I was then in a church choir and prided myself on what I considered an extraordinary lung capacity, being able to hold a note longer than anyone else in our group. I could also, of course, swim underwater from one end of the Oneida, NY, community pool to the other on a single breath.
For my birthday, I had gotten a nice pocket watch. It had a second hand and could also be used as a stop watch.
"Four minutes is not all that long!" I thought. "I'll just break Houdini's record!" But I was not yet so certain I could do it that I was ready to bet anyone or show off in public. The night I got the watch, I was in my robe and pajamas and finishing brushing my teeth upstairs in the bathroom before bed when I had the idea to break the record.
So, I took a few deep breaths, held one, and started the watch. Time began to slow. I could hear my heart pounding. The second hand steadily circled, once, twice... It seemed to take forever then to complete its third rotation. It passed the three-minute mark and kept going. "I'm about to do it!" I said to myself. Despite my initial confidence, I could hardly believe it. This was not really hard at all.
The next thing I recall, I was looking up from the bottom of the tub and hearing my mother, standing above me, asking what I was doing.
"Oh, I'm just beating Houdini's record," I said, but clearly I hadn't. Somewhere between 3 minutes, 5 seconds, and 4 minutes, even, I must have fainted. Happily, the watch I had dropped still worked fine. I never did break Houdini's record, and afterward I had more respect for his achievements.
How about you? Can you hold your breath longer than Houdini? A word of advice: practice on something soft. An old style iron bathtub leaves bruises when one hits it on the way down.