I was by myself when I almost died. I was utterly alone with one thought running through my head: This is it. This is how it’s going to happen, choking to death on a hot dog on the roof of a Home Depot parking lot.
I was in a rush that day, trying to squeeze in some errands during my lunch break. WonderWife™ and I were in the midst of renovating our house, so I was making one of the dozens of trips to Home Depot that I would make that week. Anyone who’s ever shopped at Home Depot knows what a colossal time suck it can be, so there was no time for me to finish my errands, pick up food and get back to my office in time for my next meeting. Thankfully there was a roach coach stationed at the entrance to the store so I picked up a hot dog and headed toward the parking garage. It was one of those jumbo quarter-pounder things so big it might intimidate a man lacking in self-confidence.
I took a huge bite as I walked to my car, which I had left on the top floor of the garage. The dog was extremely hot and the bite got lodged in my windpipe. It was jammed in my throat and I could not breathe. I had no idea what to do. There was not a single other person around. There wasn’t even another car parked up there. Gasping for air, I imagined how long it would take before somebody found me lying dead on the roof, a half eaten jumbo dog in one hand and a box of inordinately expensive box of kitchen tile in the other. As the panic set in, I thought about the unborn son that I would not get to meet because I was hungry and in a hurry. What a stupid, pointless way to go.
I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but after what seemed like minutes I managed to expel the dog from my throat. I was okay, although the hot dog had been so hot that it seared my esophagus and I couldn’t talk for the next few days. It was incredibly painful. But I was alive.
Now that years have passed since the incident, the humor of it is not lost on me. Choking to death on a tube of processed meat next to a home improvement store is one of the more ridiculous ways to meet one’s maker. But had it gone wrong, it would have been tragic as well. I am not exaggerating when I say that I nearly died that day. And as much as I would like to say that my life changed in that moment, that the sky became brighter, air became sweeter and I would forever savor every day that followed, it wasn’t like that. After the adrenaline wore off and my throat healed, my near-death was soon pushed to the back of my mind and stored along with the other stories that make up my consciousness.
I don’t actually think about that day very often…except when I’m eating a hot dog.