That Time I Had Asthma for 30 Years

The first time I started coughing and couldn’t stop was in the fifth grade.  I was sitting in class when the first cough came.  Then the second.  Then the twentieth.  Then I had to leave class and be taken to the nurse’s office, my face purple, tears and snot running like a fountain.  I literally could not stop coughing and I could barely get any air.

I stopped coughing a few minutes later, and everything returned to normal.  I went back to class.  Nobody thought much of it now that I was fine, and also because it was the 80s and kid ailments were mostly treated by adults with, “It’s probably nothing.  Let me know if you die in the middle of the night, because if I have to miss even thirty minutes of work to take you to a doctor, they’ll dock my pay.”  Then everybody in the house would light up cigarettes, pop on a Revenge of The Nerds movie, and call it a night.

I had these coughing attacks four or five times every year for the next thirty-some-odd years.

That same year as my first coughing attack, we had a P.E. teacher who taught us how to take our heart rates by taking our pulses while she timed it with a stopwatch.  At the end of class, after we’d been running around for thirty minutes, she’d say, “Okay, show of hands, whose heart rate is over 100?”

Almost all the hands would go up.

Then she’d say, “Whose heart rate is over 125?”

Half the hands would go down.

“Whose heart rate is over 150?”

A few hands stayed up.

“Over 175?”

Just me and that kid who always had that white crud at the corners of his mouth.

“Over 200?”

My hand was the only one still up.

She said, “Sweetie, I think you’re probably just not calculating it right.  What’s your heart rate?”

I said, “220.” (Also, don’t ever, ever, ever call me Sweetie.)

She told me I was definitely calculating it wrong because that number was impossible, and then that was the end of the discussion about it.  Because 1980s.

I felt so embarrassed that she had basically called me an idiot who didn’t know how to count – in front of the whole class, no less – I never mentioned my crazy high heart rate again.  For the rest of the year after that, I just put my hand down when she said, “Anyone over 150?” even though my heart rate was sometimes as high as 240.

I wasn’t calculating it wrong.  Every time I checked it after even mild cardio activity, it was well over 200.  Put a FitBit on me today and have me jog for even fifty feet.  You’ll get a big, fat 220+ heart rate staring back at you, along with an extremely pale face and a sheen of cold sweat.

For as long as I can remember, walking up a single flight of stairs has always caused me to get woozy and see stars, my heart pounding out of my chest.  I’d always been told that we just have rapid heartbeats and shitty endurance in our family, and that was just the way it was.

I started having one of my coughing attacks at work last year, and a coworker said, “I didn’t realize you had asthma.  I have it, too!”

I shook my head no at her, and when I finally stopped coughing and tearing and snotting and my face returned to a normal shade of not-purple two minutes later, I told her I didn’t have asthma.

“I just get these coughing attacks sometimes,” I told her, wiping off all the mascara and eyeliner that had run completely down my face.

She raised an eyebrow at me, “Your coughing sounds exactly like me when I’m having an asthma attack.  You’re coughing because your airway is constricted.  Have you asked your doctor about this?”

I know it seems silly, but I only really thought about these coughing attacks while I was in the midst of one.  After one was over, it immediately left my mind.  I would have had to have one while standing in my doctor’s office to have thought to mention it to him.

So I went to the doctor and he ran some tests.

While waiting for the results, he asked me to describe my coughing attacks and when I had first started experiencing them.  I gave him all the details and told him that I was ten years old when they’d started.

He said, “Right.  Those are asthma attacks.  This has gone untreated for thirty years?”

I left his office with a prescription for a rescue inhaler, but I still had my doubts for some reason?  It just seemed impossible that all this time, I’d actually had asthma.

I’d seen actors on television pretending to have an asthma attack, and they just politely gasped for air, put one hand on their chest and pointed towards their bag so that their friend would get them their inhaler.  There was never any coughing!  And as for my rapid heartbeat and terrible endurance, well, that was a family trait!  Especially with, you know, the fact that everybody who walked through our front door lit a cigarette before they even put their keys down, and then lit their next cigarette off of that one.

The next time I had a coughing attack, I took a hit from the inhaler to debunk this alleged asthma myth.

It stopped the coughing instantly.

Well, shit.  Coughing attack = asthma attack.  I guess my doctor wasn’t playing the trickery that I thought he was.  I had imagined he’d gone home the night that he diagnosed me and told his wife, “I told this idiot she had asthma and she totally just has coughing attacks!  I love being both a doctor AND a trickster!”

A couple months later, I was walking up a long, steep walkway on vacation in Vermont, when I started to get woozy and see stars.  I was panting so hard that I had to keep taking breaks to catch my breath, and my heart was beating so fast that it felt like a horse race was happening in my chest.  Nothing new, basically.

Bobby said I should really think about using my inhaler.  I told him I just needed to catch my breath.  I always got really short of breath when I had to walk up an incline.

He persisted.  Then I thought, “Meh, what the hell,” and took a hit off the inhaler.

I stopped panting immediately, stopped feeling woozy, stopped seeing stars, and my heart rate returned to a normal human heart rate.  I felt FINE.

It all sounds so, so dumb, I know.  How could I have had asthma for over thirty years and not known it?  What am I, a moron?

I blame television’s wildly inaccurate portrayal of asthma attacks for this particular oversight in my life.  They couldn’t devote one single episode of The Facts of Life to someone having a realistic asthma attack?  Hell, they had that whole episode of Punky Brewster devoted to one kid suffocating in an empty refrigerator while playing hide-and-seek and how often does that actually happen?  To, like, two kids a year?  They couldn’t do ONE asthma episode?

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Thanks for nothing, asshole!

I’m sorry, television.  I didn’t mean it.  I’ll never say another unkind word about you again.

Mz. Mannerz: The Cow in The Parking Lot

Oh man!  It’s time for another edition of Mz. Mannerz!  Drop that Crunchwrap Supreme, put on some pants for heaven’s sake, and let’s DO THIS THING!

One of the things I’ve come to terms with through my personal studies in anger management is that people rarely get out of bed in the morning and say, “What can I do to go out of my way to really annoy people today?”

That sort of malicious attitude is rare, unless we’re talking about Justin Bieber, Justin Bieber, or Justin Bieber’s face.

I try to live my life in a proactive manner, so I figure it’s better to read up on anger management before a court orders me to do so.  Some books are better than others, but I recently read a great book on the topic called The Cow in The Parking Lot by Leonard Scheff and Susan Edmiston.  It did a really great job of re-framing the annoying things people do – the things that make me nearly implode with rage every day.  I highly recommend it if you’re a pissy little so-and-so.  It’s completely changed my perspective.

I mean, I still get angry when someone makes me wait with my engine idling while they spend three minutes backing into a parking space when it would have taken ten seconds if they just parked front-in, but I don’t let it ruin my day anymore.

Most of the time.

It’s hard to live in a state of outrage your entire life and then just quit cold-turkey.

Most people are just bumming around, doing whatever they do and not even thinking about it.  Like cows in a parking lot.  If you saw a cow doing any of the annoying things that people do, you’d probably be tickled by it and say, “Oh man!  Check out that cow!  Isn’t that hilarious?”

People aren’t going out of their way to do things to personally annoy you.  They’re just doing them and not even really realizing it.

To that end, I’ve compiled the list below, outlining some of these annoying things that people may not “realize” that they’re doing.  You know, as a “courtesy”.  To let them “know”.

For”

“their”

“information”.

And please – feel free to add to it in the comments.  There are tons of things I left out.  Keep it light, you filthy beasts.  I have no desire to argue foreign policy.  As it is, for the past three years I haven’t been able to turn on the news without having to take a tranquilizer and breathe into a paper bag.

Here we go!

a.  Tapping your foot on a clackety floor, tapping a pencil on a desk, tapping your 80s acrylic porno nails on a counter, or tapping any other thing on a tappy surface.  I know a person who does this – sometimes for hours on-end – while I’m ten feet away trying to dissect complicated contracts, and it destroys my concentration and makes me want to scream and/or dig a hole and lie in it.  I have literally broken into a cold sweat and had to leave the room, it’s that disruptive.

b.  Bum-rushing an elevator door to get in the moment the door opens, and then acting surprised that someone is coming out of the elevator as you slam directly into them.  “Oh!  Sorry!”  Do you honestly think that there’s NO CHANCE somebody might be getting out of that elevator?

c.  Along those lines, walking down a crowded sidewalk, going at the same speed at everyone else, and then stopping dead in your tracks so that everyone behind you slams into each other.  Bonus points if you do this on a staircase in an airport or a subway, where people are also carrying large objects and trying to get somewhere in a timely fashion.

d.  Leaving someone a voicemail that says, “Oh!  Looks like I missed you.  I’ll try you back in a little while!”  Do you have any idea the amount of time and steps and button-pushing and secret codes and shit I have to dial into my phone in order to check my voicemail, only to receive a message that says you’ll try me again later?  The only voicemail worth leaving is, “The police know.  You need to pack up that chatty parrot of yours and leave town NOW.”

e.  Walking into a restroom with ten empty stalls, and then taking the one directly next to mine.  Don’t YOU enjoy personal space? I know I certainly do.  Choose ANY OTHER STALL besides the one directly next to a person – especially if there are ten open stalls.  It reminds me of every time I go to the beach and there’s nobody for miles, and right after I set my stuff up, the most irritating people on the planet come walking down the sand and plop their piles of stuff down six inches away from me.  Go sit ANYWHERE that’s not six inches away from me.  You have a mile of open beach, for god’s sake.

f.  The fact that I can’t go to the movies in 2019 without people talking at full volume in the theater is mind-boggling to me.  Mind-boggling.  I wish theaters would replace their polite “Please be respectful of others by not talking during the movie” with something waaaaay more blatant.  Something like, “If you talk in the movie – which has NEVER been an okay thing to do – it means you are a jerkface dillhole and everyone in here will hate your guts until the end of time, so shut up.  No, really, we’re not kidding here.  It’s two hours.  Watch the movie and SHUT UP.”

g.  Pushing a shopping cart in a forward motion while having your head turned completely the other way.  Do you think the store is so large, so vast, so vacant, that’s there’s no possibility that you’ll hit someone with your cart because you’re not watching where you’re going?  Same for rounding corners with your cart at 80mph and acting surprised that there’s someone on the other side when you almost mow them down.

“But Mz. Mannerz!  I didn’t know that was annoying!”

WELL NOW YOU DO.

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If you’re the kind of person who enjoys the warm feeling of superiority when someone gets a trivia question about The Love Boat wrong, have an ax to grind with people who describe themselves as “bubbly”, or are just looking for newer and better ways to pretend you’re working while you’re at work, click the “Follow” button on the side here and you’ll get an email any time I post something on this godforsaken blog, usually about once a week.  Sometimes it’s twice a week, but only when I’m feeling particularly sassy and/or have run out of chicken fingers dipping sauce options.

It’s one of my personal favorites and I’d like to dedicate it to a young man who doesn’t think he’s seen anything good today.” – Ferris Bueller

Licehead Spa Day

Now this a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside-down…

Okay, that’s actually the Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s story.  I’ve been foiled again!

Do you know what I wouldn’t give to be able to say that just one time in my life for real?  Like, pound my fist on the desk in my underground lair and shout, “I’ve been foiled again!” with possum-henchmen scattering from the room?

Someone should really offer some kind of formal villain training courses (besides the current Yale and Harvard business programs).  I would absolutely sign up for that.  One time I did get to yell, “Because they don’t get to win – THAT’S why!” in the conference room at work, and it may have been my greatest moment in life.

So!  I had lice as a kid.  More than once.  As the judge tells Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona, “A ree-peat ohhh-fender.”

This was mostly because I was a filthy little heathen, as were my friends, classmates, pets, and both of my Cabbage Patch Kids if we’re being honest, here.

I wrote a li’l flash humor piece about it and it’s on Cosmonauts Avenue this month.  I know!  Do they have the best name or what?  You can read it here:  Licehead Spa Day.

And then spend the rest of the day not scratching at your head.  It’s not like you have lice or anything.  Unless you do…

Shout out to Finesse Shampoo.  You were the wind beneath my lice wings.  VO5, on the other hand, can 100% go sit and spin.

Speaking of hair…thanks, as always, for reading and commenting and letting me watch your hair flowing slowly in the breeze.

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Now try saying “flowing slowly” ten times fast.