No one needs to cough harder than she who should not cough.
I’ve been battling a persistent tickle in my throat that isn’t serious enough to warrant a trip — well, I mean, another trip — to the doctor, but is annoying all the same. Having tried a range of prescription drugs, I now believe it’s seasonal allergies . . . especially with our wild fluctuations in weather. Is it winter, or was it ever? Can we just go ahead and declare it spring?
If you’ve spent any time with me lately, you know the cough. I was working off-site for a few days last week; my coworkers knew I was back by the sound of my hack echoing down the hall. I know it’s annoying, and embarrassing . . . to the point that I’m constantly apologizing, particularly to my officemate. But devoid of any other symptoms, it’s certainly not enough to warrant staying home.
Twice in the last week, I’ve found myself in situations in which the cough would be totally disruptive. Because my hacking seems to come from deep within (a Cavern of Souls, if you will), it is just . . . uncontrollable. This isn’t a little throat-clearing. It’s not dainty. To quote my husband, long-suffering bystander, it’s startling.
Last Tuesday was the video conference I’ve been helping to plan since November. A colleague was speaking live to a big group of folks across our organization. After months of emails, phone calls, draft revisions, script writing and dress rehearsals, the big morning was finally approaching.
The day before, I sat at my regular desk and coughed. And apologized. And coughed. And apologized.
“Serious question,” a coworker said gently. “How are you going to get through the presentation tomorrow?”
I had just two lines to say before we introduced the speaker — but I’d be sitting just out of frame for the following hour. The box broadcasting audio to 100-plus people would be propped directly in front of me.
I drove straight to a drugstore after work and made a beeline for the cold aisle. Do not pass go. Do not look at candy.
There were plenty of us milling around, reading labels and throwing hand sanitizer into our baskets. “Cough control” was all I cared about. In 2020, there had to be a product to calm the hack for an hour. That was all I needed, universe: one hour!
I lingered in front of aquamarine bottles and pill packs long enough to seem suspicious. Finally I threw an assortment of stuff into my cart: new allergy medicine, throat lozenges, other cough drops. The highlight was an extended-release pill that promised cough control relief — an expectorant and cough suppressant. Say no more.
At home, I lined up my purchases and texted a photo to my coworkers. “Ready for tomorrow!” I wrote.
And I was. My magic “cough control” pills are the truth. By the miracles of modern science, I coughed quietly just once during the entire broadcast after hacking nonstop just the day before. Oh, the exquisite relief.
A few days later, I was getting ready to record a podcast. My dad recently finished a book series, then turned the stories into screenplays. Friends and colleagues gathered to read the scripts last Saturday.
I felt like I was holding my breath about 99% of the time. Though I’ve been doing much better, the cough still bursts forth to exasperate everyone enclosed with me in a small room. After finishing my lines, I slid from the booth with relief. I definitely felt more relaxed from behind a plate of glass.
I’m happy to note that, thanks to new allergy medicine, I have now gotten the cough under control. No more treating the symptoms.
And no more scaring small children . . . including my own.
For today, anyway.