April 11th, 2021


Can't You Take a Choke?

Greg Crosby

By Greg Crosby

Published Sept. 9, 2016

 Can't You Take a Choke?

Once again Hillary Clinton is in the news regarding her latest coughing fits while attempting to give a speech. It's been reported that she goes through public coughing fits more than any other politician in modern history. So much so that some news outlets have been putting together timelines on her spasms. In 2016 alone she has racked up (maybe we should say "hacked up") more than 8 major public coughing fits.

As someone who has had more than his share of coughing fits, I believe I am well-suited to opine on the subject (if it is a subject at all) of coughing, choking, dry mouth, frog in the throat, and other similar oral maladies which may occur when out in public places (public places defined as anywhere groups of people might gather).

I specify "public places" because coughing alone at home, or perhaps in the company of loved ones doesn't count. If you're alone, you couldn't care less if you happen to cough uncontrollably (unless you start to fall on the floor, hallucinate, black out, and speak in tongues, but that's extreme and rare). A fit of coughing in the presence of your husband or wife might cause a raised eyebrow or a concerned "Are you okay, dear?" from your beloved, but nothing more than that.

Experiencing a prolonged coughing spasm in public is something else again. Aside from the physical cough itself, there is the embarrassment. Suddenly you are the loudest thing in the place, all eyes are on you and people wonder just what the hell is the matter with you. The expressions on the faces of those around you say it all, some register annoyance, some concern, and some are simply baffled. You are the center of attention and certainly not the way you might have preferred.

As uncomfortable as it might be to experience a coughing fit in a restaurant, bar, sporting event or supermarket, it is much worse when it takes place in a theater, particularly a theater where live actors are on stage. Not only is your fit annoying people around you in the audience, you are definitely a major annoyance to the performers on stage. And why must the cough happen at the quietest or most important time in the production? Just when everyone is leaning forward in their seats to find out who murdered grandpa, that's the time you give out with the hacking.

Coughing at the theater is pretty bad, but going into a coughing jag while giving a major campaign speech for the office of president of the Untied States is probably the worst time it can occur. Here she is, attempting to look as presidential, composed, articulate, smooth, and together as humanly possible. Suddenly she loses all control of herself and is at the mercy, not of a foreign enemy or a natural disaster, but of her own body which goes into the coughing fit that cannot be stopped. It's as if the cough has a mind of its own, as if it is saying to her, "So, you want to talk about Trump, eh? You want to make a speech? Well, I have a little speech to make first. HACK, HACK. HACK...HACK...HACK! HACK...HACK... HACK"

At this point I need to make the distinction between coughing and choking. There is a difference, I know, I've done both. Choking is like coughing, but even more serious and intrusive, if that's the right word. Usually choking occurs when swallowing either food or drink. Once the choking has subsided, the choker then shrugs his shoulders, looks a little sheepish and says something like "Ha, ha, I guess it must have gone down the wrong pipe."

I have the distinction of being able to choke without swallowing food or drink. I choke on my own saliva and I do it out of the clear blue sky. No reason. Nothing going down the wrong pipe. I'm just sitting there minding my own business and WHAM! I choke. Maybe I should give a little

more thought to my swallowing, I don't know. Why Hillary Clinton is coughing all over the place is a mystery. I don't know if it's a physical condition, allergies, or psychosomatic. As Mrs. Clinton might say, "What difference at this point does it make?" Maybe the coughing is punishment for all the lies she tells. Or maybe she should give a little more thought to the speeches she expects other people to swallow. I've read that constant talking can irritate the throat. Maybe she should stop talking and communicate through E-mail. Oops. Well, maybe not. --

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. He's been a JWR contributor since 1999.