I met with a friend for a bowl of soup tonight at my favourite Vietnamese restaurant. It’s been hot soup weather lately, so flippin’ cold my garage door is frozen shut, and I’ve been craving a bowl of Vietnamese chicken noodle with a big squeeze of lime. If you’ve never tried it, I give it my most enthusiastic recommendation. My sinuses have even cleared for the first time in weeks.
Eating Vietnamese soup is a bit of a challenge for a small town white girl like me. I’d never even eaten a meal with chopsticks until I was eighteen, and my skills are still unreliable. At one point during the meal, I wrestled a chunk of chicken up toward my mouth, giggling over something or other, and made the mistake of trying to chew and laugh simultaneously.
The next thing I knew, that piece of poultry was lodged in the wrong part of my lower throat, heading toward my left lung. As you might imagine I would, I coughed.
“Keep coughing,” my friend advised. I did. I wheezed and choked and coughed hard enough that I thought I was fogging up my glasses. The chicken notched itself a little deeper.
I tried a sip of water. No dice. After the water, I gurgled when I coughed. It was a symphony of asphyxia.
“Keep coughing!” And I did. I coughed and coughed and coughed. People all over our very nice Vietnamese restaurant turned to watch. Folks put down their chopsticks and watched me heaving in my seat.
“I just need it to go down,” I wheezed. Then I coughed. I could feel my mascara smearing.
“I just renewed my first aid,” my friend quipped, “I’m supposed to tell you to keep coughing.” So I coughed harder, not that I had much choice.
Finally, what dislodged that bit of chicken wasn’t coughing, as hard as I tried. After a painful minute, I gave up and tried a bite of my soup. Wouldn’t you know it, a wonton moved the chicken out of the way and life went on.
Moments later, my friend took a bite of rice and immediately started choking.
“My first aid expired,” I said, “but I have it on good authority that you’re supposed to keep coughing.”
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