Originally published May 13, 2010.
OK, so I chew stuff sometimes. Usually it’s a pen or a straw, but any small plastic object will do. It’s hardly a chronic habit, but I’d say about once a day I stumble upon something that appears chewable, and next thing I know I’m chomping away for about a half hour.
I realize it’s kind of gross, and Freud might have a field day with it. But I maintain that it’s not the jamming things in my mouth that I enjoy so much as the sensation of chewing itself. For some reason, I enjoy the feeling of working my jaw muscles.
For about 20 years, nearly every woman in my life has nagged me to quit the habit, insisting I’ll someday choke. My mom, my sister, various teachers, and now my wife.
Last night, while walking home from the train station, I started chewing the cap of a Poland Spring bottle. No idea why; it wasn’t something I did consciously. It rarely is. Next thing I knew — and this has never happened before — I swallowed the thing.
I didn’t choke, thankfully. I had chewed the cap into something akin to a football shape, and I guess that ergonomically tailored it to slide right down my throat. But though I could breathe and I wasn’t in any pain, I had a bottle cap inside me, so my wife convinced me I should probably go to the hospital.
I spent most of my next 10 waking hours being shuffled around the emergency room. By my count, all the consulting and poking and attempts at extracting the thing required eight nurses and five doctors. And every single one reminded me how stupid it is to stick plastic objects in my mouth, and told me that my mouth should only be for edible things.
Thanks. Because, you know, I thought I was supposed to swallow bottle caps, and I’m not humiliated enough without your help. It was the medical equivalent of booing David Wright after he slams his helmet down in frustration; they were just reinforcing an emotion I already came to on my own.
Anyway, apparently they would normally just let something like that pass through the system, but because I’m special for a variety of reasons, they gave me an endoscopy this morning to try to fish that sucker out. They couldn’t, and so now I have to hope it leaves my body via, ahh, more traditional means. Sorry for the imagery.
The best and most ridiculous part of the whole thing was the aftercare print-out from the hospital. Turns out the standard form for “swallowed foreign objects” is addressed to the parents of an infant or small child, and describes how it’s somewhat normal for children under the age of 5 to swallow parts of toys and small household items. Nothing in there about 29-year-olds doing the same thing.
I called my parents and read it to them. They had a good laugh, but they were unwilling to follow the suggested procedure for monitoring when it exits.
My mom, doing her mom thing, used the incident to argue that I should stop chewing on plastic stuff. I recognize she’s probably right, but from a statistical standpoint, she doesn’t have a very strong argument. I’ve probably chewed some 10,000 small plastic objects in my life, and never swallowed one before. What’re the odds it happens again?
I guess it only takes one time when I’m not as lucky, though. I should probably invest in some gum.