For those of you who don’t recall last week’s post, let me re-set the scene:

Many, many years ago in February, before the Caronapocalypse, I was at my friends’ very grown-up dinner party.  While eating a mango as a “dessert” (I don’t get it either), I suddenly realized that I might be allergic to mango as my throat began to burn and tingle.

In that moment, I learned that there are two voices in my head (well, two I’m willing to talk openly about): the Now voice and the Future voice.

The Now voice began to panic, thinking we needed to alert the hostess, the other guests, and possibly the neighbors, to my condition through frantic screaming, crying, and flailing of arms.

The Future voice pointed out that, even if I am not invited back to another dinner party for some time, I may run into any of the other guests at other important events, such as job interviews or parole hearings.  The Future voice felt that I needed to remain at least outwardly calm while seeking help, and also pointed out that someone else was currently talking and it’s rude to interrupt.

This is the moment that, had I not ever notice it before, I would have realized I am completely insane.  Fully believing that my airways were closing up in some sort of anaphylaxis, I remember very clearly thinking, “It is rude to interrupt.  I’ll just wait until he is done with his story about a funny thing a guy at his office said before I request someone call an ambulance.”

Now, at this point I’d like to pause to remind all of you of the saying that brevity is the soul of wit.  As a writer, I’ve often been disgruntled by people spending a good three minutes trying to remember if their anecdote took place on a Thursday or a Friday when the day has absolutely zero bearing on the story itself.

I cannot say that this particular gentleman’s story suffered from that problem as I did not actually listen to a word of it.  I missed the entirety of Act 1 of his story because I was busy trying to create a mango stampede to trample a spider in my throat that it turns out never existed.  And I missed Acts 2 thru 14 of his story because I was focused on breathing, having decided that when the moment came that I no longer could, it would be an appropriate time to interrupt.

After several more minutes, I began to suspect that my throat was not going to fully close up, nor was this gentleman’s story ever going to really be over.  In retrospect, after how divided the whole “which has more antioxidants, berries or mangos” debate had been earlier in the evening, he may have actually been filibustering. (Making a joke about filibustering falls on the adult spectrum between discussing foods that don’t agree with you anymore and commenting how young college kids are nowadays.)

Continuing to breath seemed like a positive development, but I was still coughing.  The thing about coughing is that anywhere you go, that location has a coughing quota, meaning the amount of times that you are allowed to cough before people want you removed from the premises.  A few examples:

  • Grocery store: 2 times, provided you are not standing near the produce.  Zero coughing near the produce.
  • Movie theater: 4 times, but they have to be spread out and preferably during swells in the music or during montages
  • Doctor’s Office: 0 times.  Cough once in a doctor’s office and everyone is convinced you have the plague and will scatter.  This is true even if the doctor is an eye doctor.
  • Church: As long as it’s one of those religions with a merciful God, nobody cares.  Cough away.  Although be prepared for someone who say “God bless you” after you cough, which is strange.

(Update: Since the Corona virus, there is now a universal coughing quota for all locations, and that number is -1. Coughing zero times in public is no longer good enough.  If you are anywhere in public and look like you could have coughed within the last 24 hours, you are in danger of being burned at the stake.)

At a dinner party, the total number of coughs allowed is 10, and that’s for all the guests.  If there are 10 guests and one of them coughs three times, then only seven of the remaining guests can each cough once, and two guests must commit to not coughing at all.  That’s why it’s always a good idea to try and establish early how many coughs you intend to use that night so the other guests can plan accordingly.

By this point in the dinner party, I was coming dangerously close to ten coughs and I knew this was annoying the other guests, particularly the ones who were planning on doing their own coughing that evening and would no longer be able to.  That’s why I decided to excuse myself to the bathroom.

Yes, while possibly dying, I secluded myself.

What’s more, I locked the bathroom door.  If I had actually believed someone else was trying to kill me (someone other than a mango), I would have probably taken a shower, just like those idiot characters in a horror movie.  That’s the quality of decision making I was at just at that point.

I guess I thought, while it was very polite of me to excuse myself from the table before dying (thus not spoiling that guy’s story, which was probably well into hour 3 by now), it would be rude to leave the bathroom door unlocked so that the next person who needed to use the facilities was greeted by a dead body on the floor.

So, locked in the bathroom, I Googled, “Am I dying?”

Based on the results Google offered me, I determined that yes, I am dying, little by little, day by day, in this soul-sucking rat race that we call life.  But apparently eating Keto and “These 10 Habits That the World’s Top CEO’s Do Every Day” will fix that.

Then I narrowed down my search parameters to “Am I dying *comma* mangos.”  Those search results were much more optimistic.  Well, all except the first one, which was this article from India Today with the headline: “Consumption of Ripe Mangos Can Cause Death.”

The rest of the results were articles that described my exact symptoms and reassured me that it would probably clear up on its own.

I returned to the table, so proud of surviving my ordeal that the next time there was a lull in the conversation, I decided to fill the awkward silence with the proclamation, “Apparently I’m allergic to mangos.”

And then, I kid you not, the first thing anyone said in response to that was, “Oh, that’s what happened to your face!”

I do not know what happened to my face.  I was distracted when I was in the bathroom, so I didn’t look in the mirror.  But apparently, all the while that I was sitting there, politely dying as I force-fed myself mango slices, my face was trying to alert the others to my distress by changing form in some manner.

Now I would like to point out one of the unspoken yet MOST important rules that you must follow in order to have a polite dinner party.  That rule is:

Should the topic of conversation arrive at the question, “What’s wrong with my face?”, the other guests should quietly confer BEFORE answering.

This rule is due to the fact that if there is any disagreement, it can quickly become the most awkward and uncomfortable dinner conversation you can have outside of discussing digestive irregularity.

I know this rule because I just made it up.  I invented it because at this dinner party, there was some confusion over just exactly what it was that my face was doing in a not normal manner.

One person suggested my face had become “splotchy,” but someone else suggested that could just be my makeup.

Another person suggested that my face looked very puffy, to which the first person corrected that my face had looked like that since I arrived, way before the mangos had been served.

Yet another person thought I had broken out in some displeasingly prominent hives, but later corrected himself by realizing those were my freckles, which apparently merely give the illusion that my face is covered in unpleasant hives.

At that point, I stopped listening, contemplating eating an entire bowl of mangos in order to escape the conversation.

The only person who had a worse evening than me was the hostess, who felt terrible.

At least, she gave the outward appearance of feeling terrible.

As I said, I don’t think she was trying to kill me.

Although I have to admit that it would have been the perfect crime.

She could have planned it all down to the letter: knowing I’d feel obligated to come to her dinner party to fulfill my social needs; also inviting the most long-winded friend she had; knowing I’d be too introverted to feel comfortable interrupting someone, even on the verge of death; and inviting several other friends to corroborate her alibi that she was WAY down at the other end of the six-foot table when I was murdered.  And by the time the police arrived, I’d have disposed of the murder weapon for her myself, an unknowing accomplice to my own murder.

It’s brilliant!

The only problem is she didn’t know I was allergic to mangos.  I’m positive about that because I didn’t know I was allergic to mangos.  It seems like an awful lot of planning to all hinge on the possibility that I might have a mango allergy I didn’t know about.

I’ll have to ask her about that when I see her next week.  She’s having another dinner party.  But she’s planned ahead and taken out a very large insurance policy for me, just in case.

I know what you’re thinking, but she promised me there’ll be no more mangos!

She said we’re having blowfish, which is apparently deadly if prepared wrong.  Should be fun!