On Hiccoughs


In 2007, a 16-year-old Florida girl named Jennifer Mee received national press when she hiccoughed for over a month straight. After her hiccoughs went away, Today Show host Meredith Vieira asked Mee rhetorically—or so we thought—”What are you going to do for attention now?” Her answer became evident when headlines later read something like, “Hey, Remember That Hiccough Girl? Yeah, Police Say She Just Killed A Guy.”

When I heard the news, needless to say, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe her hiccoughs just…stopped.

Do you mean to tell me that after five weeks, her hiccoughs were instantly gone, without warning or apparent cause? If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

Here’s why: every person on the face of the Earth has their own be-all, end-all hiccough solution, which they each claim works every single time. If none of these techniques were effective for Hiccough Girl, and her hiccoughs inexplicably went away, it’s clearly the work of God. Hiccough Girl is like Jesus, only no one ever claimed Jesus lured some guy into a hotel room and had him shot in the chest.

But, you’re not a believer. I know because you’re thinking to yourself, “If only she had tried my special hiccough cure…” And you’ve got one. Because everyone does. And it probably goes something like this:

Your hiccough cure is the only right one

Like your child or one of those rat-dogs you treat like your child, you believe your hiccough technique is special, the best. The world of hiccough solutions revolves around yours. If anyone wants to pull a Galileo and challenge your dogmatic hypothesis, you pull a Catholic Church and suggest he be burned at the stake.

Your confidence in the effectiveness of your technique is unflappable because yours is the truth. You are “positive” that your “foolproof” (or even “fullproof”) method is the “surefire” way to rid yourself of hiccoughs “every time,” “without fail.” Trust you, it has “never not worked.”

When questioned on the matter, a friend of mine suggested that her method maintained a 98% success rate. A second attempt, however, she said, ensured its 100% effectiveness. You simply can’t argue with those numbers.

Your hiccough cure requires an instruction manual to outline the complex and seemingly random series of steps involved

Kind of like constructing a bed frame from IKEA.

Chances are, you recommend the afflicted employ your method and stop at an arbitrary point in time, like after “22 seconds,” “a few minutes,” or “whenevs.” Your technique involves some combination of the following: inhaling or exhaling at different depths and intervals; plugging one or more bodily orifices simultaneously; eating random foods in miniscule and/or hyperbolic quantities; imbibing water and/or other beverages in an impractical manner; rubbing, stroking, and/or patting assorted body parts; standing, sitting, and/or reclining in an uncomfortable or acrobatic posture; in a box; with a fox; allowing yourself to be distracted or frightened; repeating a mantra (i.e., “I am not a pineapple”); concentrating on anything besides your hiccoughs; concentrating on nothing besides your hiccoughs; masturbating; using a series of obscure and seemingly unrelated props; constructing a papier-mâché bust of former Vice President Spiro Agnew; vomiting.

I should note the sheer breadth and diversity of these techniques. I should also note that attempting all of these techniques at the same time will cause you to spontaneously combust. Meanwhile, you’re busy noting how preposterous these sound—the ones that don’t belong to you, of course.

Your technique is derived from some arcane, origin-less oral tradition

Rest assured, you learned your hiccough technique from one of three people: (a) an elderly and/or now-deceased relative, (b) a childhood role model or authority figure, or (c) the parent of a friend, although you can’t remember which one. Now, even decades later, you still believe, employ, and readily recommend this word-of-mouth hiccough elixir.

This is remarkable considering what you’ve come to realize about these people in the decades since they bestowed their hiccough solution upon eight-year-old you. Your great uncle later went to jail for 12 years worth of tax evasion, your camp counselor was just a college sophomore who called lights-out an hour early to smoke weed and have sex with counselors at the girls camp, and Tim Richland’s dad was definitely an alcoholic. And yet, in your mind, the hiccoughs-be-gone technique this person imparted on you is not just an authoritative one—it’s the only one.

My cousin, a teacher in Chicago, admitted that when one of her first-graders contracts hiccoughs, she advises the student to hold his breath and jump up and down “to distract him as a medical cure.” While some say “distraction” may be the farthest thing from a “medical cure”—Jonas Salk repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to “distract” away Polio—these kids now and will forever know it is. That’s an education.

Your method offers some vaguely scientific but authoritative-sounding medical justification

If someone in the vicinity begins hiccoughing, suddenly you don your witchdoctor hat or mask or whatever and begin offering pseudo-scientific explanations as to why your method is most effective. You may say something like, “This will relax the diaphragm” or, “You’ll be putting pressure on the esophagus” or, “Rigsby, I need a scalpel, stat!…Keep an eye on his vitals…clear!…He’s flat lining!….Damn, we lost him.” You’re not a doctor, but you did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

For all our advances in medical technology, the best we can offer is, stand on your head and eat a sour apple Jolly Rancher? Something tells me these methods are obsolete, like they offered the same explanations during the Civil War, when doctors used chloroform for anesthesia and prescribed diet and exercise for scurvy.

And yet, you’ll always be certain your method is the right one, and nothing I or anyone else says will deter you. Why? Because your technique works, and your faith in that is unwavering. I guess you are a believer, after all.

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image – Orin Zebest