own spit. It’s possible to choke to death on your own spit—at Target. I know. I almost did.

Right there in front of Brian, the checkout boy, who, by the way, was the only person even mildly concerned when I clutched my throat and made the international sign for, “Help! I’m choking to death on my own spit. Get help!”

Heather and Maren, my adult daughters, barely looked up from the magazine rack. Only Brian cared. I think he was worried he was going to have to clean up my spittle-racked remains, should I die right there in front of his register.

My fatal error was in trying to talk, breathe, swallow, and locate my debit card all at the same time. Cannot be done. But that’s me, performing without a net as usual.

As I struggled for life giving oxygen, acid tears melting the makeup from my “T” zone, Maren read a People magazine expressing concern over Gywneth’s alien looking hair. Heather fretted over whether or not her credit card was going to work in the new machines at Target.

I clawed at my neck wildly, flinging my head back and forth and side to side in a primal and elemental need to breathe.

“Boy, that marriage will never last,” Maren said, turning the slick magazine pages.

“Boy, I sure hope this card works this time. It never works in these new machines,” Heather said, digging through the black hole of a purse, hanging on her arm.

When I started smacking my head against the debit card machine, eyes bulging from their sockets, Heather FINALLY glanced up.

“Mom, you’re not doing it right. That’s not how you make the international signal for choking.”

“She’s right. You’re supposed to grab your throat with one hand and open and close your other hand in the air. Like this.”  Maren demonstrated.

“That’s it. That’s how you do it,” Heather said, pointing to her sister. “Hey, what do you think of this shade of lip-gloss? It isn’t the color I wanted; they’re out of all the good colors.  What is this Russia?” They began to discuss the deplorable state of lip-gloss availability. 

My left nostril collapsed.   

“Are you okay, lady?” Brian asked.

“Gurgle, gurgle, gick, nawn.” It was the best I could do at the time.

When I finally managed to clear my own airway by performing the Heimlich maneuver on myself by pulling the handle of the shopping cart sharply into my own sternum, I confronted my daughters.

“Would Brian have had to give me a tracheotomy with an ink pen and a box cutter to get your attention?”

The line of shoppers behind me broke into a rousing cheer.

One nice lady said, “Don’t worry. Someday they’ll have children of their own who will stand idly by while they choke to death on their own spit at Target.”

I raised my handbag in a triumphant, if weak, salute. The line cheered again. Brian grinned.

I paid for my lip-gloss and body shaper, congratulating myself on finding the perfect color of lip coverage—also for surviving—to shop another day. Heather’s card worked in the new machines. Maren did not purchase the magazine.

Linda (Mouth Breather) Zern


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