Monday, February 21, 2005

Warning: Column ahead

A poster in my workplace recently informed me of something I never would have figured out on my own: the international sign for choking is to put both hands around your neck, and then -- and this is the important part -- look like you’re choking. So the next time you have half a Croissan’wich lodged in your esophagus, you must fight off the urge to do jumping jacks or go shoe shopping, and remember to put both hands around your neck and imitate a choking person.

I bet even people who are too shy to really get into Charades, or people who don’t like dancing in public (e.g., men), could still nail the international sign for choking if the meatball was big enough.

While researching this article (i.e., Googling for five minutes), I discovered that there are other useful widely recognized signs. Did you know that the sign for having a heart attack is: “grasping the heart, clinging to your chest”? This one might take a little more practice than the choking one, but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.

There’s no mention of the heart attack sign being international, though, so if you’re in Europe, and you fall to the ground clutching your chest, the locals might think you’ve just looked at the exchange rate. Therefore, when traveling abroad, you should at all times wear a full-sized sandwich board that says, “If I’m pointing at this sign, I’m having a heart attack. Also, I’m Canadian, so how aboot a little CPR, eh?”

I agree that making choking motions when you’re choking and making chest-clutching motions when you’re having a heart attack may seem counter-intuitive, but I’m sure the official sign-making people had their reasons. They’re probably the same people who put the tags on hair dryer cords warning you not to dry your hair underwater. This is actually very good advice, as those of us who have tried to make a poor man’s Jacuzzi with a hair dryer in the bathtub can attest.

In fact, I think there are some more signs that we need to be aware of. As a public service, I’ll list the most important ones here:

The International Sign for Burning Your Finger in the Toaster: Hop around the kitchen, swearing loudly. Shake hand up and down rapidly. Refuse to learn lesson, reach for bagel with your bare hands again next time.

The International Sign for Slipping and Falling on the Sidewalk: If members of the opposite sex are present, stand up quickly. Otherwise, take your time getting up. (American version only: call Jacoby & Meyers.)

The International Sign for Being Awakened by a Ringing Phone: Insist that you weren’t asleep; lie for no good reason. Say things like “Awake is me, and that is what I was.”

The International Sign for Planning a Wedding (Female): Ask bridesmaids what color dresses they want to wear; disregard all input. Buy three-hundred page bridal magazines at the grocery store, find nothing worthwhile in any of them; buy more anyway.

The International Sign for Planning a Wedding (Male): Feign enough interest not to get in trouble. Despite your best efforts, learn what a calla lily is.

The International Sign for Ending a Column: Stop writing.


  1. Mike - you are a funny, funny dude. I was all alone in theworld missing Dave Barry, but dammit if I don't like you better!

  2. Awww, Mom, you always leave the best comments.

  3. Liar. You don't have a workplace.

  4. Mike, even without the profanity, you are one funny cousin! I've loved all of your columns, and I can say I knew you when...

  5. I went into the archives to see what else you've written. You never disappoint. Here's another entry I found hysterical!

  6. Rachel --

    I sent ya an email telling you you're the coolest, but I just realized I probably should have posted it here too. You rock.

    For those who don't know Rachel, she had three kids in just over three years, and every one of them is still alive. I can't even keep a bonsai tree around for more than a year.

    Michele -- thanks for the kind words. I hope people go check out your cool blog as well.

    You know, now that I'm looking at it, the picture on Michele's blog looks a whole lot like Clara, Rachel's oldest. Seriously -- it's uncanny. Rachel, click on Michele's name (sorry I don't know how to make the cool accent over the e) and see if you don't agree. I think your daughter is blogging under a pseudonym.

  7. Clearly the people who make these signs were not humored by Fight Club and the Project Mayhem scenes