Gesundheit!

Recently I’ve been experimenting with a new sneeze. I’ve never liked the traditional “Aaaaa-chooo” type of sneeze — it always felt like it went on too long, called too much attention to the sneezer, and was very wet. Most of all, I didn’t like the extended loss of control feel of that kind of sneeze. (Plus, I met this woman a while ago who, when she sneezed, she screamed. Not a cute little scream, but a long, loud, piercing scream that made everyone look at her in alarm. And she had the nerve to act like it was a normal sneeze, no big deal, like, “What the hell are you looking at?”)

So over the last year or so, I’ve been working on a new sneeze. It’s much more controlled and efficient, and doesn’t call as much attention to itself. Basically, I’ve trained myself to hold the “Aaaaa…” part inside (maybe with a slight unfocusing of the eyes), and then let loose with a short, sharp “choo.” It’s quick, and seems cleaner (less wet) than the traditional sneeze. I’m quite pleased with it.

The only problem with this new sneeze is that most people don’t recognize it as such — no one ever says “Bless you” when I let one loose. Not even Sari. So the other day I asked her about it, and she confessed she didn’t know what it was that had happened to me. Like she thought it was a cough or something. So I explained that it was indeed a new sneeze I had invented. Instead of congratulating me, however, she refuses to endorse my new creation. She still won’t give me the common courtesy of a simple “gesundheit”. She just thinks it’s “weird”.

Why is it “weird” to buck convention? Where is it written that we all have to go “Aaaa-chooo”?

Oh well, all of our great ideas were scoffed at at first. But eventually the rest of the world catches up. I can be patient. Because my new invention is nothing to sneeze at.

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About joshcomix
Brooklyn-based cartoonist specializing in nonfiction comics about topics like Hurricane Katrina, the media, travel, and finance.

13 Responses to Gesundheit!

  1. in Brazil, the achoo sound effect is acctually “achim” pronounced ah-cheem. Heheh, just figured it’d be relevant….

    • 4_eyez says:

      haw! i love stuff like that. i have a book somewhere that lists various onomatopoeic words and how they’re said in different languages/cultures. anyway, obrigado!

  2. ahianna_nia says:

    I think it’s brilliant in its economy and I love that you’re so considerate. I think I’m going to practice it until I have mastered it as well.

    • 4_eyez says:

      there ya go, a convert! i thank you for your support.
      and, seriously, it was really incredible meeting and talking with you in “red stick” last weekend. i hope to do you and your story proud in “a.d.”

  3. man_size says:

    You can’t always get what you want.
    And, as for natural body functions like the heart-stopping, eye-crunching “sneeze,” shame on you for compromising what your body needs to do sans manners.
    SHAME ON YOU!

  4. milescosm says:

    I did something similar recently, but with the opposite intentions. I’ll sense genuine sneezes coming on, and exaggerate them to the extent that they sound phony. I may have stolen it from Jerry Lewis. Not sure.

  5. purvision says:

    I don’t tend to vocalize a sneeze at all (unless I’m actively being goofy.) But whenever I sneeze, I do so in pairs. Always at least two. So people usually figure out what the noise is by the second blast. I could do without people’s ‘blessings’ anyway. Though a good old fashioned German ‘healthiness’ suits fine.
    There was a Calvin & Hobbes from years ago, a Sunday color one, where he stumbles around for panels as the sneeze gathers power, and when he finally blasts one his head explodes completely, the headless body sprawled and smoking in the aftermath. It’s great.

  6. wjcohen says:

    Two more methods
    So long as you’re improving sneeze technology, figured I should let you in on some other innovators:
    1) MY BRO: has been doing his new sneeze for years (so have hope your old habits can be broken!) He sticks his tongue out when he sneezes and that reduces or eliminates the moisture that comes out of the nose for some unknown biological reason. Upside: no snot, no tissue needed! Downside: sounds like a raspberry (or fart) so not great in business or social situations.
    2) PUBLIC SCHOOLS: they’re teaching Lila and peers to sneeze into their elbows…apparently covering your mouth with your hands is a germ spreader. Expect to see the next generation with moist elbow areas on their shirts.

    • 4_eyez says:

      Re: Two more methods
      1) wow, i always liked brother Evan and now i know why. can’t wait to see his new sneeze in action. question: how does it go over in ultra-formal England?
      2) it’s always cool to remember how much of our socialization comes out of our early schooling. for instance (and also nose-related), i very distinctly remember learning in 3rd grade that it’s socially unacceptable to wipe your boogers on the classroom wall! my eternal thanks to p.s. 3!

      • Anonymous says:

        In Defense
        Well, I feel now that I must defend myself. I am not a cultural conservative. I may be victim of habit however. But, in defense, I must point out that several years ago, I invented a new smile. Now, I understand it was not that becoming, but it was different, new and it felt good to do (it involved stretching out the top lip a little more than usual–an emphasis on the SMI in SMILE). Now my partner Josh was the conservative on this front and ridiculed my new smile until it gradually faded back to where it came from (where?). Thus, there is a history to this sneeze episode. I also, from an holistic point of view, believe that sneezing operates as it does for a biological reason and it is probably not in our best interests to interfer this this. But, in the spirit of openness and questioning, I will begin soul-searching: should I work on stepping outside of my small-mindedness and petty ego-centric, past-focused world and try to embrace this new revolution (clearly) of self-experimentation with basic, primal body functions? Hmmmm. . . . –Sari Wilson

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