I was having lunch on my own last Wednesday. True to my intent to eat a healthier diet, I was having a salad with a few strips of chicken and picturing the long and healthy life that stretched before me.
The food court around me was filled with families, business people, police, judges and lawyers and hardened criminals (the Ontario Court of Appeal is nearby). Everyone was talking, laughing and eating; although not necessarily in that order.
I started to have a series of strange little hiccups. I wondered if a drink would help. So I took a mouthful of green tea, but when I swallowed it, it just came spewing back up.
Then I noticed a funny little pressure in my neck, and realized I had a piece of chicken stuck in my throat. Lodged in my throat. Wedged tightly in my throat.
I was surrounded by an ocean of people. None of whom were looking my way.
I wondered if I could breathe. Was this how I would die? I took a breath and realized the chicken was wedged below where the windpipe and the esophagus part company. I could breathe.
That was good. I wouldn't smother to death. The worst that would happen is that I would starve, the chicken clogging the entrance to my stomach. On the plus side, loosing ten or twenty pounds would make my doctor happy and save significantly on my food food bills.
I wondered about asking for help. Would someone doing the Heimlich Maneuver cause the piece of chicken to move back up my throat to where it would block the windpipe? And then would I die?
You can see how calm and rational was being.
The noisy world around me carried on. The only attention I was getting was from people carrying trays, searching for a place to sit and wondering if I was finished.
I hoped I wasn't finished.
With some annoyance the tray carrying passersby glanced from the full plate of food in front of me to my obvious passivity. Get busy guy, their glance seemed to say. We need your table.
Then I could feel the chicken piece move down my throat, slightly. Painfully. Peristalsis was doing its job, finally.
I took hope. And started to worry about having to wait so long my tea would get cold. That was an improvement over worrying about dying in the food court.
The chicken piece moved some more.
I made sure I was still breathing.
And then it finally passed through the esophageal sphincter and entered my stomach. Although I could still feel a soreness where it had once been lodged.
My private little drama had taken about five minutes. I doubt there was a soul who noticed.
I chewed the rest of my lunch with much greater care.
And thought about how odd life is.
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