Dover Sole Almost Kills British Fisherman

I've done so many embarrassing things in my life, it's my signature go-to move. And based on my Facebook news feed, I'm apparently friends with dozens of klutzes, clods, and goofballs who are just as bad as me, if not worse.

You know who you are.

There was the time in grad school when I was speaking in front of a group of more than 40 foreign students at the Ball State University International House. Several people were giggling, pointing, and not paying attention, so I nudged one of my friends and said, "Hey, this is important."

He said, not quietly, "Your fly is open."

I turned beet red, ran out the back door, and raced around the house pulling up my zipper. Then I burst in the front door and said, "Now, as I was saying!" to much applause and laughter. They appreciated that I was a good sport about it.

As I was writing this column, I was trying to think of other embarrassing stories to share, so I texted my wife for some ideas.

"Oh Lord, the list!" she wrote back. Then she texted a giant laugh-crying emoji. Then she asked the kids. Then the examples started coming. Then Verizon called and said they may offer an unlimited text package, but come on!

There was the time I broke a cheap, flimsy plastic chair at Target Optical with a dozen people around. I had leaned back in this cheap, flimsy plastic chair — I really want to emphasize how cheap and flimsy and plastic-y this chair was — and the back snapped off with a loud crack.

The manager told me not to worry, they would just get another cheap, flimsy plastic chair from the floor, but my face was so hot, I could have melted metal.

And just a few weeks ago, I was reading one of my humor columns at an open mic and wanted to pretend I was nervous. So I acted like I couldn't pull the microphone out of the stand and when I "freed" it, I hit myself in the head with it. As I continued talking, a friend stepped up, handed me a napkin, and pointed at his forehead.

"You're bleeding," he said, not quietly. Not that it mattered. Even from the back of the room, you could see the damage.

I dabbed at my forehead, and sure enough, I had cut a small gash with the microphone's steel mesh cover. And it wouldn't stop for two minutes. So I stood on stage, dabbing at my forehead, and riffing on how this was the funniest thing I was going to do all night.

Sadly, I was right. The column wasn't nearly as funny as me physically harming myself. (Cue the "isn't it always?" comments in 3. . . 2. . . 1. . .)

At least I didn't bleed to death. I have done some extremely embarrassing things over the years, as my family's unending stream of text messages will show, but I have never nearly died from them. Not like British fisherman Sam Quilliam.

Quilliam was fishing off the Boscombe Pier near Bournemouth when he caught a 6-inch Dover sole, a flat fish about the size of a deflated football with eyes on top of its head.

Quilliam and his friends were joking about the small size of the fish when he held it over his mouth and pretended to kiss it.

That's when the fish wriggled out of his grip and leapt down his throat, causing him to stop breathing and go into cardiac arrest.

"I ran round the pier like a headless chicken," Quilliam told the (London) Daily Mail. "It was terrifying from what I can remember."

His friends managed to keep him alive by performing CPR before paramedic Matt Harrison arrived and used forceps to pull the fish out.

"It was just sheer panic, it was horrendous," said Quilliam's friend, Steve Perry. "We reacted on our instincts. Matt [a friend, not the paramedic] was pumping his chest and I was doing the breaths. He was dead, his heart had stopped. I was so relieved when he came round."

I'd like to take a moment to say you should never do the breaths when a person has an object like, say, a six-inch Dover sole lodged in their throat. In fact, the latest CPR methods say to skip the breaths altogether. But I commend the friends' actions because the heart pumping may have saved his life.

Paramedic Harrison said he actually needed a few tries before he was able to grab the tail of the fish with the forceps and slowly pull it out. The problem was the fish's gills and barbs had — eww! — been getting snagged on the way out, which made retrieval difficult.

After it was all over, Quilliam made a full recovery and later held a small press conference at the pier to thank his friends and Harrington.

"I have never attended a more bizarre incident and don't think I ever will," said Harrington.

Hold my beer, I got this.

Photo credit: Hans Hillawaert (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

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