Currently, I cough. I'm a little bewildered. Almost kicking the bucket in a soup store, in front of a full restaurant will do that to ya.
I should wait a few hours till I'm coherent enough to tell this here story, but Amber will be home in 20 minutes or so and I don't think I'll have time in the next day or two during the move.
I went to my favorite soup eatin'-hole about an hour ago, the "Soup Stop" on Broadway and 79th. I walked in, stomach a'rumbling. I smiled and rubbed my cold hands as I observed that they were serving my favorite Chicken Chili. The worker was pleasant enough as she poured me a nice hearty bowl. I chose crackers over bread - those little round soup crackers - and sat myself at the table with a nice view of the busy street.
I poured a big nice pile of crackers onto my chili and noticed that there were two crackers that were joined together. You know... how those chalky communion crackers do sometimes. "Well," thought I, "that'll be my first bite by golly." Hungry has heck, I scooped the perfect amount of chili to match the double cracker and slipped the white plastic soup spoon into my mouth. Hot. Hot as fire.
Startled, I took a breath. And down the esophagus the double cracker went.
I don't know how many of you have actually choked, but it is nothing like in the movies. There is no coughing. There is only heaving, and silence. No air. I knew in that split second, that I would be a gonner without help. Not wanting to cause a scene, I thought I'd try a quick drink of my cream soda that was un-opened. (Cream soda is a nice compliment to chili btw) I twisted the top, took a swig and back out on the table half of it poured.
No more proof needed. I stood up, walked directly to the Hispanic cashier and the dramatic scene began.
I pointed to my back and motioned to pound. Luckily, there were some older Latino women working who understood the motions and they told him what to do. He pounded a few times and a little came out but one quick, tiny inhale and I was choking again. The restaurant grew silent and panicky. Everyone was looking. "Call an ambulance!" someone yelled. Another worker went for the phone while my new best friend pounded some more. Nothing. The pounding wasn't getting me anywhere so I tried to motion to try the Heimlich maneuver. He didn't know how to do it at first, and again, the older lady told him what to do and he put his arms around me and started squeezing me.
And as he yanked my body up and down, I thought about my wife. I thought about the ambulance they were calling. I wondered if I could make it without air long enough for the ambulance to get there. "No. Dear Lord, I'm doing that thing... that thing where the life flashes before your eyes... please don't let me die here" mixed with "I can't believe I'm choking on a cracker in front of these people. I could die. I might die. I'm not going to die. Squeeze harder buddy." The squeezing and plunging grew more and more violent until finally the chili and cracker came lose and spewed all over the floor. On the last pump, I think he may have cracked a rib as he was growing more and more scared.
Leaning over, I took my first breath, and coughed. I have never been so thankful for coughing. I felt guilty. I felt terrible for making a mess. I felt horrible for ruining everyone's dinner. I looked up and the guy that saved my life smiled and reached his hand out to me as if we had just accomplished something together, as a team. I wanted to hug the kid as he smiled but I was coughing to hard so I grabbed his hand instead and tried to say thank you. Some sort of rumbly thing resembling thank you came out, followed by an apology. Another woman approached with a glass of water. I apologized to her.
I took a swig.
Safe. Breathing. Alive. Almost choked to death. On a cracker.
Two things: First, never again will I reach for the double cracker at communion. As a matter of fact, any and all crackers will recieve a suspicious and barbed glare before they are consumed. If they are consumed. Second, never again will I gripe about the hispanic workers in my building. Who knows? They might just be my life-saver tomorrow.
Thank you Lord for the guy that saved my life today. Thank you for my wife and for my family and for everything else I've been a big baby about for the past 4 years. Amen.
Those little crackers will now an forever be called, "Choke Crackers." Maybe you guys can find a better name for them.