Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

March 16, 2014

Garrett Leiva: Eruption — double take on the sneeze

I’m a two-timer, yet my wife stands by me – just not too close.

My two-timing nature is something to sneeze at — sternutation times two. My “pardon me” requests don’t require confessional TV interviews or multimillion dollar lawsuits, unlike Hollywood bad boys or cheating politicians.

Call it Midwest stoicism or obtuse male ego, but I stifle emotions. Sneezes, however, burst forth loud and clear. I might repress pent-up anger, but never my sneeze trigeminal nerve network.

I’m an unabashed sneezer — an enthusiastic achewer. Thankfully, I’m not alone in my seismograph-shaking sneezes.

Sneeze experts – I’d like to see their two-ply diploma on the wall – categorize people into distinct achoo camps.

For example, polite sneezers keep tissues handy. They also cover their mouth to contain thousands of bacteria from entering the air. These sneezers are characterized as being accurate and deep-thinking types.

I’m not so sure about personality traits based on flying nasal debris. It sounds like a research paper written on the back of a Kleenex box.

The biology behind a sneeze is a bit disgusting. The function of a sneeze, after all, is to expel mucus containing foreign particles out of our agape mouths. Perhaps it’s a good thing we can’t open our eyes when we sneeze.

The reason for our sneezes can be traced back to underlying conditions, like allergies and colds, perfumes, dust or even Thomas Edison.

During a family spring break trip to Florida, I witnessed Fred Ott’s world-famous sneeze. We visited Thomas Edison’s estate in Fort Meyers on a rainy day detour.

There among the inventor’s 1,093 U.S. patents was the 1894 “Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze.”

Men have done more noble things in the name of science than shove snuff up a nostril so their boss can take pictures. However, a few five seconds of fame can be found on YouTube and in the United States Library of Congress.

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