100 words: Choking Charlie

This is something I remember.

In the sixth grade, it was very popular for those of us girls who wanted to be Babysitters to take the Red Cross Babysitter Certification class. This entailed a few Saturdays spent at the Red Cross learning first aid, how to call poison control, how to hold a baby, and other such valuable lessons, at the end of which you earned a card to put in your wallet and show any parent who might be considering your services.  The class was held in a large teaching room at the downtown Red Cross, and the fifteen or so of us in the class didn’t even come close to filling it up.

Occasionally, when we came in, there would be stuff left over from another class – diagrams of CPR procedures, for example. One rainy Saturday though, we found our class had a new member. Choking Charlie, the Heimlich Maneuver practice dummy. Choking Charlie was a full-sized man torso and head, face contorted into an eternal breathless choke. He had no arms or legs. You could unsnap a panel on his chest to reveal a bunch of rubbery organs. (He also didn’t have any clothes, but I suspect you’d be more interested in your choking than your clothes, if you were a victim of an uncut up hot dog or a grape, both common choking hazards.)

Charlie’s primary function was to help people learn to do the life-saving Heimlich properly. This was achieved with the aid of a rubbery ball which was lodged in Charlie’s mouth and attached to a filament line that would save the Maneuverist a trip across the room by restraining said ball. Somehow, when we got hold of Charlie the ball had become untethered and had also become rather gnarled such that it looked like a small dusty meatball.

We placed our small girl arms around Charlie’s limbless torso, jerked in and up as we were told, and watched in wonder as the meatwad shot with astonishing force across the room. Ahh, so that’s how it works, we thought. During a break, giggling, we took turns clumsily wielding Charlie’s poor torso around, shooting the meatwad at each other. A particularly good shot fwapped off a girl’s shin. Another zoomed perilously close to another’s ear.

The teacher finally broke up the hysterics, pushing the rubbery wad back into Charlie’s craw and stuck him in the back of the room where he sat in silent choke for the rest of the class. We never saw him again. While I have not had the opportunity to practice my skills learned with Choking Charlie, I’m sure that if you are ever in need, I could perform admirably. Just make sure you’re not choking on a meatball. 

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