Anyone else out there plagued by relentless hiccups? Or hiccoughs, if you prefer? In my younger life, I tried every possible cure: holding my breath, spoonfuls of sugar, having someone jump out and scare the shit out of me. Nothing worked until eventually I'd pass out from exhaustion.
But surely, I thought, surely there must be some way to interrupt the infuriating cycle of spasmodic insanity short of tasering my diaphragm into submission. Lo and behold, in the spring of 1994, I found that solution in the most unlikely place: A hostel in the northwest corner of Spain. There, a stranger noticed my plight (and by noticed I mean she was hideously inconvenienced by it). I believe it was the owner of the hostel, though I honestly can't remember because I dismissed her advice almost immediately. She said to clench a pencil between your teeth while drinking a glass of water and voila: hiccups gone.
I mean, really, what kind of medical advice is that?
Naturally, I assumed it was quackery, but every hiccupping person has his or her breaking point. Eventually I gave in. What could it hurt, right? I located the nearest writing implement and bit down on it as instructed. Then I took a swig from my water bottle. Or tried, at least. It's surprisingly hard to drink water when you're unable to fully close your mouth. Water streamed down the front of me until I burst out laughing, spraying the whole mouthful all over the room.
The hostel owner was obviously in on some kind of practical joke. Is there anything more fun for Europeans than tricking dumb, potentially drunk Americans? Probably not. Or maybe my Spanish wasn't as good as I thought. Maybe she had simply said "drink some water" and had offered me a pencil to write down this important advice. Perhaps the pencil was all in my imaginings. STUPID PENCILS!!!
That's when my friend noticed that my hiccups had stopped. I froze for 15 seconds. She was right! They were GONE!!! I was so happy, she snapped a photo of the momentous occasion:
See the relief in my eyes? And the water-splattered bedspread? (I knew this photo would come in handy someday!)
Over the course of that trip, my hiccups returned a few more times, as they are wont to do, and each time the trick worked immediately (if messily). Since then, I've gotten no closer to mastering the art of drinking water with a pencil in my mouth (or pen or magic marker), but I don't care because it never fails me. I'm sure there's a logical explanation for why it works—something more to do with physiology than fairies—but I'm no scientist. All I know is the past 20 years have been virtually hiccup-free. Not bad for an obscure Spanish home remedy.