"Sir, will you get rid of my hiccups?"
"I've got the hiccups. Will you make them go away?"
It was 11:45 at night and I was just leaving the office, hurrying to Metro because it closes at midnight. I didn't have time for anything.
He interposed himself in front of me on the sidewalk. I looked up at him. I'm 5-10, and he was 6-4 and broad. He was young too, in his early twenties. The odor of an alcoholic beverage suddenly washed over me fleetingly. I was familiar with this phenomena, the first indication of heavy drinking, from dealing with drunken drivers when I was a State Patrolman many years ago in Colorado. His eyes were glassy. He hiccuped.
His girlfriend, swaying slightly, said, "He can't stop hiccuping. Do you know any remedies?"
He looked so pathetic, standing there in my path, expecting a complete stranger to take care of his hiccups. He hiccuped again.
"Yeah, I know a remedy."
This was going to be hard to explain, and I had very little time to spare if I didn't want to be walking home ten miles. When I was a boy, I watched a Paul Newman movie where Newman played a raconteur coming home drunk with the hiccups. The leading lady encircled his throat with her fingers and pressed in on his carotid artery with her thumbs. I think the movie might have been Hud. Does anyone out there know the scene I'm thinking of?
This usually works on me when I get the hiccups. Rather than laboriously explain this curious remedy to two drunks and stand there coaching while The Girl, as DC Rainmaker would say, administered the treatment to him and risk missing my train, I acted. I stepped close to him and reached up.
"Relax," I said. "Stand still. This is what I do to get rid of the hiccups."
I gently grabbed his neck with my hands and pressed in on his carotid with my thumbs. The Girl looked aghast.
"What are you doing?"
"No, no, it's okay. If he doesn't strangle me, maybe it'll work."
Time flowed by. His eyes were bulging a little but he was standing still. "Don't leave any marks on my neck."
I wondered if he had another girlfriend that he didn't want to have to explain hickeys to. "I won't."
After thirty seconds I let go. "How's that?"
He stood there for a moment feeling his neck and then announced to The Girl, "They're gone."
The two of them commenced on their merry way down the sidewalk as if I had never existed.
"You're welcome," I called out after them.
They didn't hear me. They were off in a boozy haze to catch last call at the nearby Dubliner.
I made my train. Such little encounters enliven life.