Even in meetings, where there is a supposed order of business, no one has ever taken anyone to task for a loud sneeze. It’s a pretty outrageous thing to go without admonishment, when you think about it: the convulsive exhale of air from the nose and mouth, usually with some sort of primal vocal accompaniment. If you were to bark as loudly during that same meeting everyone–even that one quiet guy who never looks at anyone directly–would turn to see what the hell you were doing. Not a sneeze though. Somehow that is acceptable.
Unless the sneeze is just completely ridiculous, that is. I knew a guy once who enunciated his sneezes. “Ah-choo!” he would say, almost conversationally. But the way he clung rigidly to the pronunciation quickly became annoying . “Ah? Choo.” Was he actually attempting a British accent? You half imagined his sneeze included a reference in the pronunciation legend footnote, complete with a schwa and an accent behind the last syllable. Mr. Proper Pants just can’t unleash, not even for a sneeze.
But then there are people who let go a little too much, and that’s hardly any better. One of my best friends has a sneeze that sounds like the exclamation of one of Vlad the Impaler’s victims. “YEEEHHHHAAAACH!” she says in your ear. Never once. At least twice–once for each eardrum. When she sneezes bits of plaster fall from the ceiling, and nearby banshees are like, “Fuck was that?”
Now, if this friend of mine were in a meeting and sneezed then I think people might finally be moved to halt the proceedings to issue corporal punishment, social allowances be damned. Except for me. The catatonia brought on by meetings would be just enough to cancel out one of her sneezes, so I’d be rendered alert and oblivious.
Meetings, for me, have a devastating effect on alertness. Without fail, a meeting will slowly lull me into a state of helpless catatonia just as the points of the agenda are read off in that familiar monotone. This may be due in part to the fact that meetings are, on the whole, as stimulating as a potato, and not actually productive. For some people, I understand, meetings are the measure of work. For me however, meetings serve as little more than an opportunity for struggle. Namely: is it possible to hide the symptoms of narcolepsy from my superiors?
Fortunately I’m not the only one thus afflicted. I say this not because misery loves company, but because the plight of others is the only solution to my own struggle for wakefulness. Strange as it may seem, when I see someone across the table give in to the irresistible pull of chin to chest, I feel a renewed sense of alertness. Like a cannibal who receives the wit and wisdom of those whose brains he’s eaten, it’s as if I were receiving the unused energy, parasitically, from the hapless coworker on whom my gaze has fallen.
Sometimes it’s enough to keep me going for another few minutes–just long enough to find another host. They can doodle until their pens cut through the paper, but there is no resisting the siren song of sleep that sets in soon after the meeting commences. Not unless they catch me nodding first.
On the way to work, giant black Mercedes. Woman with nails, arm hanging from the window, limp wrist, cigarette wedged between two fingers. So blase about it all that it’s all she can do to muster up the energy to tap the ash from the tip. When the cigarette has burned to the root she flicks the butt to the pavement and rolls her window up. See, and things like that stick in my craw. Fortunately, as she tries to skip ahead into the fast lane–it’s the same type of person who does that, the person of unquestioning privilege–a working-man’s row of flatbed testoster-trux reFUSes to let her in, fairly pushing her back into her own lane. She doesn’t complain however. Because deep down she knows what she did wrong, and she hates herself for it, and tonight she’ll experience diarrhea.
These mega-churches, it strikes me that they’re like web advertising. No different. First they tried banner ads–single small churches. And while some people paid attention to them, there was a significant apathy and fatigue that developed toward them as they proliferated and diluted the day’s other experiences. So then they tried Flash ads–they’re hip! They’re interactive! It’s gospel rock n roll! Just like real rock, except we’re singing about jesus! And people thought that was kind of cool for a while too. But then the novelty wore off, and people realized that these big blocky ads weren’t going away anytime soon. In fact they were hard to ignore without certain cultural filters. Pesky bastards. Now, finally, we’ve entered the age of the mega-church. At this point the content has become the ad. You can participate in the same social activities you used to, except now it’s all “sponsored.” You might not even realize the soft-sell that you’re being subjected to, but it’s all about product placement, and the merchandise must be moved if the bottom line is to be met by Q3.