We moved to a different location and scratched our idea of The Huntington (we did it the next day instead). After settling in our new room, we headed out for a late lunch and some shopping. It didn't take us long to land on The Cheesecake Factory. As we ate our delicious meal, I got into telling a very animated story. I think, maybe, hands were involved. Hands are usually involved when I get really into recounting a tale.
I had taken notice of the fact that my meal was disappearing more slowly than the others so I shoveled a bite into my mouth, quickly chewed, and swallowed. Apparently the second step was executed extremely poorly. A wad of angel hair pasta and chicken lodged about halfway down my throat.
Years of competitive swimming led to fairly decent breath control on my part. I can hold lungs full of air for quite awhile before experiencing discomfort. This piece of information, while great where swimming, snorkeling, or, say, showing off to my husband are concerned, is not particularly beneficial when lunch is stuck in the throat. I felt like I had plenty of time to remedy the situation. I can hold my breath for a long time. I thought. I got this.
I swallowed. Again. And again. And again. It didn't move. My attempt only succeeded in making slightly odd, squeaky, noises which hopefully only I heard. "Are you okay?" one of them asked. I nodded, believing I was going to save my own life soon enough. I continued attempting to swallow it. When I didn't feel it moving at all, I did a stupid thing.
"It's stuck," I said.
This short sentence effectively drained my lungs of the oxygen I was holding inside. As they deflated, it didn't take long for that burning sensation to take hold. At that point I became concerned. I thought about how long I'd been trying to swallow and figured it had been close to a minute. It may not have actually been that long but I was reaching the point where something was going to need to be done. I knew I hadn't taken a deep breath just before I'd swallowed so I figured I had even less time to decide what to do. Passing out in the middle of The Cheesecake Factory on my first day of successfully fighting crime did not seem like the ideal option. I grabbed my glass of water, stuck the straw in my mouth, sealed my lips around it and sucked. Instantly, the consumed water flooded straight out of my nose.
That's when I realized that this was a really unfortunate situation. That's when I felt the panic begin to rise.
Sylvia* pushed her chair back. "Do you need the Heimlich?"
There's a big difference between what one needs and what one wants. Did I need the Heimlich maneuver performed on me? Probably. Did I want it done in the middle of a restaurant? Probably not. I actually thought about attempting to communicate to her that we needed to go to the bathroom to perform this maneuver but I quickly realized that my chest was burning so badly I probably wasn't going to be able to nonchalantly traipse to the restroom.
I had one trick left in my bag. I tried to barf. Just as if I was hanging my head over a toilet bowl, I wretched. Up, up, up came the wad. I grabbed a napkin and deposited my chicken and pasta into it. Briefly, I pondered the enormity of the bite and wondered what in the world I'd been thinking. Thankfully, the rest of my stomach contents didn't come up with it. What did happen was that saliva seemed to pour out with the lump of food. I still can't figure that one out.
Sitting there, with my face somewhat buried in my napkin, I began to laugh uncontrollably. This was laced with intermittent coughing and I temporarily could not stop. I finally managed to exclaim, "I'm laughing because this is so ridiculous." I meant the day in general. I'd never called the police before. I'd never choked that badly on my lunch. Laughing seemed like the only thing worth doing in that moment.
I looked around. Not a single, solitary, person had seemed to notice. People continued chatting and munching their own lunch. It seemed that only my friends had noticed my scene and, thankfully, they'd offered to save my life.
*Not her real name