The night before I was to meet two friends for lunch, uncontrollable coughing forced me to leave my bed in the middle of the night and spend the remainder of the evening sitting up in a recliner.
Now what the heck is this all about, I thought, dismissing what in the past was an annoying “tickle” with gulps of bottled water followed with cherry cough drop chasers.
How often had these annoying coughing spasms, triggered by who knew what, led to an embarrassing exit. The first caught me unawares and one I remember quite vividly as my face still becomes flushed at the memory. My first job as a town reporter, so unsure of myself I took a seat in the front row in order to take explicit notes of a meeting moved to the high school auditorium about an important town issue long forgotten in the 40 years since.
Not only is the tickle that triggers the cough annoying to those around me and most certainly the town council members and town manager sitting on stage, but I am so mortified that it will not stop, I leave my seat, the coughing now progressing to choking as I hurry past the rows and rows of seats filled with townspeople who, if they subscribe to the newspaper I am working for, will not see in print the next morning, the results of this meeting.
We all know the tickle. In the years since it’s come on me, I’ve tried to be prepared, carrying cherry cough drops in the pockets of clothing I wear, purses I carry and the car’s glove compartment lest I get caught in traffic and others are in the car with me. Appeasing the tickle in the comfort of your own home is one thing. Attempting to stifle the cough in public is usually futile. And the thing is, experience should have shown me that once the tickle begins it is naive of me to think it will subside.
At the library, it will escalate as you cruise the rows of non-fiction and maybe, just maybe, you can save yourself at the water fountain by the reference desk. If not, you’re close enough to the exit to escape.
Get out of the grocery store as soon as the tickle begins. Leave your cart (they have clerks who will put your stuff back on the shelves) because if you try to check out, Murphy’s Law will get you behind the shopper who needs a price check.
If I were thinking clearly the morning after the tickle caused me to spend the night on a recliner, I might have realized there was more to it than a cherry cough drop could control. Yet, when I think back, I must have realized there was more going on with this tickle because before I met my two friends at the Chinese Restaurant, I stopped at a pharmacy for a bottle of cough syrup and a jar of honey — one of those cute ones in the shape of a bear.
I figured I wasn’t that sick, maybe just a cold, certainly not the flu as I had no chills, no fever, no aches. As much as I love Chinese, I would like to think I am the type of person who would not jeopardize the health of two lifelong friends for a cup of wonton soup and shrimp lo mein.
By the time our fortune cookies arrived, I had no desire to open the wrapper and read mine, and besides, having spent most of the lunch facing the wall and coughing into my elbow, I pretty much knew what the next week or so had in store for me.
My two friends called to inquire on my well being and fortunately dodged whatever germs accompanied me to lunch. I’ve spent the two weeks since drinking Vitamin Water, tea and honey and binge-watching seasons one through four of The Blacklist on Netflix.