Let Me Clear My Throat

That Jared has gone on time and time again how Subway can be a life changer, and boy is he right.

Years ago, I was on a road trip with my mom and two younger siblings.  My sister was sixteen and my wee little brother was nine.  We had spent several days in the lovely city of Richmond, exploring museums and graveyards (it is a problem with me, isn’t it?).  We were now on our way to visit my grandparents and lunch was approaching faster than their house.

We pulled into a strip mall and found a Subway.  It was just a few minutes before twelve and we were so excited to see that we had beat any sort of lunch crowd.  Once seated, we began chowing down on the grub.  I realized that we were in Midlothian, home of my landlord.  What a small world it can be at times, hmm?

I started making jokes about stopping by to visit them as a huge line of ravenous people show up.  “Oh my God, I’m so glad we got here when we did.”

My mom nods while reaching for a potato chip, “I know.  Maybe you should get your landlord a gift certificate for Christmas, because it looks like the whole town of Midlothian eats lunch here.”

You know, there are times that something will strike you as hilarious.  It may have been the vision of my landlord opening up a Christmas card with a Subway gift certificate.  It may have been that I was exhausted from the site seeing.  I was also super worried about leaving my five hundred year old dog and two orphan pigeon teenagers in the care of someone else.  Whatever it was, I laughed at a less than opportune time.  When I say less than opportune, read while sucking sweet tea up a straw.

It’s an unusual feeling when you realize that you have an obstructed airway.  I’ve took CPR classes, I know what the lifeless dummy looks like laying on the floor.  I wasn’t lifeless though, I was still sitting at the table in a Subway in Midlothian and that allowed me way too much time to think.

You are now about to experience the inner thoughts of a crazy lady who can’t breathe….

What in the hell?  Why is there no air moving?  Just breathe, it’s easy.  You do it several times a minute everyday without even thinking about it.  You do it in your sleep, along with snoring, talking, walking and grinding your teeth.  Just take a deep breath.  Nothing.  Why in the hell is there no air moving?

At this point I smile at everyone.  They are all still laughing about subway gift certificates and how Subway is the official meal of Midlothian.  I cover my mouth and fake a yawn, hoping that it will cause whatever I’ve done to reverse itself by me gaping like a fish.  I try to cough only to find out that not only will air not move in, it won’t move out either.

Shit, shit!  Really, in a Subway?  I’m going to die in a Subway.  Oh my obituary is going to look ridiculous.  Eastern Shore woman dies at a Midlothian Subway.  She will be missed by her five hundred year old dog named Get Low and her two pigeons, Pesto and Charlotte Elisabeth.  Shamooki the cat only wants to know who will be responsible for scooping her litterbox from here on out.  Jesus, BREATHE MEL!

“Are you alright?”  I glance up at my mother and nod calmly.

I’m okay.  Of course, I’m okay.  You can infuse five mL’s of saline into a Chihuahua’s trachea during a trans-tracheal wash. There’s no way that I’m choking to death on a sip of tea.  If that damn epigolottis would just ease up and stop clamping down on my trachea, I would be just fine.  Maybe I should meditate, I might be able to relax.  Just relax the epiglottis.

“Are you choking?”

I shake my head.

“Mel, can you breathe?”

I may have cracked a toothy smile at this point in an attempt to keep things under control.

“Can you breathe?”  She looked at my sister who was sitting beside me.  “Slap your sister on the back.”

And the public beating started.  The thuds on my back were the beckoning call for everyone in the restaurant to turn around and see the embarrassment I was suffering.  I, Melanie Moore, was going to die in Subway from a fatal swallow of tea.  After a few seconds of beating, my mom knew that things needed to be taken to a more drastic level.

“Do you want me to do the Heimlich?”

I don’t remember in the CPR videos.  Wasn’t the person always unconscious or legally dead so they didn’t have to suffer the public humiliation of choking?

I held up a finger, gesturing to ‘give me a minute.’  By now, I saw people whipping out their cell phones to videotape the tragedy that would soon be used by SPCA’s to beg for my evil cat’s adoption.  “See, her mother died this horrible suffocation … don’t you want to give this rabid animal a home?”

My mom stood up, “I’m doing it.  You need the Heimlich.”  I violently shake my head, face turning more smurf like by the minute.

Across the restaurant, I hear “Is she choking?  I’m a registered nurse!”

There may have even been a fireman holding a leaf covered cat, or maybe that was a hallucination.

Thank God for small favors, because before my mother had her arms wrapped around me, my  epiglottis let down it’s guard and allowed me to take a breath.

“Breathing… I’m breathing, no Heimlich.”

People let out a relieved sigh, there may have even been clapping.  It was all promptly followed up by my little brother saying, “Can we go now?  I am really ready to go.”

I finally caught my breath and excused myself to the bathroom.  I stared at my face, super red now because all of my newly oxygenated red blood cells were obviously doing the dance of joy.  I was going to live another day.  I would be able to hug my geriatric dog, watch my pigeons in flight and scoop that bad cat’s litterbox again.


Little did I know, this could have been the last time I sat on an anchor.  This is me and the back thumping sister at The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia


11 thoughts on “Let Me Clear My Throat

  1. I LOooooVE your pets’ names. They would have missed their mama! But thank God you did not die in a Subway, that’s all I have to say. I got a piece of a tortilla chip stuck in the back of my throat once in a Mexican restaurant. So I rapidly drank my margarita. I could still talk, kinda, but it just really hurt and I didn’t want to tell my friends. After five painful minutes it finally moved down. And then I was super drunk. So a win-win! But choking in public is never fun. Sorry for your embarrassment, but at least your brother knew it was time to move on right afterwards! xo

  2. I love this story because I can relate to the dilemma of choosing life or embarrassment. I had a similar (yet, not life threatening) experience when my back went into spasm mid step while entering Kitty Hawk Kites in Nags Head. I stood frozen on the steps for 15 minutes while countless patrons brushed agonizingly past me. Some folks began to stare at me. I guess they thought I was hogging the stairs. Every time anyone approached with a concerned look, I would smile and pretend to admire the paint on the steps. Well, if you don’t have your vanity, what have you got, right? Thanks for the laugh!

    1. What is awesome (in a wacky way) is that so many of us have these moments where we need help, but nooooooo… And thank you for the laugh, because I could totally see myself admiring paint right along with you!

  3. Mel, love this story of how a simple chocking episode can cause so much trouble. Of course I am sure you left out the big grin on Bonnie’s face as she was pounding you on the back. I think I laughed so long I almost chocked.

  4. So happy you are still around to share your story. And do all the marvelous things you do. I haven’t seen you in person in years but I love you very much young lady. You old Aunt Debbie.

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