March 20th, 2004


Sick of Being Sick (DSO)

I went to the DSO tonight, and it was a very nice concert. At least, the second two pieces were. The first one, the Copland, I missed most of due to a sudden coughing fit.

There is nothing worse than coughing during the middle of a classical music concert! It's the essence of impropriety. It can ruin all of your neighbors' enjoyment of the music. I came prepared though, with kleenex, 2 kinds of cough drops, plus a bottle of water. I'd taken a decongestant and 2 advil right before I left. I haven't been coughing a whole lot, mostly it's all been in my sinuses and ear, so I figured I'd be fine.

Alas, it was not to be. Shortly into the first piece, I felt a dreaded "throat tickle". I coughed once, trying to be rid of it. No luck, so one additional cough as I fumbled for my cough drops. I could feel the tickle taking over my throat. I frantically held the coughing in, as I fumbled with the cap on the bottle of water, trying to take a sip. Of course when you try to hold a cough in, try to keep it quiet, this just makes your need to cough ten times worse. At this point it was too late: my throat muscles had started making convulsive coughing motions, trying to struggle their way out of my mouth, and I couldn't even swallow.

I was covering my mouth, holding the coughs in, trying to be polite and stay quiet. But I was far past the Point of No Return, and it was clear that nothing but a loud prolonged hacking fit would make this go away. "I gotta go," I was barely able to whisper to my sister, who was with me. One hand covering my mouth, my face getting red, I gestured with my other hand to the girls seated to my right, trying to indicate my need to pass.

They eventually figured out what I needed and stood up. I stumbled down the stairs, holding my bag, heading for the nearest exit sign I could see. My throat was spasmming, trying to begin its very disruptive coughing fit. I somehow contained it: I had my hand over my mouth, and I could feel my face turning beet red while my eyes started watering. I was no longer capable of speech.

An Usher met me as I stumbled to the bottom of the stairs, looking for the exit. "Do you need help?", she softly asked me, grasping my elbow. I shook my head, gesturing to the exit. Another one silently pinwheeled her arms pointing me which direction to go. I started that direction, and more Ushers swarmed around, holding my elbows, waving coughdrops, and then they...well... I guess they ushered me out the door.

The door to the hall closed, and finally I could let loose the coughs that and been building and building in there! Ah, sweet relief. They pointed me to a water fountain, but I wasn't yet ready to drink or speak. I slumped on a window sill and hacked my lungs out, until that darn tickle was thoroughly gone. It took awhile, since I'd held it in so long. When I was through, my eyes were watering, my nose was running, my voice was raspy, and I still had to pause for several more coughs. A lovely sight to behold, I'm sure.

One of the nice ushers came by to make sure I was okay, and make conversation. Unfortunately since I'd just briefly destroyed my voice, keeping up my end was difficult. Also, all this chest and sinus excitement had fuzzed my brain, and I wasn't thinking very linearly.

He had given me a cough drop. I showed him how I had two different kinds here in my bag! "I tried to come prepared," I mourned. We discussed the advantages of the various cough drops. (His tasted like orange soda, I later discovered. Quite nice!) I told him that I hadn't been coughing that badly all day, and I don't know where the sudden fit came from.

He tried to tell me about something that had happened on the main floor last week, but I'm not sure if he finished the story or not. I got confused partway though. He asked me if I was sick, and I said I had a sinus infection. Then he said it was a good thing I wasn't feeling well, or he would make fun of me for... at the point I coughed, blew my nose, or just spaced out perhaps, because I don't know why he wanted to make fun of me. Like I said: my brain was all fuzzy. (I spent the rest of the concert occasionally wondering what he would have teased me about, had I not been ill.)

Then he told me that in the Hill Auditorium they have big bins of cough drops sitting out for people to take. This triggered a memory, and I said, "YOU used to have those, didn't you?" I looked around. "Not here, maybe on the main floor? Or by the bar?" He looked unconvinced, but he acknowledged that perhaps they'd done that awhile ago.

It wasn't until after the concert that I remembered: it was on my trip to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where I'd seen the bowls of cough drops. I wanted to go back and tell him, but he was surrounded by people, busily ushering them along.

It took me the rest of the Copland piece to truly recompose myself after that mess. I blew my nose several times, coughed several more times, Wiped the tears from my eyes. Finally drank a few times from the water fountain. Then I felt like my throat was still shaky, but nearly steady enough to try again. I told him, "I'm going in!" He sent me upstairs, so I could walk just a few steps down instead of a lot of steps up.

The elderly upstairs Usher was also very nice. "Are you feeling better?", he asked me, grasping my arm, and I could tell he really cared to know. I reassured him and thanked him, then he led me securely to my seat.

I made it through the next two pieces without further incident, although I made certain I always had a cough drop in my mouth and a water by my hand. Luckily the next two pieces were excellent, especially the guest cellist for the Brahms, which I enjoyed very much. At least I didn't miss the good stuff.

The last piece, the Rachmaninoff, was also good. I was pleased to noticed that the guest cellist had decided to join the orchestra for the one as well, just sitting in the back, turning pages for one of the usual DSO members. Kinda cool. I can just picture him saying excitedly, hands clasped together, "Oooh, you're doing Rachmaninoff? Can I play??"

All in all, a good concert, despite the initial excitement. I wore my schoolgirl boots and skirt, which everyone liked.

Trip Report Part One: Pre-Competition

We arrived Wednesday evening. Exhausted from our travels, we went out for a quick bite of chain-restaurant Mexican, then settled into our rooms. Things weren't really starting until Thursday.

Thursday began with a team meeting, where we discussed the schedule. Then we had a "team outing", which was really just a trip to the Gas Lamp District of San Diego for brunch and shopping. It was cool but sunny - we were so thrilled to see the sun! I bought a cute denim jacket, because I realized that I hadn't brought any outerwear aside from my team coat. This was my first of many purchases -- I was in a serious buying mood this trip for some reason.

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Trip Report Part Two: The Competition

(part one, pre-competition)

We were scheduled to compete around noon, which was absolutely the perfect time. We had plenty of time to sleep in a bit, have some breakfast, make our hair and makeup absolutely perfect, and still get to the ice arena with plenty of time to have a good floor-practice (in the parking lot). Enough time to get ready without any rushing or stress, but not enough time to do a lot of waiting around and stressing.

On the bus to the rink, one girl attacked everyone with her eye shadow, to make sure our eyes were done right. Another person walked around double-checking everybody's blush. There would be nobody without a perfect face for this performance.

We all got into our dresses one final time, even our injured skater who hadn't been able to compete with us. I think this was the first time she put on her dress all year -- I was so glad to see her in uniform! I wore my dress without my tights for our outdoor floor practice. I thought it would be more comfortable in the sun, plus it enabled me to delay putting on my knee braces.

By the end of the skating season, I was wearing two elastic knee braces, one on top of the other, underneath my tights. The very-tight pressure and support made me feel safer and more confident while skating, but it was very uncomfortable to wear for long -- especially when sitting.

In the locker room, we went through all of our normal competition rituals. Everybody had to rub our "lucky #1 ball", we listened to our music a few times, we double and triple-checked our skates and uniforms. We held hands in a circle, listed to our coaches' last-minute pep talk, focused on our objectives, and some of us prayed (Mine was: "Please God let everybody stay on their feet. Let us skate the best program we're capable of. That's all I want, just that we all do our best."). We passed a squeeze around the circle, clapped, a few girls touched their butts to the locker-room floor (the theory being that if you fall there, you won't fall on the ice), and it was time to hit the ice.

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