Sneezing Conventions

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.

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