I love pepper. I sprinkle it on everything – potatoes, tomatoes, popcorn, ice cream, cottage cheese. Pepper ranks right up there with chocolate and salt.
Salt and chocolate, however, don’t make me gag. Pepper does. It’s a real medical thing – pepper gets in some people’s throats and makes them cough like they’ve got a hair ball, except worse.
For this reason I try not to eat pepper in public. It doesn’t happen every time, but if pepper hits the right spot in my throat it’s going to be five minutes of severe coughing and gagging and people yelling, “Is there a doctor in the house?”
Once the coughing starts, I can’t make it stop. Drinking water – nope. Holding my breath – I end up raining a waterfall of spit drops on whoever’s in range. My eyes water like I got sprayed with concentrated onion juice, and my face gets red as a monkey’s bum.
In restaurants people get these really worried looks on their faces like I’m going to keel over in front of them. They’ll get up and start patting me on the back – patting harder and harder until they’re knocking what minuscule air I have left out of me. It does no good since the coughing must follow its full five minute course, and not a second less.
Sometimes I’ll get up and go to the bathroom to finish out the gagging in there, but this is not so good. There are smells in there – that I feel like I’m gulping odor molecules down as I try to catch my breath.
Today I choked at work on some pepper I mistakenly put on my collard greens, and while someone was talking to me I started to sputter. I tried to force myself not to cough, and it worked for a few seconds, until my coworker said, “Are you okay, your face is getting red.”
I couldn’t answer because it took all my strength and concentration to stifle the cough. To no avail, though. It started, and my coworker got upset because he thought I was dying, until my other coworker said, “She’s okay, she must have eaten some pepper.” I got up from my chair and headed for the bathroom. I heard him holler after me, “Are you going to be okay? Should I call a doctor?”
My other coworker piped up and said, “Hey, yeah, call Dr. Pepper.” They laughed, and I went in the bathroom and nearly fell over – they have GOT to get that fan fixed – and five minutes later returned.
“Hey, did you see Dr. Pepper when you were in there?” They giggled – I could tell they’d been sitting there making up Dr. Pepper jokes, so I decided to join in.
“No,” I said, “but I sure could use a pepper-mint. Anyone got one? And your jokes are so corny – no, even worse than that, they’re pepper-corny.”
Pepper brings the clever out in me, I guess.