Not Breathing? Try This

by Dave Barry


This is a special time of year, as expressed so poetically in the lyrics to the haunting song "Summertime" from "Porgy and Bess":

"Summertime, and the livin' is easy,

Fish are jumpin'

And gettin' lodged in the throats of fisherpersons."

Those lyrics are as true today as when they were first performed way back in a specific year that I plan to look up later. Just this June, according to an Associated Press article sent in by many alert readers, an angler who was angling near Macomb, Ill., had to be rushed to the hospital when a 4-inch bluegill became stuck in his esophagus. This incident raises some troubling questions, including: How come nobody names children "Porgy" anymore? Why is EVERY male child in America under the age of 7 named either Jacob or Matthew?

But the most urgent question is: How did the bluegill get into the angler's esophagus? The AP story explains that the angler "was playing with a bluegill in his mouth when it began squirming and lodged itself in his throat."

The angler recovered. Unfortunately, the fish--let us call him "Porgy"--went to that Big Scum Pond in the Sky. But little Porgy's tragic demise will not have been in vain if it results in the long-overdue passage of a federal law requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to clearly stamp every fish with a label that says: "WARNING! DO NOT PLAY WITH THIS FISH IN YOUR MOUTH!"

While we're at it, we need a law requiring that all deceased starfish be clearly labeled: "DO NOT HEAT IN MICROWAVE." I say this because of a homemaker-advice column called Ask Mrs. Oliver from the Eugene, Ore., Register-Guard, sent in by many alert readers, which includes the following homemaker letter, which I am not making up:

"How do you remove an awful smell out of your microwave? I found a dead starfish on the beach and brought it home. It was very wet and I thought placing it in the microwave for a few minutes would help. The starfish exploded on my second attempt to dry it."

Both of these tragic incidents remind us that, although summer is a fun time, we must always remember that at any moment we could die or seriously damage an appliance. That's why we need to remember our Summer Safety Basics, especially:


The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that lightning is "giant pieces of electricity that live inside clouds and periodically attack golfers." The best way to avoid being struck is to stay away from areas where golfers might be present, such as sand traps, bars, recreation rooms, your office and the outdoors.

If you, or someone you like, is struck by lightning, it is essential that you get hold of Parade magazine, which ran a feature on what to do in a lightning storm. Most of the tips were obvious--get indoors, don't play with fish in your mouth, etc. But then, in a section on what to do if somebody is struck by lightning, Parade offered this advice: "If breathing stops, seek medical help at once."

Thanks, Parade! That tip could very well save a life, as we can see from the following verbatim transcript of a discussion between two fictional neighbors:

BOB: Fred? Sorry to bother you . . .

FRED: No bother, Bob! I was just watching the Yankees game.

BOB: Man, talk about a pitching staff.

FRED: I know, but I worry about their middle relief. Anyway, what's up?

BOB: Well, Fred, I'm concerned about Marge. She stopped breathing, and I'm wondering if I should do anything.

FRED: Hmmm. Wait a minute! Was Marge recently struck by lightning?

BOB: Why, yes, Fred, she was, about 10 minutes ago. Come to think of it, that's when she stopped breathing!

FRED: Let me check my Parade magazine. . . . Yes, it says here that you should seek medical help at once.

BOB: Medical help? Say, Fred, that's a great suggestion! I'll do it right after this inning.

An unrealistic scenario, you say? True. In real life, Bob would have asked Fred about Bernie Williams' knee injury. But this transcript does illustrate the importance of knowing your Summer Safety Basics, so that instead of moping around the funeral home, you can relax with a good summer book, such as the almanac, which tells us that "Porgy and Bess" was first performed in 1935.






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